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Rick Astley on early retirement, his new album '50' and life as an Internet meme

Rick Astley is shown in a recent handout photo. '80s hitmaker Astley is back on the charts and on tour in North America in support of his new album "50." THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-BMG-Pip MANDATORY CREDIT
October 06, 2016 - 1:08 PM

TORONTO - Rick Astley unwittingly became a viral sensation when his '80s hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" was resurrected by Internet pranksters for the "Rickrolling" meme that swept the web — and left the British pop star baffled.

It's been nearly 10 years since the birth of the Rickroll — in which unsuspecting Internet users are lured with an enticing or intriguing web link but redirected instead to a clip of the smash Astley tune — and looking back, the pop crooner says it was his daughter, Emilie, who gave him the best advice on how to handle the strange and humbling web phenomenon.

"She kind of just said to me one day when it came up in conversation: 'Just take it easy. It hasn't got anything to do with you,'" Astley recalled during a recent phone interview from New York.

"I think other people around me would have been going: 'How can we make this work? How can we use this?' And she was like: 'No, the total opposite. Don't go anywhere near it.' And I totally agreed with her."

It's been nearly 30 years since the release of Astley's debut "Whenever You Need Somebody," with the lead single "Never Gonna Give You Up" (which topped the charts in 16 countries) and another hit in "Together Forever." He's in Toronto on Sunday for a show supporting "50," his first new album in a decade and his first record to be released in North America since 1993's "Body & Soul."

"Obviously I had my four or five years of pop stardom, or whatever you want to call it, and then I just retired. I'd just really had enough of it. I'd become a father as well, and I think some lights kind of came on that kind of said: 'You need to be doing something else with your life,'" said Astley of the long breaks in his career.

"I had an amazing time. I had a really great four or five years and travelled the world, and seen the world through eyes that not many people get to see it that way. But I think with pop music especially it's all very fast and very furious ... and I just needed a break. But it was the right thing for me to do and I never looked back."

His 50th birthday inspired him to make the new album, which touches on some of the people who kept him from burning out during the heady days of superstardom.

"We all read these stories sometimes where people have had massive success and then they've just burnt it all. They've lost it all. And you kind of think: 'They must have had some really crappy people around them.' When you're doing it, you're in the middle of it and you're enjoying it — it's a crazy life, it's an amazing life. But I don't think many people in that position think about (their) 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and how they're going to live and what they're going to do. You're not really planning that far ahead," he said.

"I think I had some good people around me, whether it was my lawyer or my manager or whatever, that actually cared about me as a human being. And you don't find that very often in the music business."

As for his enduring meme, Astley confirms that yes, he's been Rickrolled too.

"The first time I heard about it, to be honest, it was a friend of mine who lives in L.A., and I was actually on holiday at the time in Italy," Astley said.

"He just sent me an email — which was a Rickroll — but I just thought it was an email with a link in it. Obviously, I didn't know what it was.

"He did it a couple of times, and I kept emailing him back going: 'What the hell are you doing? OK, where's the joke? I'm not getting this.' Obviously, it's slightly different when you are the Rick in Rickrolling."

— Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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