I just heard a few minutes ago that Robbin Thompson passed away yesterday at age of 66. The Virginia rocker has been fighting the dreaded disease for 15 years. Personally, I hadn’t heard of Thompson until I moved to Southern West Virginia in 1981. His fan base was within the Southeast and he had a cult-like following especially in the Commonwealth. For those outside of the region, Virginians tend to view their state as the only commonwealth in the US, but it’s not.*
Although he was born in Boston and reared in Melbourne, Florida, Virginia became his adopted home in 1969 when he began attending Virginia Commonwealth University. In his early years, he fronted Bruce Springsteen’s Steel Mill band for a short period before embarking on a longstanding career as a solo artist and fronting his own ensemble, The Robbin Thompson Band.
Earlier this year, his and Steve Bassett’s song “Sweet Virginia Breeze” was signed into legislation to be one of Virginia’s official popular songs. This song was featured on 1980’s “(two b’s please),” an album that also contained “Candyapple Red” and “Brite Eyes” – his only song to become a minor hit in the US – although it and others were regional hits. We played all three of these selections as album cuts at WCIR-FM, as his popularity had even extended into our region – but not to the north of us.
The album was released regionally on a local label based in Richmond and was picked up by Ovation for national release after selling 200,000 units in Virginia, the Carolinas, and DC. I couldn’t find any chart information on “Brite Eyes” other than it debuted on Billboard’s Radio Play chart at #88 during the fall of 1980.
“Brite eyes don't cry – it’s gonna be alright – you know I hate to see you cry.” Rest in Peace Robbin.
*Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands are also commonwealths.