Thirty years ago, Maria McKee ‘begged’ you to show her heaven and to “cover me”! Did she get there and what happened afterwards?
Maria McKee (born in Los Angeles in 1964) had been recording since 1982 as part of the band Lone Justice but it wasn’t until 1990, when she wrote and recorded “Show Me Heaven” for the new Tom Cruise film ‘Days Of Thunder’, that she came to global attention. Heralded as the ‘Top Gun’ of the 90’s, the film needed a big power ballad, just as Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” had been to that film and to adequately deal with the big love scene that would feature future husband and wife Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Did Maria’s “Heaven” match Berlin’s “Breath” and what happened after the dust had settled on the race track?
Maria, together with Ryan Hedgecock, Marvin Etzioni and Don Heffington, formed Lone Justice in 1982. The band released two studio albums and four commercial singles, which performed ‘marginally’ on both sides of the Atlantic, their biggest hit being “Shelter” in 1986 (US No.47), while their self-titled debut album broke the top 50 in the UK. Despite the lack of success with her own group, Maria did make it big as a songwriter, penning Irish singer Fergal Sharkey’s 1985 chart topper “A Good Heart”. Lone Justice split in 1987 and Maria went on to forge her own solo career. She first appeared in the video of Robbie Robertson’s 1987 hit “Somewhere Down The Crazy River” while writing began in earnest for her debut long player.
That came in 1989 and was self titled. The lead single, “I’ve Forgotten What It Was In You (That Put the Need In Me)”, made No.29 on the UK Modern Rock chart, while the album just scraped to No.120 on the album chart. It wasn’t until the late Summer of 1990 that Maria would surface again, this time with the release of ‘Days Of Thunder’ and her song “Show Me Heaven”. Released in June, it wasn’t until September that she began her four week long stay at the top of the UK singles chart, where it ended up as the sixth biggest seller of the year. The song also hit number one across Europe as well as being a top ten hit in Australia and a dozen more territories around the world. Oddly, “Show Me Heaven” was not a success in America, and you would think from it’s sound and film association, that is was. But the song only managed to reach No.28 on the singles chart, not replicating the double top attained by “Take My Breath Away”, four years previously.
The success of “Show Me Heaven” took Maria’s 1989 debut to No.49 in the UK charts while a second single, “Breathe”, reached No.59 in early 1991. Maria’s second album, “You Gotta Sin To Get Saved”, was released in 1992 and included the single “I’m Gonna Soothe You”, which became her second and, to date, her last appearance on the UK top 40 singles chart (No.35). In 1994, Quentin Tarantino ‘personally’ selected her recording of “If Love Is A Red Dress, Hang Me in Rags” for the soundtrack of his cult classic film ‘Pulp Fiction’ while the following year, American singer Laura “Self Control” Branigan (1952-2004) recorded “Show Me Heaven” for her “Best Of” album. Maria was back in 1996 with her third album, “Life Is Sweet”, which was a top ten success in Sweden while that same year, Australian singer Tina Arena took her version of “Show Me Heaven” to No.29 in the UK. Maria also continued to write songs for other artists at this time, with recordings being made by Britain’s Sam Brown and two songs by Bette Midler for her 1995 album, “Bette Of Roses”.
Maria has continued to release albums independently in the 2000’s as well as a number of live sessions in Hamburg, Stockholm and for the BBC in 2008 and continues to play live and record music, most notably for tribute albums for artists as diverse as Blind Willie Nelson and Marc Bolan. In 2013 Maria formed Shootist Films with her husband Jim and released the feature ‘After The Triumph Of Your Birth’. A second film, ‘The Ocean Of Helena Lee’ followed in 2015 and featured McKee in a supporting role. Maria would take a leading role in their most recent collaboration, ‘Beauty, Majesty And Terror’, in 2019. Whatever Maria does in the future, I’m sure it will always be overshadowed by her best known recording and it’s passionate, sensual beauty that struck a chord, particularly in the UK, thirty years ago as we all swooned at Tom Cruise in a race car and his newest beau, Nicole. “Cover me” indeed!
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