|Birth Day:||October 14, 1958|
|Birth Place:||London, England, United Kingdom|
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By far the most significant session relationship for Thomas in the early days was when he contributed the signature synthesizer sound on the track "Urgent" on Foreigner's 1981 album 4. On the same album he played the atmospheric synthesizer intro to the mega-hit "Waiting for a Girl Like You". The fees from this work, including tour dates, bankrolled the studio time for the recording of the 1980s benchmark album The Golden Age of Wireless from which his solo career began.
In October 1981 Dolby made an appearance in the video for the Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin British number one cover of "It's My Party", playing the part of Johnny in the "Judy and Johnny just walked through the door" section of the song. The video made its first Top of The Pops appearance on 29 October 1981.
Beginning in 1983, Dolby collaborated with a number of artists in an occasional studio-bound project called Dolby's Cube. The project had no set line-up, and was essentially a forum for Dolby to release material that was more dance-oriented. Dolby's Cube released a single in 1983 ("Get Out of My Mix"), another in 1985 ("May the Cube Be with You"), and performed soundtrack work for the film Howard the Duck in 1986. Collaborators in Dolby's Cube at various junctures included Lene Lovich, George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic, Francois Kevorkian, and Lea Thompson.
Dolby also worked as session keyboard player on Def Leppard's 1983 Pyromania album. Dolby appeared on Pyromania using the alias Booker T. Boffin, as his affiliation to another record label restricted the use of his real name.
In 1984, Dolby released his second LP, The Flat Earth (Capitol), which peaked at No. 14 on the UK Albums Chart and at No. 35 on the Billboard album chart in the US. Utilizing a wide range of influences ranging from nostalgic jazz, funk-tinged Motown R&B, and world music along with a strong electronic element and featuring a slew of guest musicians, including longtime Dolby collaborator Matthew Seligman on bass, Kevin Armstrong on guitar, and Clif Brigden on percussion, and guest vocals from Robyn Hitchcock, Bruce Woolley and others, The Flat Earth further established Dolby's wide range of talents as musician, songwriter, and producer. The album also included a cover of the Dan Hicks song "I Scare Myself".
In 1985, Dolby appeared at the Grammy Awards, which were televised, along with Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, and Howard Jones. All four musicians were successful in the mid-1980s music scene, and they were also all keyboard and synthesizer experts. That same year, Dolby performed at the Live Aid concert in London as part of David Bowie's band.
Dolby married actress Kathleen Beller in 1988; they have three children. His brother is information retrieval researcher Stephen Robertson.
In 1990 Dolby played the role of the villain Stanley in the movie Rockula as well as contributing the songs "Stanley's Death Park" and "Budapest by Blimp".
In 1993, Dolby established the Headspace company. Headspace developed a new downloadable file format designed specifically for Internet usage called Rich Music Format with the RMF file extension. It had the advantage of small file size like MIDI but allowed recorded sampled sounds to be included at a higher bitrate for better overall reproduction. RMF music files could be played in a browser using the free Beatnik Player plug-in. Later versions of RMF permitted artists to place an encrypted watermark in their files that were supposed to prevent unauthorised duplication. In 1999, Headspace, Inc. was renamed Beatnik, Inc., and specialised in software synthesizers for mobile phones, which it licensed to mobile phone manufacturers including Nokia. Beatnik is no longer in business.
In July 1998, Dolby received a "Lifetime Achievement in Internet Music" award from Yahoo! Internet Life. In 2012 he performed at Moogfest and was the recipient of The Moog Innovation Award, which celebrates "pioneering artists whose genre-defying work exemplifies the bold, innovative spirit of Bob Moog". In February 2018, Dolby was awarded the Roland Lifetime Achievement Award. Dolby has received four Grammy nominations, two each in 1984 and 1988.
From 2001 to 2012, Dolby was musical director of the TED Conference, an annual event held, first, in Monterey, California, and subsequently in Long Beach, California. He provided live musical introductions to sessions, sometimes with a TED house band, and helped secure guest musicians and entertainers. Onstage, he played with singers and performers such as Eddi Reader, Natalie MacMaster, Rachelle Garniez and David Byrne, and premiered his own song "Love Is a Loaded Pistol" onstage at TEDGlobal 2010. He stood down from the position in September 2012 to pursue music.
While still remaining on the Beatnik board, Dolby stepped down from his position as CEO to pursue other technology interests, such as founding Retro Ringtones LLC in 2002, which produces the RetroFolio ringtone asset management software suite for companies involved in the mobile phone ringtone business. At the second annual Mobile Music Awards, Miami, Florida, in 2004 RetroFolio won "Best of Show" and "Best New Technology" awards.
"She Blinded Me with Science" included spoken phrases from Magnus Pyke. A short sample was included in the "Treehouse of Horror XIV" episode of The Simpsons, where Professor Frink was winning an award at a science convention. It was also sampled at a lower speed by the group Mobb Deep in the 2006 song "Got it Twisted". "She Blinded Me with Science" was also used as the theme song for the pilot episode of broadcast television sitcom The Big Bang Theory though it was not used for later episodes (it was, however, later used in that show as Howard's cell phone ringtone in the season 2 episode "The Vegas Renormalization" and season 3 episode "The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary").
