Best scenario, Christopher Cross hoped to sell 50,000 copies of his first album, the self-titled Christopher Cross in 1979. That was the magic number — 50,000. “I had a three-album deal with Warner Bros. but it wasn’t set in stone. I figured if I could sell 50,000, that would endear me to Warner Bros. and I could make a second album,” Cross said.
He missed by a couple of zeroes.
Christopher Cross, the album, sold 5 million copies, making it one of the top-selling and most honored debut albums in popular music history. It contained four Top 20 Billboard singles, “Ride Like the Wind,” “Sailing,” “ Never Be the Same,” and “Say You’ll Be Mine.”
Later that year, Cross was struggling to juggle five Grammy Awards out of Radio City Music Hall. He won for Best New Artist, Best Instrumental Arrangement, Best Song, Best Record and, the big award of the night, Best Album, besting Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb, Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel and Pink Floyd.
He will forever be known as the singer who beat Pink Floyd's The Wall for the Best Album Grammy.
“That night was awesome, mind-blowing. Billy Joel was sitting in the front row, and when they announced my name for Album of the Year, Billy stood up and started applauding for me. Because he was Billy Joel, when everybody saw him stand up, they stood up, too. I got a standing ovation. It was unbelievable because I was a nobody, just a kid.
"It was like Billy Joel was saying, 'The kid just won Album of the Year, let him know it. Let’s acknowledge this guy, who’s a nobody, for what he just accomplished.’ That was the moment that I knew I had arrived on some level.”
More moments and hits kept on coming, through a second gold album, Another Page, with the single “Think of Laura,” a Golden Globe and the 1981 Academy Award for Best Original Song, “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)" for the Dudley Moore comedy, Arthur. “When you get lost between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love.”
“It took a couple of years of success before it seeped in, to stop thinking of myself as a nobody. After the second album did well, and the Oscar, people started saying I was ‘iconic.’ I don’t think songwriters walk around thinking of themselves that way. Maybe the Beatles do. But look at Brian Wilson. I know him and he’s very uncomfortable being called a genius. I find a lot of humility in the songwriting community,” Cross said.
Cross will play his hits, and some new material, Friday night at Dosey Doe’s Big Barn, 25911 I-45 in The Woodlands. Tickets are $108 to $178, including a three-course dinner. Try the “ginormous chicken-fried steak.” Dinner will be served from 6-7:30 pm with Cross taking the stage at 8:30 pm. Click on doseydoe.com for ticket information and reservations.
Before his monster debut album, back in his “nobody” days, Cross lived for several years during the ‘70s in an apartment on Westheimer near Gessner.
“I played with a band called Heather Black at the Village Pizza Inn, which was the hippest place in Houston back then. It held 1,000 people and was always packed. The cool thing was, if you were under 18, you could still get in with a wristband. You couldn’t drink beer but you could hear all the great music acts coming through Houston. It was definitely the place in the mid-‘70s,” Cross said.
For a different generation and different medium, Cross achieved immortality in 1997 when he was mentioned on Seinfeld. In an episode titled “The Millennium,” Kramer and Newman have planned separate parties to celebrate the upcoming turn of the century. Newman is calling his party “Newmannium,” and he’s demanding that Kramer cancel his.
“I’ve put a deposit down on that revolving restaurant that overlooks Times Square and I’ve booked Christopher Cross,” Newman says.
Cross, a “huge Seinfeld fan,” never saw it coming.
“I had no idea they were doing that. The phone rang and it was my daughter. She was very excited, ‘You were just on Seinfeld, she told me. I thought it was amazing. You would not believe the number of people who’ve seen that episode and tell me about it.
"There was only one downside to it ...
“I was at a party and Michael Richards, you know, Kramer, was there, too. I approached him and wanted to talk to him about that episode, how my name was part of it. He just said to me, “We’ve done a lot of episodes,” and turned around and walked away. He brushed me off, shut me down. I was sort of humiliated. A few years later, when he had that deal onstage with the racial slurs, I felt kind of vindicated.”
Years later, Tina Fey’s character on the sitcom 30 Rock, Liz Lemon, wondered about a former boyfriend and wished “the whole thing would turn out like a movie where Christopher Cross sings a song like “All my days I’ve been waiting for you to come back home in the moonlight of New York City.”
That inspired Cross to write such a song, Lemon’s Theme. It wound up on the 30 Rock soundtrack album.
“I went to dinner with Tina and brought my daughter, who’s an aspiring actress in New York. She happens to worship Tina, and the opportunity to spend two hours with Tina over dinner, well, that made me a hero.”
Ken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @KenCultureMap. To have all CultureMap stories, including Ken's columns, delivered to your inbox in one Daily Digest every morning, sign up here.