A brassy pop traditionalist with impeccable taste in both songs and delivery for over five decades, Eydie Gormé was a Grammy- and Emmy-winning singer with a prolific career as both a solo artist and with her husband, Steve Lawrence. Alongside him, she rose to fame on "The Tonight Show with Steve Allen" (NBC, 1954-57), and soon found success both as a duo and on her own. While Lawrence preferred the Great American Songbook for his material, Gormé drew from several genres, including Latin music, Broadway standards, and even blues. Between 1957 and 1977, she scored numerous chart hits, including a Top 10 record with the effervescent "Blame It On the Bossa Nova," which earned her a Grammy in 1963. In the 1970s, she and Lawrence produced and appeared in a string of critically acclaimed television tributes to great songwriters like Irving Berlin and George Gershwin, which added a Emmy to her growing list of accolades. Until health problems forced her 2007 retirement, she and Lawrence remained a popular draw at top theaters and smaller venues alike, where they continued to mine the pop, jazz and theater songs of the past with their unique professionalism and charm. Eydie Gorme died in August 2013.
Born Edith Garmezano in the New York borough of the Bronx on Aug. 16, 1931, she was the youngest of three children by her Sephardic Jewish parents, Nessim, a tailor of Sicilian descent, and his wife Fortuna, whose family originally hailed from Turkey. A cousin, Neil Sedaka, later became one of pop music's most accomplished singer-songwriters. Gormé made her singing debut at three when she wandered away from her parents at a department store and into a line of children waiting to perform on a remote broadcast of a local radio show. Despite this early display of talent, she was the only one of her siblings to not receive music lessons as a child. Her older sister, Corene, and brother, Robert, had shown little interest in them, and her parents had decided to save the money rather than waste it a third time.
After graduating from William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx, Gormé, who spoke fluent Spanish due to her parents, worked as an interpreter at a theatrical supply company while studying foreign trade and economics at the City College of New York. On weekends, she sang with a friend, Ken Greengrass, and his band, hoping for her big break as a singer. Greengrass eventually disbanded his group to become Gormé's manager, and helped to broker her first professional engagement as vocalist for bandleader Tommy Tucker in 1950, with whom she recorded her first single, "Powder and Paint," on the MGM label that same year. A tour with Tex Beneke and stints with the Ray Eberle Orchestra preceded her debut as a solo performer, and for the next few years, she played numerous nightclubs and appeared on radio and television. In 1952, she was signed to Coral Records, and released several more singles. The following year, she began a regular stint as a performer on "Tonight! Starring Steve Allen," a late-night variety and talk show broadcast on WNBC-TV in New York. There, she met another up-and-coming singer, Steve Lawrence, with whom she would frequently sing and perform in skits. Their professional relationship blossomed into romance as "Tonight" moved to a national broadcast on NBC in 1954, where it launched the venerable "Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954- ) franchise. She released her first single with Lawrence, "Make Yourself Comfortable/I Gotta Crow," that same year.
While performing on "The Tonight Show" with Lawrence, Gormé also continued to cultivate her career as a solo artist. In 1956, she landed a stint as a headliner at the Copacabana nightclub in New York after appearing as a last-minute replacement, and recorded her first Top 40 hit, "Too Close for Comfort," for new label ABC-Paramount. The year 1957 proved to be one of her most successful, both professionally and personally; she made her Broadway debut with the Jerry Lewis Stage Show, and scored another Top 40 hit with "Love Me Forever" while earning two Top 20 LPs with Eydie Gormé and Eydie Swings the Blues. In December of that year, she and Lawrence were married in a star-studded ceremony in Las Vegas, NV.
