Back in the 1980s, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing a song by Christopher Cross. The award-winning singer/songwriter is responsible for such tunes as “Think of Laura,” “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” “Ride Like the Wind,” and “Never Be The Same.”
Cross made Grammy history in 1981, winning Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Arrangement for “Sailing.” To date, no one has ever won all of those awards in the same year except Cross. Add to that an Academy Award for Best Song for “Arthur’s Theme,” from the Dudley Moore film, “Arthur,” and Cross was a force to be reckoned with in the early ’80s.
The singer/songwriter will be making a stop at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Va., on Sunday.
For Cross, the event in Alexandria is a bit of a homecoming. Cross’ father served as a pediatrician at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, where he was a physician for President Dwight Eisenhower’s grandchildren.
“We were pretty fortunate because we had one of the few houses actually on the base,” Cross said. “We had a big ol’ house with cherry trees and everything. I think the two houses on base were ours and the commanding general’s. Everyone else kind of lived off base.”
Cross said the family moved to Bethesda after spending time in Japan, where his dad was stationed. The family ended up living in the area for five years, according to Cross.
“It was a wonderful time in my life, I was just young. … The town was much more open then. We used to run around free on our bikes. … It was a fun place to be in that time of life.”
Cross gets his love of music naturally. His father played bass in college and also spent time playing for acclaimed bandleader Lawrence Welk.
“I think music was kind of a release for him,” Cross said. “I just saw the joy in his face and the happiness that it brought him and I related music to that. I wanted to be a part of whatever that was. I was in fifth or sixth grade and I asked for some drums.”
Later on, after listening to his father’s album collection, Cross went to the record store and asked if they had anything that sounded like his dad’s music, only for a younger crowd.
“They gave me ‘Time in Outer Space,’ by Dave Brubeck,” Cross said. “That was my first exposure to having my own album and music and I loved it. … I switched to guitar at 16 because I wanted to write down songs. It was always a singular passion. … It’s always been my solace through failed marriages or whatever I had going in life.”
Cross’ debut album, aptly called “Christopher Cross,” came out in 1979 and has gone platinum five times over, according to the RIAA. That record had four top-20 singles, including “Sailing,” which hit No. 1 and “Ride Like the Wind,” which topped out at No. 2.
Although Cross said he knew his songs were quality work, he was a little surprised at how quickly success came to him.
“I aspired to great artists like Joni Mitchell and people like that, so I was trying to emulate what they were doing as far as the craft goes,” Cross said. “I was just hoping to get the album out and then after the third album have a single to hit the radio. I never really imagined having that early success.
“I think disco and punk had sort of run their course. People were sort of ready to hear pop again and I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Cross has released 13 studio albums, including two Christmas records. Last year, he released “A Night in Paris,” a live album recorded and filmed entirely in one night at the Theatre Le Trianon in Paris.
“It’s lovely to play at Le Trianon in Paris,” Cross said. “It’s such an historic venue. The show sold out and it was a pretty special evening. We only got to tape one night, which is hard because, with live records, you usually want to record multiple nights and choose performances and things like that. But the band played incredibly well and I think it came out really, really well.”
Cross hasn’t had quite the success he enjoyed early on in his career, but he still sells out shows around the world. As an artist, Cross said he’s never frustrated with fans when they say they love his older work as opposed to something new. What’s frustrating, he said, is the lack of exposure the songs are getting.
“It’s very difficult and it’s not the fans’ fault, it’s just the problem with terrestrial radio,” Cross said. “A lot of times, the more artistic work kind of slips through the cracks. So as the songs got more sophisticated and the lyrics got more sophisticated, it just wasn’t what radio was embracing. Britney Spears came in and I just didn’t fit the mold anymore.”
Cross is one to keep himself busy. Shortly after his show at Birchmere, Cross will be hopping a plane for some tour dates in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. He also just finished recording a new album, “Secret Ladder,” which he hopes will be out around June 15.
Since his divorce in 2007, Cross said he’s been writing constantly.
“We just have a lot of material,” Cross said. “Just finished ‘Secret Ladder,’ and I’m very, very happy with it. … It’s just a very strong record.”
For fans who come out to see Cross perform, he hopes they enjoy the music and find a better understanding of his work.
“The songs usually have a little bit deeper meaning and in some cases personal meaning,” Cross said. “Some of these songs are slightly autobiographical. I hope somehow in the concert they get to know me a little bit and … leave feeling like they know me a little better.
“It’s the story of my life. It’s just a book I keep adding pages to.”