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Christopher Anton Rea (born 4 March 1951) is an English rock and blues singer-songwriter and guitarist. Born and raised in Middlesbrough, he is of Italian and Irish descent. He is known for his distinctive, husky singing and slide guitar playing, with the Guinness Rockopedia describing him as a "gravel-voiced guitar stalwart". After learning to play the guitar relatively late, a short burst of local band activity led to his launching a solo career in 1978. Louder magazine calls Rea "rock's ultimate survivor", given his recovery from several bouts of serious illness. He has produced twenty-five solo albums, with several from his later blues period - such as Blue Guitars (2005) - having multiple discs. British Hit Singles & Albums says that Rea was "one of the most popular UK singer-songwriters of the late 1980s" and "already a major European star by the time he finally cracked the UK Top 10 with the release of the [1989] single The Road to Hell (Part 2)... his 18th chart entry." Two of his most successful studio albums, The Road to Hell (1989) and Auberge (1991), topped the UK Albums Chart. His other hit songs include I Can Hear Your Heartbeat, Stainsby Girls, Josephine, On the Beach, Let's Dance, Driving Home for Christmas, Working on It, Tell Me There's a Heaven, Auberge, Looking for the Summer, Winter Song, Nothing to Fear, Julia, and If You Were Me, a duet with Elton John. Rea was nominated three times for the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist: in 1988, 1989 and 1990. Rea has never toured the United States, where he is best known for the 1978 single Fool (If You Think It's Over), which reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. This success earned him a Grammy nomination as Best New Artist in 1978. A decade later, Working On It topped the Mainstream Rock chart. As of 2009, Rea had sold more than 30 million records worldwide. Christopher Rea was born on 4 March 1951 in Middlesbrough in the North Riding of Yorkshire to an Italian father, Camillo Rea (died December 2010) originating from Arpino in the Province of Frosinone, and an Irish mother, Winifred K. Slee (died September 1983), as one of seven children. His family were of the Roman Catholic faith. The name Rea was well known locally thanks to his father's ice cream factory and café chain. When he was twelve, he worked clearing tables in the coffee bar and making ice cream in the factory. He wanted to improve the business, but his ideas got no support from his father. After leaving, he was replaced by one of his brothers. At that time he wanted to be a journalist and attended St Mary's College, Middlesbrough. Rea bought his first guitar in his early twenties, a 1961 Hofner V3 and 25-watt Laney amplifier. He played primarily "bottleneck" guitar, also known as slide guitar. Rea's playing style was inspired by Charlie Patton whom he had heard on the radio. He had initially thought Patton's playing sounded like a violin. Rea was also influenced by Blind Willie Johnson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe as well as by the playing of Ry Cooder and Joe Walsh. He was also listening to Delta blues musicians like Sonny Boy Williamson II and Muddy Waters, gospel blues, and opera to light orchestral classics to develop his style. He recalls that "for many people from working-class backgrounds, rock wasn't a chosen thing, it was the only thing, the only avenue of creativity available for them", and that "when I was young I wanted most of all to be a writer of films and film music. But Middlesbrough in 1968 wasn't the place to be if you wanted to do movie scores". Due to his late introduction to music and guitar playing, Rea commented that when compared to Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton, "I definitely missed the boat, I think". He was self-taught, and soon tried to join a friend's group, The Elastic Band, as the first choice for guitar or bass. Heeding his father's advice he did not join as his potential earnings would not be enough to cover the costs of being in the group. As a result, he found himself working casual labouring jobs, including working in his father's ice cream business. Rea commented that, at that time, he was "meant to be developing my father's ice-cream cafe into a global concern, but I spent all my time in the stockroom playing slide guitar". Rea's first guitar was Höfner Verithin 3, which he bought in a second-hand shop because, at the time, there were not that many shops in Middlesbrough where one could purchase a guitar. He played the V3 until 1979, although, by Rea's reckoning, it was a "dreadful guitar with an appalling action, but playing slide it didn't matter". During his career the guitar most associated with him was a 1962 Fender Stratocaster which he called "Pinky". Rea bought the instrument after seeing a Ry Cooder concert at the City Hall in Newcastle. The guitar once was submerged in water for three months and was more mellow in sound compared to the classic hard Stratocaster sound. Since 2002 Dancing Down the Stony Road, his main guitar was an Italia Maranello he named "Bluey". One of his childhood dreams was to become a film writer and film music composer. Rea wrote the title track and music score for the 1993 drama film Soft Top Hard Shoulder. He wrote and produced the 1996 film La Passione, partially inspired by Rea's childhood experience of falling in love with motor racing and F1 Ferrari's driver Wolfgang von Trips. Rea was the lead actor in the 1999 comedy film Parting Shots, alongside Felicity Kendal, John Cleese, Bob Hoskins and Joanna Lumley. Rea, ironically, played a character who was told that cancer gave him six weeks to live and decided to kill those people who had badly affected his life. Afterwards, two feature-length films were made for the Santo Spirito Blues project, just "so that I could do the music". 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