September 26, 2003 02:21 PM

“Addicted to Love” British rock star Robert Palmer died of a heart attack early Friday morning in Paris, his manager, Mick Cater, has announced. He was 54.

The sharp-dressed singer — best known for his string of hits in the ’80s featuring slick videos with supermodel clones as his backing band — was said to be on a two-day break in the French capital with his partner, Mary Ambrose, en route home to Switzerland (where he had lived for 16 years) after shooting a TV appearance in England.

Palmer, whose real first name was Alan, was born in Bentley, Hampshire, to a British naval officer and was a member of several British rock bands — including Dada, Vinegar Joe and the Alan Bown Band — before achieving stardom as a solo artist. His first hit album and single was 1974’s “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley.”

Before that, he also occasionally appeared as the opener for such big-name groups as The Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

He also fronted a side project, Power Station, which formed in 1985 with Duran Duran’s John Taylor and Andy Taylor and generated such American hits as “Communication” and the T.Rex cover “Get it On.”

“Addicted to Love,” released in 1985, was his biggest hit, taking off on both sides of the Atlantic — helped, in no small part, by its video, which featured miniskirt-wearing models in laconic poses. In what became his trademark look, Palmer was outfitted in the video in neatly tailored suits.

“I’m not going to attach inappropriate significance to it because at the time it meant nothing. It’s just happened to become an iconic look,” Palmer later told a Rolling Stone interviewer about the video.

Another hit in the late ’80s was “Simply Irresistible.” Palmer’s last album, “Rhythm and Blues,” which was his first studio recording in five years, was released in 1999.

Of Palmer’s 1988 album “Heavy Nova,” PEOPLE music critic Ralph Novak called the work “a wide-ranging, playful, adventuresome album. … The whole project brings to mind sportswriter Ed Linn’s description of Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams: sometimes unbearable but never dull.”

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