In 1985, Astley was playing the club circuit as a drummer with a soul band named FBI when he was noticed by the record producer Pete Waterman and persuaded to come to London to work at the PWL recording studio. Under the tutelage of the production team of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman, known as Stock Aitken Waterman, Astley was taught about the recording process and groomed for his future career, supposedly starting off as the recording studio 'tea boy'. During this time, Astley also changed his name to (Ricardo) Bocanegra as a tribute to his Mexican parents who had changed their Hispanic names after immigrating to Britain. However, Waterman convinced him to change his name back due to the unusual pronunciation and existing reputation with his original name.
During much of his career, due to his deep baritone voice, many listeners assumed he was black. In one instance, the comedic entertainer Sinbad discussed him with a talk-show host, expressing his surprise that Astley was not "one of the brothers." In another, it was widely believed for years that he was the voice behind the chorus of Cathy Dennis 's song "Just Another Dream", when in fact the true singer was a black discjockey known as Dancin' Danny D. Even after his visual appearance, it was still popular belief that he was miming for a black American singer. His brother Mike Astley helped to refute this assertion.
His first single was the little-known "When You Gonna," released as a collaboration with Lisa Carter, but his first solo offering was "Never Gonna Give You Up," released in 1987. It became an immediate success, spending five weeks at the top of the British charts and becoming the year's highest-selling single. It was the first of 13 (world-wide) Top 30 hit singles for him.
The album Whenever You Need Somebody also reached Number One in the UK, and the hit singles continued, including the title track and a cover of Nat King Cole's "When I Fall in Love."
On 12 March 1988, "Never Gonna Give You Up" also topped the U.S. singles chart and was followed by a second U.S. #1 on 18 June with his second U.S. single release, "Together Forever." In 1989 he was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist of the Year. He lost to Tracy Chapman.
By the end of the decade, Astley had parted company with Stock Aitken Waterman. He achieved one more major success with the 1991 ballad "Cry for Help," which reached the Top 10 in both the UK and the US.
In 1991 the RIAA certified that two million copies of Whenever You Need Somebody had been sold. Total world sales of Astley's records (including singles, albums and compilation inclusions) have since reached 39.9 million.
His next album, Body and Soul, was released in 1993. The album did not chart in the UK but managed to make the Billboard 200, peaking at #182. The two singles, The Ones You Love and Hopelessly, performed very well on the adult contemporary chart, peaking at #19 and #4 respectively. Hopelessly also crossed over and peaked at #31 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart.
For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, Astley remained largely out of the spotlight.
Almost 10 years after Body and Soul, Rick finally returned to the music world and released "Keep It Turned On" in 2002. The album featured the single "Sleeping", which became a minor club hit, thanks to a set of remixes from U.S. house producer Todd Terry.
In March, 2005, Astley released the album Portrait in which he covered many classic standards such as "Vincent,", "Nature Boy" and "Close to You".
In early 2006, Astley withdrew unexpectedly at the eleventh hour from appearing on the BBC TV celebrity/pro duets show Just the Two of Us after committing to do so. This led to criticism from those in the entertainment industry and media. His place was filled by singer Russell Watson, who eventually won the competition. The BBC failed to explain that Astley's withdrawal was due to his girlfriend Lene Bausager being nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for the Sean Ellis film Cashback, where she was the main producer. Astley would have missed a crucial part of the show by attending the awards ceremony and so withdrew before the show began.
Based on various music charts in the UK, US and Canada, Astley has charted a grand total of 14 (different) hit singles and 6 (different) hit albums, as of March 2006. In April of 2008, the album "The Ultimate Collection: Rick Astley" was released by Sony BMG and by early May it had reached #17 on the UK Top 40 Albums Chart.
In 2007 Rick Astley became the subject of a viral Internet meme in which an estimated 25 million Internet users were tricked into watching Rick Astley's video "Never Gonna Give You Up" by posting it under the name of other popular video titles.The practice is now known as Rickrolling. The phenomenon became so popular that on April 1, 2008, YouTube pranked the Internet community by making every single featured video on the front page a Rickroll. On the July 14th broadcast of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Rickrolling got a mention when correspondant John Oliver was joking about Iran's nuclear program and the Internet.
Wikipedia contributors. Rick Astley. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. August 3, 2008, 12:03 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rick_Astley&oldid=229571979. Accessed August 3, 2008.