During the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, David Foster was among the most commercially successful producers and composers in all of popular music, lending his signature sweeping power ballad aesthetic to smash hits from Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Josh Groban while virtually defining the adult contemporary format. Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Foster began studying piano at the age of five and enrolled in the University of Washington's music program eight years later. He joined Chuck Berry's backing band as a 16-year-old and relocated to Los Angeles in 1971 with his group Skylark, scoring a major hit the following year with the single "Wildflower." Foster also became a sought-after session keyboardist, appearing on recordings from superstars including John Lennon, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, and Rod Stewart.
Foster's production career began when he helmed the 1976 eponymous debut from his own group, Attitudes. He soon turned to outside projects as well, writing and producing material for Hall & Oates, Deniece Williams, Carole Bayer Sager, Boz Scaggs, and the Average White Band. In 1979, he earned his first Grammy Award for penning Earth, Wind and Fire's "After the Love Has Gone." From there, Foster's career exploded, and he was soon writing and producing for artists like Kenny Rogers, the Tubes, and Kenny Loggins. In 1982, he won a second Grammy for producing the original cast album to the Broadway hit Dreamgirls; he also composed and produced Chicago's hit "Hard to Say I'm Sorry," followed in 1983 by work on Lionel Richie's blockbuster Can't Slow Down. With 1984's Chicago 17, Foster scored his greatest success to date, with the smash single "Hard Habit to Break" earning him a Grammy for Producer of the Year.
A year later, Foster wrote and produced John Parr's hit "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)," and in 1986 he reunited with Chicago -- not only for their 18 LP, which launched the hit "Will You Still Love Me," but also with the group's singer, Peter Cetera, for whom he wrote the chart-topping "The Glory of Love." By now Foster was among the most successful producers in pop. Though reviled by critics, his work was enormously successful on the charts, with dozens of Top 40 hits attributed to his name. However, he was atypically quiet during the latter half of the 1980s, most notably teaming with Neil Diamond on his 1988 album The Best Years of Our Lives and working on a variety of film projects and one-off studio dates. In 1990, Foster began his collaboration with Celine Dion, writing and producing material for her Unison album and generating the hit "Have a Heart." A year later, he teamed with Natalie Cole for her mega-hit Unforgettable and won three more Grammys: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Producer of the Year.
In 1992, Foster collaborated with Whitney Houston on the multi-platinum soundtrack to her hit film The Bodyguard, which netted him another Album of the Year Grammy at the following year's award ceremony, with the blockbuster single "I Will Always Love You" also winning Record of the Year. Again, he took home Producer of the Year honors as well; additionally, "When I Fall in Love," the theme to Sleepless in Seattle performed by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin, garnered Foster another trophy as arranger. For Dion, he next produced 1993's The Colour of My Love, which spawned the smash "The Power of Love," and a year later, he helmed All-4-One's I Swear. With Dion's 1996 Falling into You, Foster again took home the Album of the Year Grammy; the blockbuster Because You Loved Me, whose title track was the theme song for the romantic drama Up Close & Personal, was also a nominee in the Record of the Year category. A major hit from that same year was Toni Braxton's "Un-Break My Heart."
David Foster's accolades stretched into the 21st century, when he helped launch the multi-platinum careers of two male crooners: Josh Groban and Michael Bublé. He continued releasing his own material, too, having issued over ten albums since the early '80s. Foster toured as well, often employing a collaborative "Foster and friends" approach for his performances. That approach was captured on The Hit Man Returns, a live album taken from a 2010 concert that featured guest performances by Seal, Martina McBride, Donna Summer, and more than ten other artists with whom Foster had previously worked. ~ Jason Ankeny