Baltimore-born Greg Kihn found his way to California in 1972, and a year after painting houses, singing and working the counter of a Berkeley record store, relocating to the “Left Coast” proved to be a good decision, as he was one of the first recording artists signed to indie record label Beserkley Records, whose roster also included Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers.
Greg Kihn was first featured on the 1976 Beserkley compilation, BESERKLEY CHARTBUSTERS. He released an album every year between 1976 and 1986 (usually incorporating a moniker of his last name as the album’s title), toured extensively and built up quite the cult following.
In 1981, he released his sixth album (and third with the Greg Kihn Band), ROCKIHNROLL, and it produced a big hit, “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em).” The now-rock staple spent 2 weeks at No. 15 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in September 1981 and 5 months on the chart, plus it also reached No. 15 in Canada and No. 5 on BILLBOARD’s Rock chart.
Less than two years later, Greg and his band were back on the chart and blaring out of boomboxes worldwide with what would become his biggest hit – “Jeopardy” (from the album, KIHNSPIRACY).
“Jeopardy” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late January 1983, and the Top 10 in early April, and looked like it was headed to No. 1, but 1983 was the year of Michael Jackson, and in a 11-week span between March and May 1983 (save for a week when Dexy’s Midnight Runners was No. 1 with “Come On Eileen”), Michael commanded the top spot with “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” And it was “Beat It” that prevented “Jeopardy” from reaching No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.
Around the globe, “Jeopardy” reached the Top 10 in Canada, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland, the Top 20 in New Zealand, the Top 30 in Belgium and Holland, and even inspired a “Weird Al” Yankovic parody in 1984 called “I Lost On Jeopardy,” which reached No. 81 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 and even featured a cameo from Greg Kihn.
If you’re a little disappointed that “Jeopardy” didn’t reach No. 1 because of Michael Jackson, well, you’ll be glad to know that the same week the song reached the Top 10 on the Hot 100, it replaced Michael’s THRILLER album at No. 1 (after 11 weeks) on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and was No. 1 there for 2 weeks.
Greg Kihn never again had the success of “Jeopardy,” but he’s still active with the band today; he was a radio DJ in San Jose, California for 16 years; he has done a lot of charity work, notably for the “Operation and Care Comfort” military support group that sends care packages for hundreds of units located throughout the world; and, he has even written six books, four of them horror novels. His most recent book, 2013’s RUBBER SOUL, is a murder mystery novel featuring The Beatles.
Not many recording acts could pull off having a solid Rock song (“The Breakup Song”) that’s still played today on Classic Rock stations, and then put out a massive Rock / Dance hit that endures in its own way in radio immortality, but Greg Kihn pulled it off with “Jeopardy.” And he’s not in any jeopardy at all of me forgetting about it…