Gilbert O'Sullivan (born Raymond Edward O'Sullivan, on 1 December 1946, in Waterford, Ireland) is a singer-songwriter, best known for his early-1970s hits "Alone Again (Naturally)", "Clair" and "Get Down".
Early in his life, his family moved to Swindon, England, where he attended St. Joseph's Comprehensive school. Here he began to develop an interest in music and art. At Swindon Art College in 1963, he met Rick Davies who would later become a member of the progressive rock band Supertramp. During these years, O'Sullivan experimented with songwriting, writing his first song, "Ready Miss Steady."
O'Sullivan signed a five-year contract with CBS in 1967. However, after two unsuccessful singles with CBS, and one with the Irish label Major Minor, he sent some demo tapes to Gordon Mills, the manager of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, whereupon he signed with Mills' label, MAM Records. It was Mills who redesignated him Gilbert O'Sullivan, a pun on Gilbert and Sullivan, but the eye-catching visual image comprising pudding-basin haircut, cloth cap and short trousers, was O'Sullivan's own idea, reportedly hated by Mills but O'Sullivan insisted on going with it, at least for a couple of years, after which a more modern look took over in which he often wore a sweater bearing a large letter 'G'. At the end of 1970, O'Sullivan achieved his first UK Top 10 hit with "Nothing Rhymed", which reached No. 8 (No. 1 in The Netherlands), and enjoyed nearly five years of major success. This run incorporated thirteen more hit singles, six of which reached the UK Top 10, plus four Top 10 albums, including Himself (1971), Back To Front (1972), I'm A Writer Not A Fighter (1973) and A Stranger In My Own Back Yard (1974). In 1972 his international star raised, after his self-penned ballad, "Alone Again (Naturally)," a No. 3 hit in Britain, became a chart-topper in the U.S., spending six weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and selling nearly two million copies there.
He also landed two consecutive UK chart toppers, with the songs "Clair" (1972); and "Get Down" (1973), which reached No. 2 and No. 7 respectively in America. However, things later turned sour, as O'Sullivan discovered his recording contract with MAM Records greatly favoured the label's owner. A litigation followed, with prolonged argument over how much money his songs had earned and how much of that money he had actually received. Widely reported in the media, this may have been the first high-profile case of its kind. Eventually the court found in O'Sullivan's favour, the judge describing him as "a patently honest and sincere man," who had been treated shabbily. He had won, but the court battle had put his recording career on hold.
Sometime before the case had come to court, he had returned after a five year chart absence in 1980, with a new contract with his old label, CBS. The first single of the new contract - "What's In A Kiss" - reached No. 19 in the UK. But then the hits completely dried up, and due in part to the court case, O'Sullivan released no new material between 1982 and 1987. Apart from a minor hit single in 1990 and a compilation album in 1991, O'Sullivan was absent from the charts until another compilation album returned him to the Top 20 in 2004. For years O'Sullivan spoke in a bad light about his fall from fame, once saying that "no-one cares" what he has to say anymore, until the internet came along and he got in contact with some fans on his website.
However, O'Sullivan continues to record and perform to the present day, and enjoys some success in Japan.