In 2016, Michael Bolton performed his classic song “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” at the Ericsberg Castle in Sweden. This was part of Rhapsody in Rock, a regular musical performance organised by Swedish musician Robert Wells. Rhapsody in Rock performances have been taking place since 1989, and they fuse elements of rock and classical music. Joining Bolton for the performance was Robert Wells’s wife, Maria Wells, who usually sings with her band Vocalettes.
Bolton introduced the track by telling the audience that this was the “first hit song that I ever wrote for another artist”. He explained that he did this for much of his early career. When he revealed that he had been signed by a record label when he was sixteen but didn’t have a solo hit record until he was thirty-four, the audience laughed incredulously. “It wasn’t funny back then,” Bolton told them. He then introduced his duettist and began the track.
The king of soft rock co-wrote the track in 1982 with Doug James. It was then a big hit for American singer Laura Branigan the following year, reaching number 12 in the US singles chart. Branigan had found fame the previous year with her US number 2 hit single “Gloria”, which stayed in the US Billboard Hot 100 charts for 36 weeks. At the time, this was a record for a female artist.
Bolton then finally recorded his own version in 1989. This was a gigantic worldwide hit for Bolton, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 charts and winning him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. It was a turning point in Bolton’s career. After this, he was considered a superstar in his own right rather than simply a songwriter for other artists. It’s easy to see, therefore, why the song still holds such significance with him after all these years, despite his many other successes.
Interestingly, Bolton started his career in the 1970s writing heavy metal and hard rock songs. So, he would not have felt out of place performing for Rhapsody in Rock. But it is for soft rock classics like “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” that he made his name, and this stirring duet is a reminder of how powerful the song is.