Corey Hart: The Ultimate Teenage Heartthrob of the 80’s
by Claudia Moscovici
(For my main references for this essay, I relied upon the Wikipedia article on Corey Hart (see link below) as well as interviews given by the singer on various talk shows over the years):
*This essay is written in fond memory of my best friend from middle school and high school, Allison L. Alberty, who passed away in February of 2008. She’s the one who helped “Americanize” me in musical taste and so many other ways. I miss her very much and will always treasure our memories and friendship.
For over a year, my fifteen-year-old daughter, Sophie Troyka, has been obsessed with the boy band One Direction, the favorite teenage heartthrobs of her generation. She and her best friends, Emily Park and Emily Hunter (they all asked me to include their names in this essay:), go to their concerts, follow them on Twitter and Tumbler, enter radio contests (which included decking out my car with pictures of the band) and, of course, play their music loudly, often.
After destroying (I mean decking out) my car for the contest (which the girls didn’t win, despite working on the car for two months, since the radio station picked a winner randomly) and hearing the girls play What Makes You Beautiful at top volume a few too many times, I was starting to lose patience with their teenage heartthrobs. In fact, for the past year, I’ve been caught up in nostalgia for Sophie’s earlier childhood years, when she preferred activities with her family to loud pop music with her friends. At some point, when I asked Sophie, yet again, to turn the blasted music down, she asked me: “Didn’t you have a band you really loved when you were a teenager?” Oh yes, I did! I thought back to my favorite singers in the 80’s: Duran Duran, Bryan Adams, Rick Springfield, Laura Branigan, the Pointer Sisters, Irene Cara, U-2 and others. But one name definitely stood out: the hot and talented Corey Hart.
In a way, my daughter’s question killed two birds with one stone: it got me to empathize with her One Direction mania and also triggered memories of the best years of my own adolescence, rather than focusing nostalgically on her early childhood. Thinking about it more positively, there are so many reasons to celebrate rather than be sad about the fact our kids grow up, become more independent and establish their own social and, eventually, professional lives.
Rather than wallowing in “empty nest syndrome,” it’s more worthwhile to recover some of our own youthfulness, as our lives start to center, once again, on the couple and our own personal growth, as they did before having kids. As long as one doesn’t go overboard–spilling into a hopeless nostalgia for one’s high school “glory days” or, even worse, a farcical midlife crisis (complete with “trophy” much younger husband or wife; crazy spending sprees and sports cars one can’t afford), I think re-living aspects of our teenage years can help rejuvenate us psychologically, if not also physically.
At any rate, that was my train of thought when I decided to look up on the internet some of my favorite teenage heartthrobs. I did so with some trepidation, however, fearing that many of them would be either dead from a drug overdose or complete wrecks from all the excesses of the rock star lifestyle (I’ve watched enough episodes of VH1 Where Are They Now? to know that such fears were well-founded).
I won’t go into the details of which rock stars from the 80’s confirmed my worst suspicions. However, I was thrilled to see that my favorite teenage heartthrob, Corey Hart (Corey Mitchell Hart, born May 31, 1962), proved to be an exception to the rule. In fact, Corey managed to have it all: enduring success in music, a loving marriage and a happy family life. Blessed with incredible good looks which made him a favorite among teenage fans during the 80’s; self-confidence without cockiness; the social skill to network and establish good connections in the music industry (which, in an interview, he aptly called “hustling”); and particularly with great musical talent, Corey Hart established himself as the ultimate pop/rock heartthrob with the hits Sunglasses at Night (1983, part of his popular album First Offense) and Never Surrender (1985, part of his popular album Boy in the Box).
