What You Need To Know About Michael Bolton

Love him, hate him, or ignore him — but there’s no way you’ve never heard of him — Michael Bolton is an icon. The crooner – known for hit songs like “How Can We Be Lovers,” “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” and “Said I Loved You … But I Lied,” to name just a few – has been a pop culture fixture ever since he first burst onto the musical landscape back in the early ’90s. Bolton has also appeared on the small screen, surprising viewers with unexpected comedy goodness. Truly, the man is versatile and is an example of what staying power looks like.

Despite the fact that Bolton has been around for seemingly forever, there are aspects of the singer’s life that even the most ardent fans don’t know about. For example, were you hip to the fact that Bolton struggled for years before becoming a Grammy winner? And did you know that Bolton has collaborated with tons of legendary musicians? Oh yeah, he was born with the last name Bolotin, too. If you’re curious to know everything we dug up on Bolton, strap yourself in; here’s what you need to know about Michael Bolton.

Michael Bolton loved music from the very beginning

Like many folks who become professional musicians, Michael Bolton had music in his DNA out of the gate. “I was drawn to music as early as I can remember,” he recalled in an interview with The Gazette. “My mother was a big music appreciator and used to play the piano. My brother was always turning me onto new bands and the latest rock or rhythm-and-blues musicians.” Bolton added that the whole family would gather round to watch musicians perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” together and that he loved singing radio songs as well.

Bolton’s love of Motown as a young person inspired him to start his own hustle as a teenager. He was signed to a label at age 15, fronting bands from that point onward. “It was just what I did and what people came to expect,” he continued. “And then we put together different bands and I would perform at birthdays or bar mitzvahs or anywhere that people would listen.” Bolton even started busking in his native Connecticut and nearby in New York City, a period he now cites as formative in his musical development. It’s no surprise, then, that “there was never a plan B” for Bolton — it was always music.

This is how Michael Bolton started his career

Michael Bolton will forever be known as the king of the ’90s power ballad; you couldn’t turn on the radio during that decade and not hear his rendition of “When a Man Loves a Woman” or “To Love Somebody.” However, the music Bolton made as a young artist was rather different than those now-classic tunes. “My earlier music was more kind of bluesy,” he explained in an interview with Bella Online. “My first records were more R & B than Rock [and] Roll.” That clocks, given Bolton’s affinity for Motown.

Later on, however, Bolton began to make the move toward a different sound, this time a bit more mainstream. “Then at some point, I had a group called Black Jack,” he continued. “We put out a couple of records in the late ’70s that were Rock [and] Roll.” And that’s how things were for “about six or seven years,” as Bolton tells it. Then the singer found himself shifting yet again.

For a long time, Michael Bolton wrote songs for others

After spending the earlier days of his career bopping around with Black Jack, people in the industry began to pick up on Michael Bolton’s talent. At first, however, it wasn’t his singing that folks were after — it was his songwriting skills. “It was about ’81 or ’82 when I started writing for other artists (Pointer Sisters, Barbara Streisand, etc.),” he told Bella Online. “People began knowing me as a songwriter and the Rock [and] Roll days just disappeared.” Apparently, Bolton had real substance as a creator, even if, initially, industry execs wanted him behind-the-scenes.

It turns out that songwriting helped Bolton stay afloat, an impressive feat given how hard it is to make a living as an artist. “That’s how I paid my rent and took care of my family,” he continued. “It also taught me that the whole industry evolves around a great song.” Bolton added that no matter how great a singer’s voice may be, without a good song, they’re missing what can truly put you on the map.

Before he made it big, Michael Bolton was nearly homeless

While Michael Bolton was making a living as a musician and songwriter, it’s not like the money was rolling in — quite the opposite. “We didn’t use the term ‘homeless,’ but we were receiving eviction notices,” he confessed in an interview with Classic Pop. “We wouldn’t have known where the money was coming from.” Bolton added that he had friends who stopped making music and got regular jobs, and he understood why: The struggle was real.

In fact, Bolton put out several albums in addition to writing songs for others, but they all flopped early on. Fortunately, there was one bigwig who believed in Bolton’s work: Al Teller, the then-president of Columbia Records. “[He] told me the secretaries at the label were taking home the demos I sang of the ballads I was writing for other singers,” he continued. That’s when Teller offered to cut a record with Bolton, but not a rock album; he wanted Bolton to sing songs like the tunes that were popular with the administrative assistants. And that’s when things began to turn around for the singer.

