David Soul, who played Det. Kenneth "Hutch" Hutchinson on the 1970s action series Starsky & Hutch, and then parlayed the show's high ratings into a successful music career, has died at the age of 80.
His passing was confirmed by his wife, Helen Snell, who said in a statement that Soul had died "after a valiant battle for life in the loving company of family."
Born in Chicago on August 28, 1943, David Richard Solberg very much did not come from a performing background: his mother was a teacher, and his father wasn’t just a Lutheran minister, he was director of higher education for the Lutheran Church in America. Because of his father’s profession, the Solberg family moved around a bit over the course of David’s youth, and it was during one of these moves – to Mexico City – where he first learned to play guitar, a decision which led him to steer into his love of music.
Upon returning to the US and settling in Minneapolis, David began splitting his time between music and acting, becoming a founding member of the Firehouse Theater. This ultimately led him to New York City in 1965, where he appeared in performances of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal and John Arden’s Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance, but it was in 1966 when he made his television debut on The Merv Griffin Show, wearing a mask and performing a song called “The Covered Man". He also opened for a variety of notable artists, among them Frank Zappa, the Byrds, and the Lovin' Spoonful, but it wouldn't long before the music would - at least temporarily - fall by the wayside in favor of the acting.
In short order, David Soul – as he was now known – began to forge a career on television, making appearances on Flipper and Star Trek before securing a steady gig as Joshua Bolt on the western series Here Come the Brides. From there, he did a bit of film work – most notably in the Dalton Trumbo film Johnny Got His Gun (arguably best known for its clips that were used in the video for Metallica’s “One”) and Clint Eastwood’s Magnum Force – as well as some additional TV guest spots before finally securing the role that really made him famous: the latter half of the police detective duo, Starsky & Hutch. The series would last for four seasons and would later spawn a 2004 film adaptation starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. (Soul and his TV partner, Michael Paul Glaser, reprised their roles briefly for the film.)
Just after Starsky and Hutch concluded its run, Soul starred in one of the other most notable roles of his career, playing Ben Mears in the 1979 TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.
He continued to act into the 1980s, taking on the unenviable task of stepping into Humphrey Bogart’s shoes for a short-lived TV series version of Casablanca, and followed that with the slightly more successful series The Yellow Rose, co-starring Sam Elliott and Cybill Shepherd. Intended as NBC’s answer to Dallas, it...wasn’t.
Finally, in 1989, Soul starred in another short-lived series, Unsub, a procedural which – even though it only lasted for eight episodes – set the stage for the future success of such series as C.S.I. and Criminal Minds.
Ah, but we’ve skipped over the most Q-friendly aspect of Soul’s career: his stint as a pop star.
In 1976, while smack dab in the middle of Starsky & Hutch’s success, Soul released his self-titled debut album, featuring the song that would take him to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the UK Singles chart: “Don’t Give Up on Us.” While the song would prove to be a one-off in America in terms of Top 40 hits, Soul would secure a second top 10 hit from the album in the UK with “Let’s Have a Quiet Night In,” after which his second album, 1977’s Playing to An Audience of One, would provide him with a second chart-topper in the UK with “Silver Lady,” as well as a No. 2 hit with “Going In with My Eyes Open.”
Soul would continue to release albums - 1979's Band of Friends and 1982's The Best Days of My Life, both on Energy Records - but while his first two LPs would hit No. 2 and No. 8, respectively, in the UK, Band of Friends stalled at No. 94, while The Best Days of My Life failed to chart at all. Still, it was the UK where he'd found his most consistently popularity as a singer, which might well have had something to do with his decision to relocate there in the mid-1990s, eventually securing British citizenship in 2004. (Whether by coincidence or design, that also proved to be the same year that he was a guest on Top Gear, which has proven to be a rite of passage for more than a few UK actors.) He also released an indie album, Leave a Light On..., in 1997, as well as a 2020 greatest-hits collection, Gold, which hit No. 28 on the UK Albums chart.
Although he kept very busy as a performer, Soul's final onscreen acting role was in the 2013 film adaptation of Irvine Welsh's Filth, which - almost certainly not coincidentally - also featured Soul's song "Silver Lady" on its soundtrack.