As one of the most successful bands of the 1970s and 1980s, BONEY M. sold more than 150 million records worldwide, including over 50 million singles, in its barely 10-year existence. What began in Germany in the spring of 1976 with the first hit single “Daddy Cool” continued with tremendous success until late into the 1980s.
Founding member Marcia Barrett, born in Jamaica, moved from England to Germany at the end of the 1960s where she began working as a dancer at a discothèque in Hamburg. After successfully completing her training as a singer at the “Heidi Hoffner Schule” came the first live performances as the lead vocalist of the VALENDRAS and the TORNADOS as well as record releases by METRONOME. During a session with the producer and arranger Stefan Klinkhammer, the young Frank Farian became aware of Marcia Barrett. Together with the dancers Bobby Farrell and Mazie Williams, also from the Caribbean, the band BONEY M. was founded. After a successful television appearance in Holland, Marcia remembered her Hamburg acquaintance Liz Mitchell and brought her into the band. From then on, it was the characteristic lead vocals from Marcia and Liz that defined the typical sound of the band and led it around the world.
The single release “Daddy Cool” from the first album, “Take the Heat Off Me”, became an overnight success after TV coverage on “Musikladen” and “Plattenküche”. At the time, over 100,000 copies of the song were sold per week, “Daddy Cool” remained at number one on the German charts for 12 weeks and was Germany’s most-sold single in 1976. Shortly afterwards in 1977, BONEY M. released “Sunny”, “Ma Baker” and “Belfast”, all of which became number one hits.
In 1978, the band held the top spot on the German hit list for an entire four months with their big hit “Rivers of Babylon”. Over 4 million copies of the song were sold worldwide, including over 1 million in Germany and nearly 2 million in England. This was followed by “Rasputin” and, for Christmastime, “Mary’s Boychild”, which sold 200,000 copies in a single day in England and nearly 3 million copies in Germany and England combined after three weeks.
In November of the same year, Queen Elizabeth II personally presented the band with an award on the occasion of their appearance on the “Royal Variety Performance”.
The album “Nightflight to Venus”, featuring the hits “Painterman and “Brown Girl in the Ring”, became the most successful pop album in Germany in the year 1978 after the soundtrack “Saturday Night Fever” from the BEE GEES and also ranked on the charts in the United States. A special version of the album for the Soviet Union sold over 300,000 copies there within two days. In December, BONEY M. becomes the first Western European band to play the Red Square in Moscow following an invitation from Leonid Brezhnev.
The next album, “Oceans of Fantasy” also reached number one in Germany, Austria and England. With the singles “El Lute”, “I See a Boat (On the River)” and “Bahama Mama”, the phenomenal success of the band continued until late in the 1980s.
Over the course of their career, the band received 50 platinum, 42 gold and 50 silver records and, in Germany, received the Goldene Europa twice (1977 and 1981) as well as the Goldene Stimmgabel (1983) and the RSH Gold (1990). The countless releases and new editions have continued to achieve gold status today (amongst others, Ireland in 2006 and Canada in 2008).
At the urging of Frank Farian, the band broke up in the middle of the 1980s. The four members of the band scattered to the four winds and Marcia Barrett did not return to show business until twenty years later, after a long and successful struggle with illness. Together with her long-time husband Marcus James who, amongst other projects, also played bass with Eddie Grant, she created a new line-up which she has successfully been touring with around the world for the last five years.
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