When Michael Bolton became a star, he didn't trust that his success would last

In 1987, after years of scraping by in the music industry, and at nearly 40 years old, Michael Bolton finally made it big. That’s the year his album, The Hunger, went double platinum. However, given his experience of almost having a big hit before, Bolton was trepidatious to say the least. “It wasn’t until my second Grammy, two albums later, that I finally felt ‘I’m going to be [okay] and my family is going to be [okay],'” he revealed in a chat with Classic Pop. “When people sent flowers to my hotel room, I didn’t understand it. Everyone around me was celebrating, except me.”

That second Grammy Award came, thanks to Bolton’s smash album, “Time, Love & Tenderness,” as noted by the Grammy Awards official website. That album went on to become Bolton’s first ever to go to the tippy top of the charts, cementing his status as a pop icon. Finally, at long last, Bolton was a successful star, and the world was his oyster.

Michael Bolton once wrote a song with Bob Dylan

Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know about Michael Bolton: He once wrote a song with none other than Bob Dylan. It sounds like a joke, but it’s true! Dylan had a member of his staff phone Bolton sometime in 1990 to ask him to collaborate. Once Bolton realized the phone call wasn’t a prank, he literally dropped everything and got focused. “Anybody in their right mind would stop whatever they were doing and would have driven to Malibu,” he explained to Rolling Stone. 

That’s how Bolton and Dylan would up in the studio together, crafting the tune that would later become “Steel Bars.” “I couldn’t shut my mind down from repeating this mantra: ‘Oh, my God, this is Bob Dylan,'” Bolton continued. And who could blame him? Just imagine how you would feel working with one of the greatest songwriters of all time?

“Steel Bars” was a hit, which peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bolton added that after that experience, he was tempted to release an album of all Dylan covers, something he has yet to do.

This was one of the scariest things Michael Bolton ever faced

Given that Michael Bolton is a human being, albeit a famous one, he’s certainly had his share of trials and tribulations. To that end, one of the scariest things Bolton ever had to endure had to do with his singing voice. “I was touring the [U.K.] and found I couldn’t reach a certain high note, so [I] saw a doctor,” he recalled in an interview with the Daily Mail. “The nodule was very low down and the fear was the operation would leave scar tissue, which could ruin my voice.” That, honestly, does sound pretty frightening, especially for someone who makes a living with his pipes.

Fortunately, for Bolton, the surgery was a success, and he went on to sing another day. “Resting my voice for three months afterwards was terrifying, but the operation went well and eventually I was hitting high notes better than before,” he added.

Singing with this opera star was a highlight for Michael Bolton

If you were around in the ’90s, you probably remember The Three Tenors: Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti. The trio of opera singers brought classical music to the mainstream, as noted by NPR, forever changing the pop culture landscape.

What you might not remember, however, is that Michael Bolton once performed with one of The Three Tenors — and when that opportunity came, Bolton took it very seriously. “I then spent months training my voice, learning the lyrics, stretching my melodies, and even still when I walked onto that stage, I was trembling,” he revealed in a chat with The Gazette. “[Pavarotti] said, ‘I see you have been studying the tenor.’ I responded, ‘I have been studying you.'” Bolton added that performing with Pavarotti was literally “one of the most magical experiences of my life.”

While that concert may be years ago now, Bolton keeps the magic alive at his own shows. “I continue to sing ‘Nessun Dorma’ at every one of my concerts around the world, and I dedicate it to the greatest tenor who has ever lived,” he gushed.

For years, Michael Bolton fought off the haters

What do Nickleback, Guy Fieri, and Michael Bolton all have in common? Well, folks just love to hate these dudes for a slew of reasons, even if it’s not really deserved. When it comes to Bolton, the hating all started with critics tearing him down, something that took some getting used to. “Critics don’t generally like mainstream music, and I had to learn that,” he confessed in an interview with Classic Pop. “Unfortunately, at the beginning, my competitive sports attitude came along with me.”

It took Bolton a very long time to stop taking all of the comments so seriously, too. “I was fighting and shooting back against the critics, which just makes you more and worse enemies,” he continued. “I gave them enough ammunition to last 20 years.”

Plenty of regular folks maligned Bolton as well, as is evidenced by the 1999 sleeper hit “Office Space” (via Rolling Stone). Well, Bolton has a response for all the haters out there. “You don’t have to be insecure about ever being a no-talent anything,” he clapped back. “You are light-years beyond that possibility. But I admit sometimes I am a clown.”

