Sheena Shirley Orr was born in 1959 in Bellshill, Scotland, and began performing while studying speech and drama at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music And Drama, studying by day and singing with a band (Something Else) in the evenings.
Her short-lived marriage to actor Sandi Easton gave Orr her new name, and as Sheena Easton she was signed to EMI Records in 1979 following an audition for a planned documentary following a budding pop star.
The resulting BBC television film, The Big Time, about the creation of her chic image helped her debut single Modern Girl into the UK charts.
This was followed by the chirpy 9 To 5, which reached #3 and propelled a reissued Modern Girl into the Top 10.
The former sold over a million copies in the USA – where it was known as Morning Train (Nine To Five) – and topped the singles chart for two weeks.
Extraordinary success followed in America where she spent most of her time. Now established as an easy-listening rock singer, Easton was offered the theme to the James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only (1981), which became a US Top 5 hit.
Further hits followed from her second album, including When He Shines and the title track, You Could Have Been With Me. In 1983, Easton – who by now had emigrated to California – joined the trend towards celebrity duets, recording the country chart-topper We’ve Got Tonight with Kenny Rogers.
The Top 10 hit Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair) was in a funkier dance mode and her career took a controversial turn in 1984 with attacks by moralists on the sexual implications of Sugar Walls, a Prince song that became one of her biggest hits.
Easton also sang on Prince’s 1987 single, U Got The Look, and appeared in Sign ‘O’ The Times. The same year she starred as Sonny Crockett’s wife in several episodes of Miami Vice.
Easton’s later albums for EMI included Do You, produced by Nile Rodgers, and the Japan-only release No Sound But A Heart. In 1988, she switched labels to MCA, releasing The Lover In Me.
When the title track was issued as a single, it soared to Number 2 on the US charts. The album’s list of producers read like the Who’s Who of contemporary soul music, with L.A. And Babyface, Prince, Jellybean and Angela Winbush among the credits.
What Comes Naturally, released in 1991, was a hard and fast dance record produced to the highest technical standards but lacking the charm of her earlier work. The same year she starred in the revival of Man Of La Mancha, which reached Broadway a year later.
Easton finally became a US citizen, but during the 90s she enjoyed most success in Japan, with several of her new albums only released in that territory.
By now her focus had switched towards her acting career, and in 1996 she appeared as Rizzo in the Broadway production of Grease. She signed a new recording contract with Universal International in 2000, and appeared opposite David Cassidy in the Las Vegas production, At The Copa.
Easton sounds like an unlikely favourite of John Peel‘s but his widow Sheila confirmed that a box of 142 of his favourite 7″ singles – the crown jewels of his vast record collection – contained, alongside Buzzcocks and The White Stripes, two copies of her chart-topper 9 To 5.