Rupert Holmes: Biography Of A Man Who Was More Than Pina Coladas

Music | February 24, 2020

ritish-born American singer-songwriter, musician and writer, Rupert Holmes, by the Thames at Richmond, London, 30th December 1975. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain, if you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain... Rupert Holmes, writer of that '70s pop couplet, has been asking us those personal-ad questions since "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" was released in 1979. The song went to #1 in December of that year, and is one of those emblematic tunes that brings back an era, for better or worse. Though Holmes' name is an answer to a trivia question these days, he wasn't actually a one-hit wonder, and he went on to a career as a successful writer of musicals and plays. Here's the story of the man who wrote a chart-topping song about a fruity cocktail he'd never even tasted.

Rupert Holmes Is An Award-Winning Composer And Lyricist

Rupert Holmes the man behind the Pina Colada (somethingelsereviews)

Rupert Holmes, the man who inspired more love than Valentine’s Day with his “Pina Colada Song,” did much more than sing about getting caught in the rain. He composed several Broadway plays, created a television series, and wrote songs for superstars like Britney Spears, Judy Collins, and Barbara Streisand. As if that wasn’t enough, he also authored a novel titled Where The Truth Lies. Holmes has won two Tony awards and several Drama Desk awards for his musicals.

Life As The Pina Colada Guy

"Escape" brought both glory and misery to Holmes (vinyl45s)

In an interview, Holmes gave the quintessential quote describing the amazing but double-edged nature of creating such an iconic song. "I have a feeling that if I saved an entire orphanage from a fire and carried the last child out on my shoulders, as I stood there charred and smoking, they'd say, 'Aren't you the guy who wrote the Piña Colada song?'”

“It's tough when you have this one thing that pulls focus from all these other things that you've done, yet every songwriter lives to have a song that most everybody knows."

An Extremely Talented Writer

Holmes wrote much more than just songs (pinterest)

Schooled in New York City at the Manhattan School of Music, Holmes immediately got his start in the business upon graduation. He worked as a session musician for a couple bands before writing “Timothy,” which became a top 20 pop hit for the group called The Buoys. He also co-wrote the top 40 hit “Jennifer Tompkins.” With some industry cred, Holmes decided to strike out as a solo artist. He released three albums that failed to catch the attention of the music world. 

Patience And Hard Work

Holmes deserves some residuals for the all the Pina Coladas his song sold (wantitall.co.za)

Eventually, Holmes found major success on his fifth swing at stardom in 1979. The album was Partners In Crime and the single was “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” Two other songs on the album, “Him” and “Answering Machine” also ranked well on the pop charts. However, the genesis of song that will eventually be on his tombstone didn’t exactly follow the usual route of chart-topping ballads.

How The Pina Colada Song Came To Be

Cameron Diaz famous sung "Escape" in The Sweetest Thing (hellogiggles)

The very first title for the iconic Pina Colada song was "People Need Other People." Clearly, genius takes time. Holmes was struggling to finish the album with an upbeat song. Some of the early lyrics included “That's the law of the jungle in the school of the street, you get out of the kitchen if you can't take the heat.”

Inevitably, he got some inspiration from a woman’s eloquently written personal ad. Her ad, which didn’t include Pina Coladas or making love at midnight, put him in the mindset of someone who was looking for adventure.

Perhaps the most ironic part of the process was the fact that initially, Pina Coladas was actually written as “If you like Humphrey Bogart And getting caught in the rain.” Humphrey Bogart got the boot when Holmes placed the adventurous woman on vacation, where you’d drink... what else?

Radio Requests Changed The Song

"Escape" was changed to "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" because money talks (giphy)

The song was originally released as “Escape.” When it started playing on the radio people ate it up and requested time and time again. But when people called up to request, they never said “play Escape.” They always said the same thing, “play the Pina Colada song.”

The same thing would happen at record stores. People would ask to buy the Pina Colada song and no one knew what they were talking about. Holmes' record label called him up and told him the song wouldn't sell unless the title was changed to “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)." Holmes responded, “I guess it's The Piña Colada Song."

Tags: 1970s Music | 1980s Music | Number-one Singles | Rupert Holmes | What Did He Do?...

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Kellar Ellsworth


Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!