|Photo from Ericcarmen.com|
At six years old, he took violin lessons from his aunt, Muriel Carmen, then a violinist with the Cleveland Orchestra. By age 11, he was playing piano and dreaming about writing his own songs. By the time he was a sophomore in high school, Carmen was playing piano and singing in rock 'n' roll bands.
Though classically trained in piano, Carmen became a self-taught guitarist at age 15. He bought a Beatles chord book and taught himself to play guitar for the next four months.
Carmen became serious about being a musician while attending John Carroll University. He joined a band named Cyrus Erie, which recorded several unsuccessful singles for Epic records. Cyrus Erie guitarist Wally Bryson had been playing with friends Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley in one of Cleveland's most popular bands, the Choir, which scored a minor national hit in 1967 with the single "It's Cold Outside."
When Cyrus Erie and the Choir dissolved in the late 1960s, Carmen, Bryson, Bonfanti and Smalley teamed up to form Raspberries, a rock and roll band who were among the chief exponents of the power pop style. Carmen was the lead singer of the group, and wrote or co-wrote all their hit songs. In 1975, after the breakup of Raspberries, he started his solo career, favoring soft rock and power ballads.
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In 2004, Carmen, along with original Raspberries members Jim Bonfanti, Wally Bryson, and Dave Smalley, re-formed the band for a series of sold-out live performances in cities across the U.S. On that tour, the Raspberries recorded a live album of their hits at The House of Blues on Sunset Strip, in Hollywood, California.
His first two solo singles were chart hits in 1976. Both were built around themes by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The first of these singles, "All By Myself" – an adaptation of a theme from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 – hit #2 in the U.S. and #12 in the U.K. It sold over one million copies. The follow-up single, "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" – heavily inspired by the main theme of the slow movement of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 – reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, and hit #1 on the US Adult Contemporary Chart. Two years after its 1975 release, this self-titled album was certified Gold in 1977. His song, "That's Rock and Roll" was also a #3 hit single for singer Shaun Cassidy.
Carmen's second album, Boats Against the Current, came out in 1977. The album spent 13 weeks in the Billboard Album chart, peaking #45. It also produced the Top 20 single "She Did It." A third single, "Marathon Man," became his first solo single not to hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Shaun Cassidy again made the Top 10 in 1978 with Carmen's "Hey Deanie." For several weeks in the fall of 1977, Carmen had three compositions charting concurrently on the Billboard Hot 100, Cassidy's two big hits and Carmen's own "She Did It."
Carmen followed up with two more albums. The single "Change of Heart" broke into the Pop Top 20 late 1978. But in 1980, after the release of the album Tonight You're Mine and single "It Hurts Too Much" he temporarily withdrew from the music industry.
Four years later, after Mike Reno and Ann Wilson topped the charts with the Carmen-penned ballad "Almost Paradise" (the theme from the film Footloose). Eric resurfaced on Geffen Records in 1985 with a second self-titled album and a sizable comeback hit "I Wanna Hear It From Your Lips." The follow-up single, "I'm Through with Love," also climbed the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the Top 20 of the Adult Contemporary chart. Another track from the album, "Maybe My Baby," later became a Country hit for Louise Mandrell.
In 1987 his contribution to the mega-hit movie Dirty Dancing, "Hungry Eyes" hit #2 Adult Contemporary and also returned him to the Pop Top 10. "Make Me Lose Control" returned him to the #1 position on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was his highest charting song since "All By Myself."
In 2000 he released I Was Born to Love You, which up until then, was only available in Japan as Winter Dreams. Carmen played most of the instruments and programming the drum parts himself.
For most of the past decade, he has only worked on occasion. He moved back to Northeast Ohio from Los Angeles with his family a few years ago.