Updated:
Original:
Year
1980
Month Day
August 30

Christopher Cross has his first of two #1 hits with “Sailing”

The music video that famously played during MTV’s first minutes on the air was “Video Killed The Radio Star,” by the British synth-pop duo The Buggles. Four weeks later, a young American singer-songwriter named Christopher Cross completed a meteoric rise from obscurity when his hit ballad “Sailing” reached the top of the Billboard pop chart on August 30, 1980. In the years since, many observers have linked the first of these two events to the eventual decline of the man who accomplished the second. But even if MTV is what “killed” the radio star Christopher Cross, it did so only after he accomplished a run of success as great and unexpected as any in pop history.

Released in January 1980, Cross’s self-titled debut album was one of the biggest soft-rock hits of all time. The first single was “Ride Like The Wind,” which featured a memorable backup vocal by Doobie Brothers singer Michael McDonald and rose to #2 on the pop charts the following summer. “Sailing” was the follow-up single, and it rose even faster and higher, hitting #1 on this day in 1980. It also transformed Christopher Cross from a complete unknown to the biggest name in pop almost overnight, propelling him to a still-unmatched sweep at the 1981 Grammy Awards, where “Sailing” won Grammys for Best Record and Best Song, Christopher Cross won for Best Album and Cross himself won for Best New Artist. Cross would have another #1 pop hit later that year with “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do),” co-written with Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager and winner of the 1982 Oscar for Best Song. But Cross’s next top-10 hit, “Think Of Laura” (1983), would be his last.

Some say that the extremely talented but not terribly telegenic Christopher Cross was undone by the esthetic imperatives brought on by the dawning of the MTV era. But it is just as reasonable to suggest musical fashions were already shifting away from Cross’s “lite” Adult Contemporary sound without the help of MTV. In any event, Cross disappeared from the pop scene almost as quickly as he entered it.

“Would I have rather had a career like Peter Gabriel’s or Sting’s or somebody that grows over a long period of years and sustains like they have?” Cross asked himself in an interview 20 years after his heyday. “I’d prefer that as opposed to the sort of meteoric curve of my career…[but] I hear my music in grocery stores and people do know who I am, and I continue to tour so it’s great. Given the options, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Washington refuses Howe’s letter

On August 30, 1776, General George Washington gives the New York Convention three reasons for the American retreat from Long Island. That same day, he rejects British General William Howe’s second letter of reconciliation. With Howe and a superior British force having recently ...read more

First African American in space

U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Guion S. Bluford becomes the first African American to travel into space when the space shuttle Challenger lifts off on its third mission. It was the first night launch of a space shuttle, and many people stayed up late to watch the spacecraft ...read more

Vladimir Lenin shot

After speaking at a factory in Moscow, Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin is shot twice by Fanya Kaplan, a member of the Social Revolutionary party. Lenin was seriously wounded but survived the attack. The assassination attempt set off a wave of reprisals by the Bolsheviks against the ...read more

Ho Chi Minh responds to Nixon letter

Ho Chi Minh’s replies to President Nixon’s letter of July 15 is received in Paris. Ho accused the United States of a “war of aggression” against the Vietnamese people, “violating our fundamental national rights” and warned that “the longer the war goes on, the more it ...read more

A murdering couple is sentenced to death

Cynthia Coffman and James Marlow are sentenced to death in San Bernardino, California, for the 1986 murder of Corinna Novis. Coffman was the first woman to receive a death sentence in the state since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977. Coffman first met Marlow in May 1986, ...read more