As a solo artist Jimmy Barnes has scored seven number one records in Australia, putting him up in the same league as the Beatles, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, and Rod Stewart. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, his family emigrated to Adelaide in 1956 when Barnes was four. It was his older brother John's interest in music that inspired Jim to follow suit, eventually leading to him becoming lead singer of Cold Chisel, who emerged as Australia's most popular band of the '80s. While their rock/soul/blues fusion music was part of the band's appeal, a large part was also the stage presence of its raw-voiced singer, crouched with intensity as he sang/shouted into the microphone with every breath in his lungs. After 12 years, Cold Chisel gave their final performance in December 1983 and Barnes launched an immediate solo career, eclipsing Cold Chisel's record sales with six solo number one albums in a row.
Released in October 1984, the first Jimmy Barnes album Bodyswerve, was clearly the singer's attempt to grab Cold Chisel's audience and take them with him. Also keen to achieve the international status Cold Chisel was never able to grab, Barnes recorded extra tracks for the album's American release in Los Angeles and New York with session players Waddy Watchel, Billy Burnette, Charlie Sexton, Mick Fleetwood, members of Little Feat, and Journey's Jonathan Caine. Caine was also involved in writing the extra songs, including "Working Class Man," which became Jimmy Barnes' signature tune. Working Class Hero also became the title of the second Australian album, comprising the new tracks, plus remixed versions of Bodyswerve songs. The song "Working Class Man" was featured in Ronnie Howard's feature film Gung Ho, renamed after the Barnes song in Australia. While Jonathan Caine was impressed to the point where he thought about asking Barnes to become Journey's singer, the American album release on Geffen did not establish Barnes outside of Australia.
Back at home, he recorded the Easybeats' "Good Times" with INXS to help promote a nationalistic package tour featuring a bill of Australia-only artists. Barnes now divided his time on the road and in the studio between Australia and America, forming a songwriting partnership with Jim Vallence (Bryan Adams) for the album Freight Train Heart, produced by Jonathan Caine. A double live album, Barnstorming, followed, before Don Gehman (REM, John Mellencamp) produced Two Hearts at Barnes' home studio in rural Bowral in New South Wales. The singer's biggest selling album, Soul Deep, followed in November 1991, a tribute to his favorite soul/R&B performers of the '60s. Gehmen returned to produce the grunge-era Heat, followed by Flesh and Blood, an album characterized by guest appearances from other Australian artists. In the space of nine years, Barnes had recorded eight albums and toured almost constantly, not just to satisfy the singer's love of performing, but also to cater for his live-now pay-later lifestyle. In 1994, it all caught up with him. He was forced to sell his vast property to help pay unpaid taxes and took his family to live in France where he recorded 1995's Psyclone.
In 1997 the event Cold Chisel fans dreamt of eventuated, with the band reforming for the highly anticipated The Last Days of Summer album and tour. Barnes followed up with an 11th solo album, Love and Fear, in November 1999, peaking at number 16. During 2000, Barnes gave Don Gehman the mission of putting together a band of the best R&B players he knew back home in the United States. What followed became something of a pilgrimage for Barnes, a journey to the heart and home of the songs which shaped his tastes as a youngster, this time named Soul Deeper, and this time with musicians and singers who'd helped shape the real thing. To promote the album, Barnes brought the musicians on Soul Deeper to Australia for a national tour. ~ Ed Nimmervoll, Rovi