The Story Behind Rick Astley's Iconic 80s Hit "Never Gonna Give You Up"

The Story Behind Rick Astley's Iconic 80s Hit "Never Gonna Give You Up"
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The Story Behind Rick Astley's Iconic Song "Never Gonna Give You Up"

In 1987, British singer Rick Astley released the song "Never Gonna Give You Up" as the lead single from his debut album "Whenever You Need Somebody." Little did Astley know at the time that the catchy dance-pop track would go on to become one of the most iconic songs of the late 80s, immortalized through the internet phenomenon known as "rickrolling."

The Creation of an 80s Pop Hit

"Never Gonna Give You Up" was written and produced by the acclaimed Stock Aitken Waterman team, who were behind many of the biggest pop hits of the era. The lyrics tell the story of a devoted partner promising endless love and dedication to their romantic interest. The song's mixture of soulful vocals, funky bass, and synth-driven melodies epitomized the dance-oriented pop style that dominated radio and MTV at the time.

Upon its release in 1987, "Never Gonna Give You Up" became an instant smash hit around the world. It went to number one on the charts in over 25 countries, including topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks in the US. The music video showed Astley charmingly serenading his love interest, and it got heavy rotation on MTV. All told, the single has sold over 15 million copies worldwide to date.

An 80s Cult Classic is Reborn Through the Internet

Though "Never Gonna Give You Up" remained popular with niche 80s fans after its initial chart success, the song exploded into mainstream consciousness again in the late 2000s thanks to the viral internet trend known as "rickrolling." This prank involves tricking someone into clicking on a hyperlink that leads to Astley's music video for "Never Gonna Give You Up," usually with the aim of humorously surprising them.

No one is quite sure how "rickrolling" began, but the craze took off rapidly on internet forums and social media in the late 2000s. Soon Astley's 80s hit was reaching millions of new listeners, most of whom were amused to get "rickrolled" by the cheesy retro video. Annoying as it may be to get pranked, the phenomenon gave "Never Gonna Give You Up" renewed appreciation and fame over two decades after its release.

"Never Gonna Give You Up" Stands the Test of Time

So why has Astley's late 80s pop tune become such an enduring internet legend? Beyond its inherent catchiness, "Never Gonna Give You Up" is the perfect bait for the rickrolling trick. The title itself takes on a whole new meaning in the context of the prank, promising internet users they will "never give you up" by ending the rickroll. The earnest 1980s production provides an amusing contrast to modern internet culture.

Of course, the rickrolling meme also owes some of its longevity to the pure staying power of Astley's hit. Empty pranks aside, "Never Gonna Give You Up" remains popular today because it is simply a timeless pop song. Over three decades after its release, Astley's smooth vocals and the funky beat still hold up wonderfully. The uplifting lyrics praising lasting love resonate as much now as they did in 1987. There is a good reason this song has seeped into pop culture so thoroughly that the internet saw fit to immortalize it in its own unique way.

The Continued Relevance of Rick Astley

While Rick Astley is still best remembered for his 80s hit single, the singer has gone on to enjoy an impressive career revival in recent years largely thanks to the internet's rickrolling fad. Astley has leaned into his meme fame by rickrolling various live audiences himself, showing he has a great sense of humor about his odd internet legacy.

Embracing Internet Fame

Astley returned to making music in the early 2010s, releasing his first studio album in over 15 years with 2016's chart-topping "50." He has toured consistently since, playing to a mixture of longtime fans and newer listeners drawn in through rickrolling online. The singer even performed at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008, rickrolling the millions watching live on TV to delighted reactions.

Over the years, Astley has popped up to rickroll many big events and audiences, from a baseball game to a live morning news show. He clearly appreciates the absurd humor and second life the internet has given "Never Gonna Give You Up." Astley's willingness to get in on the joke has undoubtedly fueled the rickroll meme's endurance.

Carving Out a New Musical Legacy

While rickrolling will likely always be a part of Astley's story now, the singer has also shown he is much more than a one-hit meme. His recent albums have drawn praise from critics and fans, proving Astley is still a compelling pop music artist three decades after his breakout. Songs like "Keep Singing" and "Beautiful Life" showcase Astley's soulful voice and penchant for uplifting lyrics remains strong in the 2020s.

Over 35 years since "Never Gonna Give You Up" launched his career, Rick Astley is still going strong as a touring and recording artist. His good-natured embracing of the strangeness of internet fame only seems to have bolstered Astley's staying power. Far from being bitter about rickrolling, Astley appreciates his song's unlikely online renaissance and its role in reigniting his music career in the 21st century. "Never Gonna Give You Up" gave him a career back in the 1980s, and the internet gave both Astley and the hit song itself an unlikely second life decades later.


Who originally wrote and recorded “Never Gonna Give You Up”?

“Never Gonna Give You Up” was written and produced by the acclaimed Stock Aitken Waterman team. It was recorded and released by British pop singer Rick Astley in 1987 as the lead single from his debut album.

What made the song such a massive hit in the 1980s?

With its catchy melody, funky bassline, and synth-driven dance-pop sound, “Never Gonna Give You Up” epitomized the radio-friendly pop style of the late 80s. It topped charts worldwide, including the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. The music video was also hugely popular on MTV.

How did “Never Gonna Give You Up” become popular again in the 2000s?

The song found renewed fame in the late 2000s as the subject of an internet meme known as “rickrolling.” This viral prank involves tricking someone into clicking a link leading to Astley’s music video for comic effect.

Why does the rickrolling meme use this particular song?

Beyond just being catchy, the song’s earnest 80s production contrasts humorously with internet culture. The title “Never Gonna Give You Up” also fits the concept of tricking/pranking someone via a malicious link.

How has the meme impacted Rick Astley’s career?

Astley has embraced the silly rickrolling trend with a great sense of humor. It helped reignite his music career in the 2010s, bringing him a new generation of fans.

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