As the Proclaimers, identical twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid rose to global success in the late '80s, playing a charismatic amalgam of rock, folk, soul, and country sung in close brotherly harmony and proudly bearing their thick Scottish accents. Cutting their teeth first as an acoustic duo, they added a band for 1988's Sunshine on Leith, and landed a worldwide hit with the wildly catchy "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," an enduring song that charted again five years later in the U.S. thanks to its inclusion on the soundtrack to the movie Benny & Joon. Over the next few decades, the Reids maintained consistent chart success with career highlights like 1994's Hit the Highway, 2007's Life with You, and 2018's Angry Cyclist, becoming a well-established live act around the world with a reputation for fiery, soulful performances. Their music has been featured in numerous films including Shrek, The Commitments, Bottle Rocket, Dumb and Dumber, and Pitch Perfect as well as inspiring a 2007 stage musical called Sunshine on Leith, based on their songs. Returning to work in 2022, the Proclaimers delivered the punchy and political Dentures Out.
Craig and Charlie Reid were born on March 5, 1962 in Leith, the working-class port district just north of Edinburgh which they would later immortalize on their second album. Growing up in Edinburgh, Cornwall, and the Fife town Auchtermuchty, they listened to early rock & roll and country, gravitating toward artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and Hank Williams. After playing in various punk bands during their school years, they formed the Proclaimers in 1983 and quickly developed a regional fan base with a particularly devoted following in Inverness. As an acoustic duo singing Everly Brothers-style harmonies in the mid-'80s, the Proclaimers were certainly outliers, but a 1986 tour with the Housemartins helped win them a coveted spot on the Channel Four pop program The Tube, where their dynamic performance of early singles "Letter from America" and "Throw the R Away" effectively introduced them to the U.K. at large.
They were quickly signed to Chrysalis and their minimalist songs were cut live to tape by producer John Williams, resulting in 1987's This Is the Story. The sparse but spirited arrangements solely featured Craig on hand percussion and Charlie on acoustic six- and 12-string guitars, with both brothers belting out their trademark, thickly accented harmonies. A full-band version of their emigration song, "Letter from America," recorded by Gerry Rafferty, became a number three hit single in November of that year and was subsequently added to the album's playlist alongside its original acoustic version.
The Proclaimers' 1988 follow-up, Sunshine on Leith, featured a more polished, rock-driven, full-band sound and yielded three of their best-known and enduring songs, which helped it go platinum in the U.K. In the years to come, the punchy call-and-response rocker "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" became a major hit in countries around the world, eventually conquering even the American charts when it was used prominently on the soundtrack to the 1993 film Benny & Joon. Likewise, the album's title cut slowly grew in stature and went on to become an anthem adopted by fans of Leith's pro football club, Hibernian F.C. A.; third hit, "I'm on My Way," became a Proclaimers mainstay and later enjoyed renewed success with its inclusion in the 2001 animated film Shrek.
Released a full six years after Sunshine on Leith, and four years after their 1990 King of the Road EP, 1994's Hit the Highway continued in the rock vein of its predecessor and, while ultimately less successful, notched a hit with the single "Let's Get Married" and made it to number eight on the U.K. charts. During the late '90s, the Proclaimers kept a relatively low profile, eventually returning to the studio in 2001 with the American-made comeback album Persevere, which they recorded in Minneapolis with British producer Chris Kimsey (the Rolling Stones). A year later, the band's first greatest-hits compilation, The Best of the Proclaimers, was released, hitting number five on the charts. 2003's Edwyn Collins-produced Born Innocent marked a return to form with a fiery, raucous energy and also served as the debut for their own label, Persevere Records. Now on a roll, the Proclaimers maintained a prolific run of recordings throughout the remainder of the decade, returning in 2005 with Restless Soul and again in 2007 with Life with You, the latter of which saw the return of producer John Williams, who had helmed their debut 20 years earlier. It also gave them their highest chart placement in years, reaching number 13 on the U.K. charts. That same year saw another revival of their classic hit, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," with a newly recorded version featuring comic actors Andy Pipkin and Brian Potter hitting the number one spot.
Following 2009's Note & Rhymes, the Reids inked a deal with the Cooking Vinyl label and issued their ninth album, Like Comedy, in 2012. The following year saw the release of the career-spanning anthology The Very Best of the Proclaimers: 25 Years (1987-2012) -- the Reids hand-picked the tracks themselves and supported the collections with a set of acoustic dates in the U.S. and several U.K. full-band festival dates. By this point in their career, the Proclaimers had widely established themselves as a perennial live favorite, consistently touring the globe and earning new fans with album's like 2015's Let's Hear It for the Dogs and 2018's Angry Cyclist, both of which made strong chart showings in the Top 30. As they moved into the next decade, the Proclaimers took a more overt political turn on 2022's Dentures Out, a punchy rock commentary on contemporary life that took aim at press barons and the weaponizing of nostalgia during the tumultuous pandemic period.