This is an example of how pop music careers can start at the same level, and then go off in different directions. In the mid-80s, Jellybean Benitez was a much in-demand producer. He was involved in some of Madonna’s earliest chart successes, he also had several hits himself, and he helped to further the careers of the female singers Elisa Fiorillo and Adele Bertei.
One of my favourites though is definitely “Sidewalk Talk”, which was Jellybean’s first hit single in the UK, and in February 1986 this reached no. 47 (although this had been on the dance scene since late-1984). This was credited to “Jellybean Featuring Catherine Buchanan”, but there were actually two female singers on this. The other one was Madonna, who was uncredited (and also the writer).
This is definitely up there with her best hit singles for me, although few people might’ve had realised that she contributed to this (and I don’t think there was a video made). Now as much as I like her songs, I haven’t done a piece on Madonna because her story is very well-known, and in the second half of the 80s she became one of the biggest pop stars in the world. But as for Catherine Buchanan? Who was she exactly, and what became of her?
Catherine (no relation to Neil Buchanan I imagine) was a singer and rapper who was born in America, although by the late-80s, she had left to live in London (not the part where I live though). When she was at college in New York, she studied astrophysics and Russian, what a combination that is. She also wrote and performed all of her material.
In November 1987, she had one of her more high-profile moments, when she appeared on the Channel 4 music show Famous For 15 Minutes, where unsigned acts were given some airtime. Among the three songs she performed was an early version of “Love Is”, and she also showed off her ability to talk fluent Russian. It was good to finally put a face to the name.
And in August 1988, her debut solo single “Love Is” was finally released (and she was now credited as “Catharine” Buchanan). Curiously, the video isn’t on YouTube, but this was shown on Channel 4’s The Chart Show, so the only source to see this now is a 35-year-old TV show. One critic said “a bright, bubbly rap over jangly guitars, rhythmic tom-toms, the odd whistle, and church bells to boot”.
However, despite some good reviews and radio airplay, “Love Is” reached only an unofficial no. 96 in the UK (and didn’t chart in America as far as I know). From what I can tell, Catherine released no further singles or albums, and unlike Madonna, she seemed to vanish off the pop music scene entirely, and very little is known about what happened to her in the years after this.
When trying to find out some more about what exactly did happen to her, it was rather a surprise to discover that it seems that Catherine died suddenly in 2001, which is over two decades ago now. I don’t know how old she was, but I imagine probably around 35 to 40. A lot of people couldn’t believe that she never become the big star that they expected her to be.