Following his involvement in Beatnik Inc, Dolby returned to his musical career in 2006. He performed his first solo public show in 15 years at the Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco, California on 21 January 2006, surprising the crowd who were there to see local band Notorious. He then launched an American tour, the Sole Inhabitant Tour, on 12 April, comprising a string of small dates in California, a science education benefit in Boulder, Colorado, and gigs across America before receptive crowds.
The United States leg of the "Sole Inhabitant Tour 2006" was captured on a "live" CD and DVD. The CD represents a recording of two gigs played by Dolby at Martyrs in Chicago, while the DVD was filmed at the Berklee Performance Center at Berklee College of Music. The DVD also includes a 30-minute interview, and a lecture by Dolby at the Berklee College of Music. Both the CD and DVD were released in November 2006, and are distributed through CD Baby and iTunes. Dolby autographed and numbered the first 1,000 copies of the CD and DVD.
A show at the 800 capacity Scala club in London was booked for 3 July 2006 as a warm-up for Dolby's Hyde Park set opening for Depeche Mode. The show sold out in a matter of days and prompted Dolby to reprioritise the UK, resulting in him moving with his family from California back to England, and a nine-date Sole Inhabitant tour of the UK in October 2007, coinciding with the release of a lavish box set of the Sole Inhabitant CD and DVD by UK independent label Invisible Hands Music.
The 2007 UK Sole Inhabitant tour included three new songs previously played on the US tour, one called "Your Karma Hit My Dogma" another called "Jealous Thing" and a cover version of The Special AKA's "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend". "Your Karma Hit My Dogma" was inspired by Kevin Federline's unauthorised use of a sample from Mobb Deep's "Got It Twisted" which in turn had used an authorised sample of "She Blinded Me with Science". The tag-line from that story became the title of the song. The wording was lifted by Thomas from a bumper sticker on a car that he saw whilst living in the San Francisco Bay area. In a move close to performance art, Dolby tried to post a 'cease and desist' legal letter on Kevin Federline's MySpace page when other attempts to contact him proved fruitless. The song is on the Live at SxSW EP.
The second new song, "Jealous Thing" was performed at least at The Graduate in Cambridge and London's Islington Academy on the UK tour in Summer 2007 and features a Bossa-Nova type rhythm.
A CD + DVD set entitled The Singular Thomas Dolby has been released by EMI on 18 May 2009. As the name suggests it is a digitally remastered compilation of previously released singles. The DVD contains all the video singles which were available on the original VHS/BETA/LASERDISC release of The Golden Age of Video, as well as the videos for the songs "Silk Pyjamas", "I Love You Goodbye", and "Close but No Cigar". These three missing videos are for the singles taken from the 1992 album Astronauts & Heretics, which received critical acclaim but garnered unimpressive sales.
In 2010 Dolby began work on a new studio album entitled A Map of the Floating City. The album is divided into three parts, with the first two parts initially made available to members of The Flat Earth Community Forum, Dolby's online community. Each of the three digital EPs takes its name from one of the three sections of the full-length album that later followed. The first EP, Amerikana, was released digitally on 16 June 2010. The second EP is entitled Oceanea, and was released on 29 November 2010. Due to favourable reviews and radio airplay, Oceanea was released commercially on 28 March 2011. The third section of the album, entitled Urbanoia, was not released as a download or physical CD, but the songs were premiered online as part of the Floating City game (see below).
In June 2011 Dolby announced the Map of the Floating City game, a multiplayer online game that shares a title with the full-length album release planned to follow after the game's conclusion. In Dolby's own words, "The Floating City is set against a dystopian vision of the 1940s that might have existed had WWII turned out a lot differently." Survivors explore a fictional Google map, forming tribes and trading relics amidst a bizarre sea-going barter society. As they struggle to unravel the enigma that is The Floating City, players can haggle over merchandise and music downloads, including brand new songs from A Map of the Floating City, Dolby's first album in 20 years, scheduled to be released following the climax of the game. The game was played from June through August 2011, and included elements of trading, mystery, competition, and co-operation. Players earned free song downloads, and the winning team or "tribe" was awarded a private performance from Dolby.
Thomas Dolby spoke of his early musical experiences in a 2012 interview:
In 2012, Dolby learned of the decommissioning of the Orfordness Lighthouse near his Suffolk home, and proceeded to film a documentary, The Invisible Lighthouse, to chronicle the shutdown of the lighthouse as well as his childhood growing up in the area. Dolby took this film on the road through the US and UK in the Autumn of 2013, accompanying the film with live music, narration, and sound effects by Blake Leyh. The film won the DIY Film Festival award for Best Picture.
In March 2012, Dolby spoke at the DESIGN West conference in San Jose, California at the McEnery Convention Center, produced by UBM Electronics.
In March 2014, Dolby was named Homewood Professor of the Arts at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University. In March 2017, the Peabody Institute announced that Dolby would lead a new four-year undergraduate degree program, Music for New Media, and the first cohort would commence in the fall of 2018.
On Oct 4th, 2018 Dolby performed a live score for the High Fidelity VR event ‘Escape from Zombie Island’. He appeared 'in-world' as his own avatar, where he triggered and played real-time horror film music. He also performed his first ever full VR concert at the Futvrelands Festival on 17 November 2018, in front of over 250 other avatars.
Currently, Thomas Dolby is 63 years, 0 months and 7 days old. Thomas Dolby will celebrate 64th birthday on a Friday 14th of October 2022.
Find out about Thomas Dolby birthday activities in timeline view here.