The following year saw the new couple debut with their own summer replacement series, "Steve Allen Presents the Steve Lawrence-Eydie Gormé Show" (NBC, 1958) while Gormé herself landed a Top 20 hit with "You Need Hands" and two more Top 20 LPs with Eydie Vamps the Roaring '20s and Eydie in Love. She then launched a two-year solo nightclub tour while Lawrence served two years in the United States Army. Upon his discharge in 1960, they earned a Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group for "We Got Us," the title track from their debut album as a duo. Gormé left ABC-Paramount for United Artists in 1960, but found little success there. She signed with Columbia Records in 1962, where she scored a Top 10 hit in the U.K. with "Yes, My Darling Daughter." Her biggest solo hit came the following year with the Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil composition "Blame It on the Bossa Nova," which reached No. 7 on the charts and brought her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Vocal Performance. Two more Top 40 solo hits followed, as well as two Top 40 duets with Lawrence: "I Want to Stay Here" and "I Can't Stop Talking About You," both written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
The arrival of the Beatles and the launch of the British Invasion in 1964 cast a pall over Gormé's career, along with all other traditional pop singers, but she managed to keep her grip on the charts through a savvy collaboration with the famed Trio, Los Panchos. Their 1964 collection of Spanish-language standards, Amor, spent 22 weeks on the charts and yielded one of Gormé's signature tunes, "Sabor a Mi." Two more albums with the group followed, including 1966's Navidad Means Christmas, which broke the Top 10 on the holiday charts. While cultivating her Latino audience, Gormé began focusing her solo efforts on songs from the Broadway stage. Her take on Jerry Herman's "If He Walked into My Life," from the show "Mame," generated a Top 10 hit on the Easy Listening charts in 1966, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance. A Top 40 LP, Don't Go To Strangers, soon followed it.
But by the following year, Gormé's efforts were reaping diminished returns. A solo album, Softly, as I Leave You, barely broke the Top 100, though it fared better than her album with Lawrence, Together On Broadway. Their focus, however, was elsewhere. In 1968, Gormé and Lawrence were slated to star in a new Broadway musical, "Golden Rainbow," with music and lyrics by Walter Marks. Both singers scored hits with songs from the production - Lawrence with the iconic "I Gotta Be Me," which was later popularized by Sammy Davis, Jr., and Gormé with "How Could I Be So Wrong," which placed on the Easy Listening charts. Though the production was fraught with problems, "Golden Rainbow" was a success, and ran for nearly a year before closing in 1969. During this period, the duo continued to record, this time for a new label, RCA Victor, and saw modest returns on a pair of albums, as well as a Top 50 hit with 1969's "Tonight I'll Say a Prayer."
After switching to the MGM label in 1971, Gormé and Lawrence scored their final pop hit with 1972's "We Can Make It Together," which also featured the Osmonds. Their record careers, both as solo acts and as a duo, were largely a thing of the past during the 1970s, though they scaled the heights of success in another medium - television - where they produced and starred in a string of well-received musical tributes to great American composers. The first of these, "Steve and Eydie: Our Love Is Here To Stay" (CBS, 1975) which honored the songs of George Gershwin, earned them a Emmy nomination, while its follow-up, "Steve and Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin" (CBS, 1979), won seven Emmys, including one for Lawrence and Gormé as producers. This intensely creative period also saw Gormé return to her Latin music roots with a pair of albums, 1976's La Gormé and 1977's Muy Amigos (Close Friends), with singer Danny Rivera. Both LPs received Grammy nominations for Best Latin Recordings.
The 1980s and 1990s saw Lawrence and Gormé focus on their live act, which continued to draw sellout crowds in Las Vegas, as well as top venues like New York's Carnegie Hall. In 1989, they launched their own music label, GL Music, which re-issued many of their vintage albums on CD. In 1990, the pair opened for Frank Sinatra on his Diamond Jubilee tour, which celebrated his 75th birthday, and appeared on his 1994 album Sinatra Duets II. The new millennium saw them at the closing of the venerable Circus Maximus showroom at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, and then return to headliner status in 2004 at the Stardust's Wayne Newton Theater. Health issues forced Gormé to abandon touring in 2007, though she remained active as a blogger on the couple's website. Eydie Gormé died in Las Vegas on August 10, 2013, less than a week before what would have been her 85th birthday.