You’ve probably heard of General Hospital’s “Luke and Laura,” but do you remember the multiple pop songs and pop stars that found success because they were featured on the show in the 1980s?
Today, there are four soap operas on network TV, and they bring in about 11 million combined viewers. In 1979, the most popular soap on TV was General Hospital, and it pulled in that many viewers by itself. It was a pop culture phenomenon, attracting viewers with its salacious, and then romantic, “Luke and Laura” storyline. It culminated in a two-part wedding episode in November 1981 watched by 30 million people. However, the arc began when Luke (Anthony Geary) assaulted Laura (Genie Francis). The music playing in the background in that horrifying scene was “Rise,” a jazzy instrumental by legendary trumpeter and A&M Records founder Herb Alpert. Despite the context, people loved the song. “Rise” went to #1 in late 1979.
Inexplicably, Luke and Laura became romantically involved. The “love theme” for the duo was “Think of Laura,” a song by Christopher Cross, who at the time had just swept the big 4 awards at the Grammys and won an Oscar for “Arthur’s Theme” from Arthur. Thanks to exposure on General Hospital, “Think of Laura” was a top 10 hit.
General Hospital also gave rise to one of the ‘80s biggest hitmakers: Rick Springfield. The Australian-born singer/actor had been a teen idol in the early ‘70s with a handful of hits like “Speak to the Sky.” His popularity declined and he didn’t have a record deal by 1976. He turned to acting, landing guest star roles on shows like The Rockford Files. In 1981, RCA signed him and while he was recording Working Class Dog, he got a big acting role: as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. Springfield’s album came out at the peak of Luke and Laura Mania, and the first single, “Jessie’s Girl” went to #1.
Springfield scored more than a dozen hits in the next few years, and was so busy with music that he left General Hospital in 1983. His place in the cast was filled by another singer/actor named Jack Wagner. “All I Need” went to #2 (and never left the playlists of soft rock radio stations). Wagner returned to the soap in 2013 and played the song in character as “Frisco Jones”
Wagner was a one-hit-wonder, but that didn’t still General Hospital’s ability to mint pop stars. Joining the cast around the same time as Springfield was Broadway star Michael Damian. In 1989, his version of the classic rock staple “Rock On” went to #1.
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