Christopher Cross’ name stays synonymous with “Ride Like the Wind” and “Sailing” from 1979-80 and his self-titled first album, which generated a record five Grammy Awards, right out the gate.
Still riding around the world, and “most proud of” his last two – his 13th and 14th – CDs, Cross will pull into port near the Grand Strand, for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center in Florence.
In the past three weeks, the singer-songwriter will have performed on stages shared with the Little River Band in Hawaii, and with “old friends” Toto in “a big outdoor festival” in France, with other stops in Italy, Ireland and Spain.
Calling July 1, unpacking after his move to Nashville, Tenn., Cross spoke about the “big thrill” of being “a brand new artist” and having so many “great people” on his recordings early on. They include Michael McDonald lending his background vocals for the very first single, “Ride Like the Wind,” and again on the hit “All Right” from the second LP – before the advent of CDs – “Another Page.”
He said artists such as Larry Carlton, Don Henley, Michael Omartian, J.D. Souther, and the late Nicolette Larson and Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro, “got involved in different ways,” a privilege he still treasures.
Cross’ music has traveled into other media as well. Besides “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” winning an Oscar, “Think of Laura,” which Cross called “a very personal song” he wrote in memory of a dear friend, reached a new stratosphere in popularity with use later on the ABC soap “General Hospital.”
He also contributed “Loving Strangers (David’s Theme)” for “Nothing in Common” in 1986, starring Jackie Gleason in his final movie. A big fan of Gleason growing up, Cross said that was one of the first films for Tom Hanks, who has remained “a cool, humble guy,” whom he sees “from time to time.”
Riding on another track
Cross found another joy with Formula auto racing for about five years in the 1980s.
“I went to school in France,” he said, “ and raced over there.”
Now 64 years old, the San Antonio native said he enjoyed that thrill behind the wheel, but also later realized “it was dangerous” and let that pastime go after the birth of his second child, because “you start to look at your mortality.”
With both parents who gave parts of their lives in the Army – his father as a doctor for 26 years, and mother a nurse – Cross, in “We Will Remember You,” from his latest CD, “Secret Ladder” from 2014, voices his thanks for veterans returning from deployments and personnel who sacrificed their lives.
The lyrics from the composition, written with longtime musical friend Rob Meurer, include, “All of us here sit around complaining, ’Bout the things we have to do. But not one of us could begin to imagine. The hell that you’ve been through.”
Cross called himself a pacifist but “very pro service,” and he saluted his nephew from special forces who logged four tours of duty, and thinking back to the Vietnam War, everyone who has “served honorably.”
Touting the Gary Sinise Foundation (www.garysinisefoundation.org), with its “very great” work that supports military personnel, veterans, their families and first responders, Cross said he has loved playing as a guest in the movie and TV actor’s Lt. Dan Band, including a fundraiser in Los Angeles earlier this summer.
“Gary allows me to do a little part in a big picture,” Cross said.
‘Fluke’ symbol in flamingo
The familiar flamingo artwork on Cross’ first two albums arose from a “fluke thing,” he said, because a drummer in his band in the 1970s painted a watercolor a few years earlier, and it wound up on a rehearsal room wall, kept as “a focal point” that later factored into the debut record cover. Cross said Warner Bros. Records “let us go with it,” and it has simply remained a symbol with “a connection from the early days of our dreams.”
A flamingo has shown up on a few CDs since then, including “A Christopher Cross Christmas” from 2007 and “Secret Ladder.” Just look inside the letter O in Cross’ last name.
Cross also recorded a song for a Summer Olympics’ music soundtrack, as some other artists have contributed for Olympiads through the years, including John Williams with “Olympic Theme and Fanfare,” from 1984 in Los Angeles; the late Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time”; and Eric Carmen’s “Reason to Try,” both from 1988 in Seoul, South Korea; and Gloria Estefan’s “Reach,” from 1996 in Atlanta.
“A Chance for Heaven (Swimming Theme)” was composed by Cross with two of the three other co-writers from the “Arthur” movie theme: Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Cross said around the time of that project in the early 1980s, they were approached about originating a theme for the 1984 games.
He remembered when he heard the song at those Olympics, with words about “accomplishing your goal,” play over the speakers. He said he was watching the gymnastics competition.
From attending the Olympics, “a great, worldwide sporting event in a nonpolitical way,” Cross spoke of being “very proud of our team” for the host country, and a souvenir he took home as a fan.
“I also got a cool picture disc,” he said, “and had it signed by many of the athletes.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.