Collaborating with The Lonely Island changed Michael Bolton

From the late 2000s through the early 2010s, some of the best comedy out there came from the trio known as The Lonely Island. Comprised of Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg — who’s become quite the star in his own right – and Jorma Taccone, the guys have pumped out hilarious hit videos, including “I’m on a Boat” and “Motherlover,” which are now legendary. If you’re wondering what this has to do with Michael Bolton, we’ll explain.

The Lonely Island did a hilarious video featuring Bolton, “Jack Sparrow.” And, for as funny and memorable as the track is, the experience was actually transformative for Bolton. “After The Lonely Island, something shifted in the universe, including my position in it,” he explained to Classic Pop. “‘Jack Sparrow’ gave me permission to have fun, which I’d never had as an artist.” Bolton added that no one expected him to make people laugh, but when he did, he won people over.

Working with The Lonely Island also attracted a new crop of admirers to Bolton, who couldn’t be happier about the whole thing. “I now have new fans of 13 and 14 — and 40-year-old guys who would never have bought one of my CDs now high-five me at the airport,” he continued. “It’s quite funny — both ha-ha funny and funny peculiar — and it’s very welcome.”

Michael Bolton is a father who's been married and divorced

In addition to being a famous singer, Michael Bolton is also a family man. “I’ve been married before and I’d get married again,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I believe in marriage, especially when there are plans for having a family.” That’s in spite of Bolton’s dating history: He got divorced in 1990 from his first wife and later split from actress Nicollette Sheridan after an engagement (via People).

In addition to being a divorcee, Bolton is also a father to three daughters: Holly, Isa, and Taryn Bolton (via TV Guide). Of course, that’s a role that Bolton takes very seriously. “Once you have a family you [realize who you are] pretty quickly, because your kids become front and [center],” he continued to say during his interview with The Sydney Morning Herald. “They become the most important thing.”

By all accounts, Bolton tends to live the single life, though he’s open-minded about having a partner again one day. “Dating through the years has been fun,” he added. “Also exciting, often highly illuminating and deeply stimulating — or not so much!” We can relate, Michael!

This cause is near and dear to Michael Bolton's heart

Before Michael Bolton ever got famous, he learned firsthand how difficult it can be to keep the lights on and put food on the table. And even though he’s been a big shot now for decades, Bolton never forgot what it’s like on the struggle bus. “I vowed that if and when I ever came into success, that I would find ways to bring support to women and children at risk,” he revealed in an interview with The Gazette. “So I became very personally involved in legislation around VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act).”

His charity work also prompted Bolton to take further action and put his money where his mouth is. “I also realized from performing at various fundraisers that celebrity is a kind of currency,” he continued. “So I started fundraising around my own foundation, the Michael Bolton Charities.” He added that the purpose of his foundation is to distribute money to organizations that work to combat domestic violence and abuse. Way to give back, Michael.

Michael Bolton doesn't mind sticking to the classics

Michael Bolton has been around for a long time, crooning to his heart’s content at venues around the world (via Concert Archives). And though he continues to make new music as the years go by, if you go to a Bolton show, you can expect to hear all of the classics. “Those are songs that often gave the people in the audience their first important moments — building a family, or going through one of their toughest times,” he mused in a chat with Classic Pop. “That can make it cathartic for them to hear me sing them, which makes it cathartic for me in turn.”

To that end, you’re also going to hear the songs as you know them, as Bolton knows that many of his hits are bigger than he is. “After 30 years of touring, my job isn’t to interpret the song for me anymore,” he added. Honestly, we’re pretty here for this.

This is how Michael Bolton wound up in a Netflix comedy

While Michael Bolton will always be known as a singer first, he’s really leaned into the whole comedy thing. “Because of the ‘Jack Sparrow’ video, producers and agents and reps have been calling about what I’d like to do,” he told Billboard. “They had ideas that we started putting together as pitches.”

To that end, Bolton and his people started working with director Akiva Schaffer from The Lonely Island to make a television special, which eventually landed on Netflix in 2017. Titled “Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special,” the feature once again put Bolton front and center in a comedy, which we have to say was pretty darn funny. Plus, plenty of celebs, including Andy Samberg, Brooke Shields, Sarah Silverman, Bob Saget, Randall Park, and Kenny G, make an appearance in the show. We hope to see more content like this from Bolton in the future!

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