music video of Never Surrender:
During the mid-eighties, the young rock star reached the pinnacle of success, selling over 16 million records internationally and having 9 of his songs in the Top 40. In 1984, Hart was also nominated for Best New Artist. Of course, as the singer himself admits, there are highs and lows in any artist’s career (particularly, I should add, when the so-called lows are measured by such peaks of international success):
“I went through what every artist will go through in his career who’s worth his salt. Any artist from Elton John to Steve Winwood. There are peaks and valleys in a career. If you delude yourself into thinking that there are only peaks you’re a fool. I’m a sensitive individual. I would be dishonest to tell you that there were not moments of great pain. But I am an individual that has a lot of inner strength and believes very strongly, and l write about that in songs, to find your solace and your refuge in yourself.” (Sire press release, 1992)
Having immigrated from communist Romania in the early 80’s, for obvious reasons, I was particularly drawn to Corey Hart’s 1983 music video Sunglasses at Night. Not only did the video feature the stunningly good-looking singer in a lead role, but also it was replete with visual allusions to one of my favorite novels about totalitarian oppression (which, incidentally, my family had just escaped), George Orwell’s 1984.
Sunglasses at Night music video:
After watching his Corey Hart’s videos, I also watched several of his interviews, both from the eighties (with Ed Sullivan, Joan Rivers and the Today Show) as well as more recent ones (with George). Even now, decades later, I was very impressed with the modesty and intelligence with which he spoke, his facility with languages (a native Canadian from Montreal who spent part of his childhood in Mexico City, Hart is fluent in English, Spanish and French) and, above all, the manner in which he managed to balance such a spectacularly successful career as a rock star with a stable and rewarding family life. Although Corey was especially close to his mother, Mina, to whom he dedicated his first album, he was pained, throughout his life but especially during his childhood, by his lack of contact with his father. Perhaps this explains, in part, why he was all the more determined to be a good father to his own (four) children and a good partner to his wife, Julie Masse. Whenever the professional demands of his busy music career vied for his attention with the needs of his family, Corey prioritized his family life.
The foundation of that healthy family life is the deep love—and romance—that Corey and his partner, Julie Masse, have shared for nearly twenty years. Corey Hart met Julie Masse in 1993, when they both co-presented at the Juno Awards. Aside from being a beauty, Julie was a talented singer and rising star in the Canadian music scene, with two platinum albums of her own (Julie Masse and A Contre Jour). Upon the suggestion of Masse’s manager, Corey and Julie began collaborating on an English album. Hart co-produced and composed five songs sung by Julie Masse, for the album Circle of One. As the two singers fell in love, their professional collaboration eventually led to merging their personal lives as well. Corey and Julie began dating in 1994 and married in 2000. They have three daughters (India, born in 1995; Dante, born in 1997; River, born in 1999) and a son (Rain, born in 2004). Although both singers have continued to pursue their professional lives, they prioritize their family. They have created their own family sanctuary, for the most part sheltered from the public eye (though they periodically return to the media spotlight), in a superb villa by the beach in Nassau, Bahamas.
This only goes to show that, as a rock star, you can have it all, but only if you nurture your personal life first and foremost. In a recent interview with George, Corey stated that he doesn’t know how celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt manage to combine their acting careers in the limelight with having about 15 kids. He admits that he himself couldn’t focus on his four kids while also leading the rock star life, and constantly going on tour all over the world.
Of course, being a family man doesn’t prevent Corey Hart from continuing to pursue his professional goals. In 2002, Seymor Stein offered Hart a boutique label, Siena Records (part of Sire/Warner Music Canada). Corey Hart signed Marie-Christine Depestre–a talented Canadian singer born in Haiti, whose style reflects a perfect mélange of rhythm and blues, pop and rock–as Siena Records’ first star. Subsequently, the record company also released Hart’s own hit single in the spring of 2012, Truth Will Set You Free. This song alludes to the pain and fear of discrimination endured by those who feel like they have to hide being gay. As the title suggests, the song encourages honesty and, more specifically, coming out of the closet. However, as Corey states in an interview with George, Truth Will Set You Free is about human rights in general: the freedom of identity and expression that each individual should enjoy without fear of discrimination and hate.
In 2011, Corey Hart has also relaunched his Facebook website. Based on his recent posts, it looks like he will publish a book in 2013 about his musical career and life. We look forward to it! Corey’s success story is a living testimony that a rock star can, indeed, have it all: but only by leading a life that balances “attitude and virtue”, to cite the name of his seventh album, released in 1992.
Claudia Moscovici, Literature Salon