Ride Like The Wind: Christopher Cross at 40

Christopher Cross goes from flash to splash with his historic debut

Christopher Cross / art by Ron Hart

In the eyes of some, Christopher Cross was the very essence of a one hit wonder, an artist that scored with a big bang and then rapidly fell off the radar.

Of course, that’s wholly untrue. For one thing, his much-heralded eponymous debut yielded not one, but no less than four significant singles (“Ride Like the Wind,” “Sailing,” “Never Be the Same,” and “Say You’ll Be Mine,” all of which scaled the highest rungs of the Billboard charts), and, in the process, brought the album itself well into the Top Ten. And did we mention the five Grammys (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist, among them, a feat in itself which is unparalleled in the realms of Grammy giving? 

Cross, who made his initial professional foray as a member of a group called Flash (not to be confused with the British band of the same name that splintered off from Yes), still deserves credit for setting a certain standard with that 1979 stellar solo debut, and if successive efforts weren’t quite able to reach that high bar, it doesn’t diminish Cross’ accomplishment. Pardon the pun, but that was simply a Cross he had to bear.

Christopher Cross Christopher Cross, Warner Bros. 1979

Its follow-up, the appropriately titled Another Page, yielded a few mid-chart singles of its own, and his co-write, “Arthur’s Theme” from the classic Dudley Moore film of the same name, restored his chart placement and gave him the Oscar he shared with co-writers Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sayer and Peter Allen. Nevertheless, after that initial achievement, anything that followed would still seem secondary in comparison. 

Still, Cross’s failure to follow up is understandable, and if he seemed unable to muster the enthusiasm of the masses with his later efforts, he has plenty of staples to fill his set lists. Likewise, his reputation as an artist who all but defined the Adult Rock, Soft Rock persona remains well established. 

Back then, it was no small accomplishment that though he went into the studio all but unknown, he still managed to attract the interest and attention of the numerous luminaries who loaned their efforts to that first album — producer Michael Omartian, guitarist Larry Carlton, sax player Jim Horn, percussionist Lenny Castro, and backing singers Don Henley, J.D. Souther and Nicolette Larson in particular. 

Ultimately though, Christopher Cross makes for a cautionary tale that’s well worth heeding. Don’t blow your best shot the first time out. Save something for the next one, and the one after that. After all, a lifetime of creativity goes into any initial entry but then there’s at best six months to a year to come up with the material for the follow-up. Christopher Cross — and Christopher Cross — bore out the truth of that old axiom and in a sense, they shared a fatal flaw. The lesson is this — ride like the wind, but make sure you can still muster enough breeze in your sails to get sustain you all the way.

 

AUDIO: Christopher Cross (full album)

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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