Corey Hart to say goodbye with retirement show, memoir

On May 31, Corey Hart will mark his 52nd birthday by taking the stage at the Bell Centre for a hometown concert that he insists will be his last, and he will release a ceaselessly candid memoir that even his beloved wife has not read in full.

Sunglasses at Night singer will perform for last time on May 31 at the Bell Centre in Montreal

Corey Hart will mark his 52nd birthday at the Bell Centre for a hometown concert that he insists will be his last. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Corey Hart will mark his 52nd birthday by taking the stage at the Bell Centre in Montreal on May 31 for a hometown concert that he insists will be his last, and will release a candid memoir that even his beloved wife has not read in full.

Hart sat down in Montreal on Monday to discuss the end of a performance career that has spanned more than 30 years, speaking of how his setlist had swelled to 36 songs separated into two acts, and how he savoured the
opportunity to finally perform in front of his four children.

In his book, he relays the wisdom of Quebec promoter Louise Laliberté, who warns that a performer should never pronounce a show his or her last because one just never knows.

But Hart is certain.

He knows, and the Sunglasses at Night singer is closing out his performing career with clear eyes.

"The thing is, Louise knows me — but she doesn't know me that well. When I say, emphatically, that this is goodbye, this is a farewell, this is a full stop as far as me being a live performer, I'll ... prove myself right in the years to come. She warned me not to say that it's my last one," he said, a smile spreading, "but I never really listen when people tell me what to do."

Teen idol

After graduating from his Montreal high school, Hart set off to New York as a teenager determined to make it as a singer/songwriter.

He auditioned for Tom Jones at 10 years old, sang to tape with Paul Anka in Las Vegas at 11, brushed shoulders with Christopher Cross at 18 and recorded a demo with Billy Joel's band a year later. Guitar legend Eric Clapton plays Dobro on Hart's debut, First Offense, released before the singer had even turned 20.

Besides featuring the ice-cold synth vamp Sunglasses at Night — a career-cementing No. 7 hit in the U.S. — the record includes another Top 20 American hit in the tender ballad It Ain't Enough.

As he reveals in his memoir, Peruvian Lady was written about the drug addiction that had claimed his father and sister, The World is Fire was inspired by the night Hart learned of his dad's infidelity and Jenny Fey documented the depression that enveloped his mother afterward.

"I did obviously feel that when I was in my 20s, no one even bothered to notice or make light of the fact that I was a singer/songwriter and that I wrote all my songs and that I didn't co-write my songs. I was a purist in the fact that all my words and music were from me," he said Monday.

"I didn't think that critics really took my work seriously or bothered to delve a little deeper into what I was writing. But I don't hold any animosity or any anger towards it. They may have delved deeper into it and not liked it at all. So maybe I got lucky, you know?"

The situation didn't necessarily improve even as Hart proved himself on subsequent albums. Sophomore record Boy in the Box was a greater success than his debut — reaching diamond certification in Canada with chart-topping singles in Everything in My Heart and Never Surrender — while 1986's Fields of Fire went double platinum and 1988's Young Man Running and 1990's Bang both reached platinum certification.

His self-titled 1996 reinvention — which he considers the pinnacle of his artistry — also scored platinum certification here but never secured a U.S. release, along with 1998 followup Jade. He attributes the situation to record label politics and calls it a "great disappointment."

His insistence upon performing only his own songs did cost him some hits — he notes casually that he had the opportunity to record Danger Zone for the Top Gun soundtrack but passed, thus allowing Kenny Loggins
to take it to No. 2 instead — but such "foolish career decisions" were made so he could stick to a "certain artistic template."

"Being true to yourself, in the end, is important," he said.

'The truth is painful': Hart

Chasing the Sun is Hart's revealing memoir of his life and career.

One harrowing section involves Hart's relationship with his late father, an emotionally withholding man with an insatiable appetite for hard drugs and prostitutes, who died early last decade.

In one wrenching tale, Hart writes of his father dispatching his young son to a sleazy Montreal bar in search of a cocaine fix, a huge wad of American cash clutched in his sweaty palm. Another disturbing passage documents the time his dad hired a sex worker to take the then-14-year-old Hart's virginity, and the way the teen — unable to go through with the act — was left humiliated.

"Sometimes the truth is painful," Hart said now.

"When I wrote about my dad, I felt good when I ended the chapter because I didn't know where it was going to go. But the last line of that chapter in the book ... it was hopeful and it was reconciliation, and it wasn't toxic or angry. That's a good feeling to have."

The most difficult topic for Hart to broach was the back condition that led to the "darkest period of his life" between
2005 and 2010. The two large cervical herniated discs he suffered led to "inexplicable, never-ending physical pain" and dozens of medical procedures and tests, which he documents in his book.

Hart also reproduces tormented scribblings he left for himself — including phrases like "I am dying!!" and "Never
surrender is a lie!" — and probes the dark thoughts that led him to a gun shop in Delray Beach, Fla., "eye sockets blood-stained," before he came to his senses and stumbled out the door.

"My greatest 'to be or not to be' was do I write about that or not," he said. "I wrote it because I felt not writing it ... would really not explain me properly."

The book doesn't, however, include any music industry dirt, and not because Hart didn't witness any grime.

"Trust me, I got a lot of dirt.... But to me it would have been just disrespectful and hurtful to a lot of people."

One night

Hart will close out his career with one final show on May 31 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Fans, he notes, aren't
coming because they want to see a guy who "looks cool in shades" or looked "cute in a video," but because his music "resonated with them."

"One night ... Even if it's 50 songs and I'm bleeding by the time I leave the stage, bloody and battered, that's [what] makes it special. To me, it makes it special. I want my fans to have something special. And once is