My 80s Playlist: Donny Osmond chooses his favourite 80s songs from Peter Gabriel to Tom Petty 

Virgin Radio

19 May 2023, 07:13

Donny Osmond and Steve Denyer

Donny Osmond is going through his favourite 80s songs of all time for Virgin Radio 80s Plus. 

The singer first gained fame performing with four of his older brothers in The Osmonds and with them, he went on to earn several top ten hits and gold albums. Donny then began a solo career in the early 70s, where he had even more success and then tried his hand at TV with his series Donny & Marie, which he did with his sister Marie Osmond. 

After a series of top ten hits, and some Emmy nominations, Donny & Marie retired after headlining an 11-year Las Vegas residency in 2019. 

While at the Top of the Tower at Virgin Radio 80s Plus HQ, Donny joined Steve Denyer to discuss his favourite tracks on My 80s Playlist - and what a selection he gave! 

You can watch Donny’s chat or read his selections below:

Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer 

One of the most requested songs on My 80s Playlist, Peter Gabriel’s 1986 tune Sledgehammer, is without a doubt one of the most memorable tunes of the decade.

Released as part of his 1986 album, Sledgehammer has its music video to thank for helping it land so high up in the charts worldwide.

Describing Peter as an “extremely important person” in his life, Donny explained: “In that moment when I'm trying to reinvent myself in the 80s, I couldn't get a record deal, nothing. SO Peter did me a lot of favours and got me assigned to Virgin Records, and kind of coerced them in a way because the Donny Osmond image back then wasn't the greatest.

“Sledgehammer was like one of my favourites. [In So], there's a song in there called Don't Give Up. And believe you me, that was a very difficult time in my life from a career point of view.”

Tina Turner - What’s Love Got To Do With It 

Featuring on her fifth studio album, Private Dance in 1984, What’s Love Got To Do With It was a huge hit and went on to become Turner’s biggest-selling single. 

Donny revealed he feels an affinity with Tina who went through some “very similar things” in her career as he did. 

Reminiscing on when she appeared on the Donny and Marie Show, he recalled: “Tina Turner was on top of the piano, dancing like Tina Turner, just singing her butt off. I’ll never forget it. Shortly thereafter, her career started kicking in and she came out with What’s Love Got To Do With It. I was like, Tina, you did it!”

Prince - Kiss

Prince’s reign in the UK continued into 1986 with Kiss, which quickly became a massive worldwide hit upon release. 

Often thought of as one of the greatest tunes of all time, fans were all over the funky melody and lyrics, and in the UK, Kiss raced up the charts to number six. 

Explaining why this made his list, Donny said: “Just before I do my concerts, I have what I call the walk-in music, and invariably, either Tom Jones’ version or Prince's version of Kiss is always played a few minutes before I walk on. It's such a perfect song to get everybody going.”

The Jacksons - The Place Hotel

The Palace Hotel, written by Michael Jackson in 1980, is one of the classics for Donny.

He explained: “I've selected a different song that people know, but you don't hear very often. Quincy did not produce this one, right and in the pre chorus, you're gonna hear a noise that has no tonal reference to the song at all.

“When I heard this song for the first time, I thought, ‘Brilliant, this is so cool.’ But it's called The Place Hotel and you may not know what song that is by the title. But when you hear this song, of course, this is one of the classic Jackson five songs.”

Earth, Wind & Fire - Let’s Groove

Released as the first single from their eleventh studio album, Raise! (1981), Let’s Groove was a huge commercial success. It ended up peaking  inside the top 20 in countries including the United States, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada and other component charts in America at a time when disco music was dying out. 

Donny revealed the band was “one of the biggest influences” on his music and life and recalled the first time he ever saw them live. 

He added: “Every show was my upbringing. That's my training. So when I saw Maurice and the rest of the band working that stage and whipping the audience into a frenzy- that's show business.”

Steve Winwood - Higher Love

Released in 1986, Higher Love became one of Winwood’s most successful songs, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week and earning two Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. 

On why he added it to his list, Donny said: “I think if you asked AI what the most perfect pop song was, this song would come up, because it really is. Not just because it's a perfect pop song, it has a lot more meaning to me, because when I was trying to reinvent myself in the 80s, before Peter Gabriel came into the scene, it was Steve Winwood.”

Tom Petty - Free Fallin’

As the opening track from his debut solo album, Full Moon Fever, Free Fallin’ is arguably one of Petty’s most famous tracks. 

For Donny, it also has a pretty special meaning. He explained: The reason I picked this song is because I have a son named Chris and we did a show together last year because he really wants to get into the business.

“He's got a great voice, great look and he sang this song on stage. And every time I hear Tom Petty sing Free Fallin’, I think of my son.”

Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody 

It’s hard to have an 80s favourites list without mentioning Whitney Houston. 

Becoming one of the most successful female artists of the decade (matched only by Madonna) Whitney had a global number one hit on her hands with I Wanna Dance With Somebody in 1987.

Donny thinks she is one of the best female singers of all time and recalled meeting her on the set of Dancing with the Stars. 

He said: “I walk in the trailer and we just started singing together. It was such a moment of seeing Whitney Houston sing one of my songs. We didn't have much time together because I had to get back in there [Dancing with the Stars] and she was getting ready to go for her performance. But I mean, we just had the greatest 10 minutes.”

The Gap Band - You Dropped A Bomb on Me 

Released in 1982 on producer Lonnie Simmons's label, Total Experience Records, You Dropped A Bomb on Me featured on the band's album of the same year, Gap Band IV.

On why he wanted to included in his 80s Playlist, Donny revealed he worked on a song with 

the band on a record once and they have remained friends ever since. 

Speaking about the song, he said: “That record we made together was done a couple years ago and that's why I selected this song because when I first heard it, I was like, Who is singing this thing?”

Donny Osmond - Soldier of Love 

Of course, there had to be one from the man himself in here!

This track became Donny’s comeback hit in 1988 and saw him achieve number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and chart in the Top 30 in the UK. 

Its success meant so much to Donny, who never believed it would never do as well as it did. 

He explained: “When I got Soldier of Love produced, I thought this really isn’t going to hit because my depression said it, I'll be honest with you. And then they started playing Soldier of Love on radio stations back in the States, because it was a marginal hit here in the UK.

You can listen to Virgin Radio 80 Plus HERE. You can also listen on DAB+ in London and Central Scotland and on smart speakers across the UK, as well as via the Virgin Radio UK app.