August 10, 2013 – Eydie Gormé was born Edith Garmezano on August 16, 1928 in Manhattan, New York, the daughter of Nessim and Fortuna, Sephardic Jewish immigrants. Her father, a tailor, was from Sicily and her mother was from Turkey. Gormé was a cousin of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka.
She graduated from William Howard Taft High School in 1946 with Stanley Kubrick in her class. She worked for the United Nations as an interpreter, using her fluency in the Ladino and Spanish languages, while singing in Ken Greenglass’s band during the weekends.
Straight out of high school, she also started singing with various big bands in 1950 such as the Tommy Tucker Orchestra and Don Brown.
She changed her name from Edith to Edie but later changed it to Eydie because people constantly mispronounced Edie as Eddie. Gorme also considered changing her family name; however, her mother protested, “It’s bad enough that you’re in show business. How will the neighbors know if you’re ever a success?”
Her big break came after she auditioned for, and joined, “The Tonight Show” in 1953. There, for $90 a week, she sang solos and duets with the up-and-coming Steve Lawrence. The two performed on the show for five years, and married in 1957. After their “Tonight Show” stint, the pair had a short-lived TV show of their own, The Steve Lawrence-Eydie Gormé Show (1958). Then, Lawrence entered the Army leaving Gormé, a new mother, to frequent the night club circuit on her own.
Two years later, when Lawrence was discharged, the couple came to a decision to enter show business more professionally. Their career took off, with audiences drawn to their penchant for the classics in favor of rock ‘n’ roll, as well as their spontaneous banter. They became famous on stage for their banter, which usually involved tart yet affectionate, and sometimes bawdy, references to their married life, which remained a feature of their live act.
Eydie Gormé enjoyed hit singles of her own, none selling bigger than 1963’s “Blame It on the Bossa Nova”, which was also her final foray into the Top 40 pop charts. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. In the UK, “Yes, My Darling Daughter” reached #10. She won a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance in 1967, for her version of “If He Walked Into My Life”, from Mame. The latter made #5 on the Billboard magazine Easy Listening chart in 1966, despite failing to make the Billboard Hot 100. Many of Gormé’s singles chart success from 1963 onward were on the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary charts, where she placed 27 singles (both solo and with her husband) from 1963 to 1979 (of which “If He Walked Into My Life” was the most successful). As a soloist, her other biggest hits during that period included “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (#17 Easy Listening, 1966) and “Tonight I’ll Say a Prayer” (#45 Pop and #8 Easy Listening, 1969, also her last Hot 100 entry as a solo artist).
As a duo with her husband, the act was billed as Steve and Eydie. They began their careers as members of the cast of the Steve Allen original Tonight Show. On February 8, 1960 they were awarded a star for recording on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1541 Vine Street. Also in 1960, Steve and Eydie were awarded the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group for the album “We Got Us”. Their biggest hit single as a duo, “I Just Want to Stay Here”, was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and reached #3 in the UK and #28 in the US in 1963. Under the pseudonym “Parker and Penny”, Lawrence and Gormé achieved their last chart single (#46 on the Adult Contemporary chart) with a cover of the 1979 Eurovision song contest winner, “Hallelujah”. The song most closely identified with the duo, the Steve Allen composition “This Could Be the Start of Something”, never reached the charts, though it remained a staple in their live act.
Gormé and Lawrence appeared numerous times on TV, including 13 appearances on The Carol Burnett Show, as well as The Nanny. She and Lawrence starred together on Broadway in the musical Golden Rainbow. After the 1970s, the couple focused strictly on the American pop repertoire, recording several albums themed around individual American pop composers.
Also she did a duo with one of the most popular Mexican boleros in the 1950s Los Panchos. They released the song “Sabor a mí,” which started an entire Latino career for her. In 1964, her label released the album, Amor, which spent 22 weeks on the charts. One of the songs, Sabor a Mí, became closely identified with Gormé and emerged as one of her signature tunes. The disc was later reissued 18 times, with various names including as Eydie Gormé Canta en Español con el Trio Los Panchos; it remains the top-performing album in her oeuvre on iTunes. In 1965, a sequel appeared called More Amor (later reissued as Cuatro Vidas). Her last album with Los Panchos was a 1966 Christmas collection, Navidad Means Christmas, later reissued as Blanca Navidad. Gormé also recorded other Spanish albums in her career, including the Grammy-nominated La Gormé (1976), a contemporary outing. The 1977 release Muy Amigos/Close Friends, a duet collection with Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera, also received a Grammy nomination.
As a duo they then appeared at leading nightclubs in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas, combining music with the comedy bits they had learned during their apprenticeship on Allen’s show. In Las Vegas, the showroom sweethearts played the Sands, the Desert Inn and headlined for 10 years at Caesars Palace.
“Oh God, it was the best,” Gorme told The Associated Press in 2003 about that period. “After the shows, we would all get together and hang out. If it got later, we would all get together for breakfast.”
With nightclubs dwindling in popularity in the 1980s, they moved their act to large theaters and auditoriums, drawing not only older audiences but also the Baby Boomers who had grown up on rock `n’ roll.
In 1995, Eydie and Steve were honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, winning the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. It is worth quoting from that award:
Steve and Eydie’s television specials saluting the great American songwriters are considered primers of quality, style and showmanship. The critically-acclaimed Steve and Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin, received seven Emmy Awards. Their tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, Our Love is Here to Stay, garnered two more Emmys and From This Moment On, their musical salute to Cole Porter, won the duo an Award of Excellence from The Film Advisory Board. A highlight of Steve and Eydie’s career was their “Diamond Jubilee World Tour” with Frank Sinatra. Playing to SRO audiences around the world and winning rave reviews, the one-year tour culminated in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Frank Sinatra says, “Steve and Eydie represent all that is good about performers and the interpretation of a song..they’re the best.”
She won a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance in 1967, for her version of “If He Walked Into My Life”.
She was also awarded Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
As the 21st century arrived, the couple announced their plans to cut back on their touring, launching a “One More For The Road” tour in 2002. In 2006, Gormé became a blogger, posting occasional messages on her official website. In November 2009, after his wife retired, Lawrence embarked on a solo musical tour.
Gormé died on August 10, 2013, six days before her 85th birthday, following a brief, undisclosed illness.