One possible way to fake your way into being a successful pop star is to pretend you’re related to someone famous. One such Los Angeles-born singer Robbie Nevil did just that in the 80s when he kidded people he was related to the Louisiana-born soul singer Aaron Neville.
Even with the spelling change, some people were fooled, but as soon as he hit that chart, it seemed no one cared for the lie anymore. Robbie began on the California cabaret circuit and after meeting various people on the road he managed to blag himself a job as a staff writer at MCA records.
Within weeks artists like Eddie Kendricks, Al Jarreau, Pointer Sisters, Earth Wind & Fire and Sheena Easton started covering his songs. He was frustrated because he wanted to record songs himself and have his own hits but, as Robbie said in a Billboard magazine interview, “Producers would hear my songs and then decide who they should cut them with.” One such song was C’est La Vie which Nevil had intended for Kool & the Gang, but someone suggested it would be ideal for a new up and coming gospel singer called Beau Williams who had been signed to A&M records. Beau recorded it for his debut album Bodacious, but it remained an album track.
He finally got his big break in 1983 when EMI launched a subsidiary label, Manhattan, and Nevil was signed as their debut act. Nevil recalled, “It was actually my grandmother, who is pushing 90, helped picked it as a single for me. She heard three of my songs and said ‘it’s light and catchy and I think you should release it.'”
EMI teamed him with producers Alex Sadkin and former Cure producer and Johnny Hates Jazz guitarist Phil Thornally. They came to London to record the parent album, C’est La Vie. Robbie admitted of the single, “It’s not the strongest track on the album and it doesn’t represent the depth, but it’s a good dance thing. I’d like to think that even if it’s just a straight ahead dance song, people will hear an integrity that makes it more than just another dance record.” It would seem that there wasn’t much that was strong on the album that interested the record-buying public because the album didn’t even make the published top 75. It stalled at number 93.
C’est La Vie – the single, reached number two on the US chart and one place lower in the UK. His follow up, Dominoes petered out at number 26 and his third and final hit, Wot’s It To Ya stopped at number 43. After a four year absence Nevil returned to what he enjoyed best, writing and co wrote David Lee Roth’s 1991 solo single A Lil’ Ain’t Enough. Seven more years went by until his name appeared again, this time as co-writer of Kele Le Roc’s 1998 number eight hits Little Bit Of Lovin’ and My Love. He also co-wrote Louise’s (Nurding – as was) hit Pandora’s Box and from 2006 onwards has been writing songs for High School Musical and Hannah Montana. In 2009 he penned Jordin Sparks’ top 20 hit One Step At A Time.
If you’re a Cheers fan, you might just recognise Rebecca Howe’s lecherous young boss Martin Teal who is played by Robbie’s brother Alex.