David Soul, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed star of hit 1970s cop series Starsky & Hutch and soft rock balladeer has died at 80. In a statement on Soul’s site, the actor’s wife, Helen Snell, wrote, “David Soul – beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother – died yesterday (4 January) after a valiant battle for life in the loving company of family. He shared many extraordinary gifts in the world as actor, singer, storyteller, creative artist and dear friend. His smile, laughter and passion for life will be remembered by the many whose lives he has touched.”
The star born David Richard Solbert on Aug. 28, 1943 in Chicago bounced between acting and singing for much of his career following an itinerant childhood in which his family moved from South Dakota to Berlin, where his father, history and political science professor Dr. David Solberg, served as the senior representative for the Lutheran World Federation refugee relief organization in the early 1950s.
According to his official bio, the talented baseball player was offered a pro contract with the Chicago White Sox after graduating from high school, but opted instead to join his family in Mexico after his second year of college, where he befriended a group of radicalized students who gifted him a guitar and taught him their nation’s indigenous songs. Soul later hitchhiked back to the Midwest and auditioned for a gig singing folk songs at the Ten O’Clock Scholar, a Univ. of Minnesota coffee house which had once hosted a young Bob Dylan.
After co-founding the Firehouse Theater in Minneapolis in the 1960s and foreshortening his last name to the more pithy “Soul,” the actor hit upon a gimmick of performing his folk songs while wearing a ski mask and calling himself “The Covered Man.” That bit landed him agency representation from the William Morris Agency, “sight unseen,” and a recurring spot on The Merv Griffin Show, where he performed his masked act; he also signed with MGM Records and released his debut album, The Covered Man.
After his first TV role in the light children’s series Flipper, Soul got a spot on the comedy I Dream of Jeannie and appeared in a 1967 episode of Star Trek, which led to his next gig playing Joshua Bolt on the comedy Western Here Come the Brides from 1968-1970. Soul appeared in a few more small screen gigs before Clint Eastwood cast him as a police officer in the gritty 1973 crime drama — and Dirty Harry sequel — Magnum Force.
That cop turn led to the defining role of Soul’s career as detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson on the police procedural Starsky & Hutch (1975-1979), where he starred alongside Paul Michael Glaser’s David Michael Starsky in the popular series in which the men tore around the fictional city of Bay City, CA in their signature red Ford Gran Torino with a white stripe on the side.
Soul went on to make cameos in a number of other popular 1970s dramas and comedies — Cannon, Gunsmoke, Ironside, Medical Center, The Streets of San Francisco and All in the Family, among many others — while also directing and and producing films and theater productions throughout the 1980s and staring in a number of West End production after moving to London in the 1990s.
He also launched a parallel music career with a series of soft rock hits under his stage name, beginning with his 1976 self-titled debut album, which featured a mix of originals and covers of songs by Leonard Cohen and Dr. Music. His 1976 ballad “Don’t Give Up On Us” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (while also topping the UK charts) and was followed by the 1977 No. 1 UK hit “Silver Lady” (which hit No. 5 on the U.S. charts). Several more albums followed, with diminishing returns, including 1977’s Playing to an Audience of One, 1979’s Band of Friends, 1982’s The Best Days of My Life and his final full-length, 1997’s Leave a Light On.
Listen to “Don’t Give Up On Us” below.
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