He looked like a linebacker, he sang like an angel. And, befitting such incongruity, he was sorely misunderstood. Unfairly dismissed by many as a crooner of MOR ballads, Christopher Cross is known primarily for four Top-40 hits of the early 80s, three of which were… umm, MOR ballads. But what ballads they were.

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) and Think of Laura are textbook examples of irresistibly hummable romantic soundtrack songs, and after their inclusion in the movie Arthur and the TV soap General Hospital, respectively, hamfisted hacks churned out dozens of pale and listless imitations in sheer tribute. 1981’s Grammy winner for Song of the Year, Sailing, stands as one of the most sublime musical evocations of freedom of the spirit yet recorded. It can take you to Alpha-ville quicker than a pitcher of Kamikazes.

But Mr. Cross (ne Geppert) was more than a mellow master of adult contemporary. His first single, the exhilarating Ride
Like the Wind
, showed this beyond a doubt, riding the fenceline between rock and pop, employing Chris’ high, clear vocal tones against a relentlessly charging rhythm section, prefiguring such arena-rocking acts as Journey and Toto.

That fickle old general public loves to do two things, however: categorize, and dismiss. Once Cross was snugly smooshed into a soft-romantic cubbyhole, they pretty much abandoned him there. He has not let that stop him. Despite being dropped by his original label, the Big New Star of 1980 has gone on recording and performing throughout the intervening years, and he continues to live up to that promise to this day.