Eydie Gorme, Voice of Sophisticated Pop, Dies at 84
By ANITA GATES
Published: August 11, 2013
Eydie Gorme, the lively singer with a remarkable range who performed a decades-long act with her husband, Steve Lawrence, that made them the sweethearts of mid-20th-century American pop music, died on Saturday in Las Vegas. She was 84.
Her death was confirmed by Howard Bragman, her publicist.
Ms. Gorme and Mr. Lawrence had a sophisticated stage presence and vibrant voices, but they stood out for two other reasons. As rock ’n’ roll conquered pop music, they refused to join in. Instead, they stood resolutely with the standards, performing the songs of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
“If we came out in jeans and sneakers, it would be ridiculous,” Ms. Gorme said in an interview. “We’re stuck with who we are.”
And they specialized in old-married-folk banter that was slightly naughty by pre-sexual-revolution standards. At one point in their “tux and gown” nightclub act, they would dance elegantly and Mr. Lawrence would make a grand gesture, a dramatic dip. When she would say, “I’m getting nauseous,” he would respond, “That used to excite you.”
Despite their long and successful marriage, they had the usual marital disputes, but Mr. Lawrence said it helped the act.
“One of the best shows we ever had was after a terrible argument,” he recalled in 1992. “The orchestra was starting to call divorce lawyers. Who knew what it was about? We went on the stage so hostile. Clenched teeth. I was saying everything a husband always wants to say to his wife. I mean — venomous. And the more we snapped at each other, the more the audience loved it. After the show we were fine. It was like therapy.”
Ms. Gorme and Mr. Lawrence, who starred in a 1958 summer-replacement television series “The Steve Lawrence-Eydie Gorme Show,” won a 1960 Grammy Award as best pop duo and a 1979 Emmy Award in the outstanding comedy-variety or music program for “Steve & Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin.”
It was hard to separate Steve and Eydie (no one ever seemed to think of calling them Lawrence and Gorme), but Ms. Gorme did have instances of solo triumph.
One was her 1963 Grammy-nominated hit recording of “Blame It on the Bossa Nova,” inspired by the dance fad of the moment and written by the songwriting team of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Another was “Amor,” recorded a year later in Spanish (a language she spoke fluently from childhood) and an enormous success in Spanish-speaking countries, where it is the song most associated with her.
“She’s like a diva to the Spanish world,” Mr. Lawrence said in 2004.
Her 1966 recording of “If He Walked Into My Life,” a lament from the Broadway musical “Mame,” was also a standout.
Mr. Lawrence had his own solo hit in 1962 with “Go Away Little Girl,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
Edith Gormezano was born on Aug. 16, 1928, in the Bronx. Her father, a tailor, was from Sicily and her mother from Turkey, but both were Sephardic Jews and spoke Spanish, as well as English, at home.
After graduation from William Howard Taft High School, where Stanley Kubrick had been a classmate, Edith worked as a translator at the United Nations. She also took night courses at City College and began her singing career with bands led by Tommy Tucker, Tex Beneke and Ray Eberle.
Her big break was an audition for “The Steve Allen Show” in 1953.
“They asked me how many songs I knew, and I said 2,000,” she recalled in 1992. “They took one look at me and weren’t so sure. They were looking for a blonde, someone who looked like Marilyn Monroe. And I was, well, me. With my bangs.”
She was hired to perform for two weeks but ended up staying for years, as the show evolved into the “Tonight” show with Allen as host. She was also impressed by a young cast member, Mr. Lawrence, a cantor’s son from Brooklyn, and they were married in Las Vegas in 1957.
“Eydie has been my partner onstage and in life for more than 55 years,” Mr. Lawrence said in a statement. “I fell in love with her the moment I saw her and even more the first time I heard her sing. While my personal loss is unimaginable, the world has lost one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time.”
In addition to Mr. Lawrence, she is survived by a son, David, a composer; and a granddaughter. An older son, Michael Lawrence, died of heart failure in 1986.
Like many performers who were part of the early days of television, Ms. Gorme looked back on that era with fondness. In 1996, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, she said of “The Steve Allen Show” and its very brief rehearsal time, “The beauty was, if you screwed up, that’s what people loved.”