Eydie Gorme, Popular Singer and Half of "Steve & Eydie," Dies at 84

News   Eydie Gorme, Popular Singer and Half of "Steve & Eydie," Dies at 84
Eydie Gorme, a popular singer of the '50s and '60s in the wholesome, All-American vein, who became known the world over as half of the duo Steve and Eydie when she married Steve Lawrence, died Aug. 10 at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas. She was 84.

Dark-haired, apple-cheeked and cute as a button, Ms. Gorme was an appealing personality on television and in nightclubs for decades. She and Lawrence had met casually at The Brill Building, the hive of songwriters in midtown Manhattan, but began dating in 1953 when she was invited to join a local New York television show, hosted by Steve Allen, of which Lawrence was already a cast member. At the time, he was a rising young singer, while she had made a name for herself as a band singer. The show evolved into NBC's "Tonight" show in 1954, and the duo became part of it.

They married in 1957 in Las Vegas, a town that would become an artistic home for them. Lawrence survived her, as does her son David. Another son, Michael, died of a heart ailment at age 23. The grieving couple did not perform for a year following his death.

The two were something of an anomaly during their heyday—entertainers in the traditional stripe, singing selections from the great American Songbooks, but surrounded by a radio and concert world being quickly converted to rock and roll. But they persisted and, partly through sheer force of their ebullient personalities, commanded audiences for decades. During their peak, they released two or three albums a year.

Throughout most of her career, Ms. Gorme was known for her teamship with her spouse, but she found solo success as well. She scored a massive hit in 1963 with Blame It on the Bossa Nova. She won a Grammy Award in 1967 for her version of "If He Walked Into My Life," from Mame. With her husband, she won a Grammy for the album, "We Got Us."

She made a single appearance on Broadway, alongside her husband, in the troubled 1968 musical Golden Rainbow, which has music and lyrics by Walter Marks. The show suffered substantial growing pains and was in previews for an extensive period. (In his classic examination of Broadway, "The Season," William Goldman devoted a chapter to the show. He called it "Washing Garbage.") Set in Las Vegas, the musical told the story Larry David, a cheap hustler and widow raising his son alone, and his former sister-in-law, who tries to help but ends up falling in love with him. It produced the song "I've Gotta Be Me." Clive Barnes, in the New York Times, called it "at best ramshackle," but it ran for nearly a year on the steam of Steve & Eydie's following. Ms. Gorme had been considered for the part of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, but turned it down when the producer would not cast her husband.

The two were popular television guests, appearing frequently on "The Ed Sullivan Show," the "Tonight" show, "The Garry Moore Show," and "The Carol Burnett Show." They had their own television programs for a time in 1958. Reviewing the program in the New York Times, Jack Gould wrote, they "have acquired a great deal more poise, and their singing has gained in style and assurance… The quiet sense of humor is not going to do them any harm, either." Their 1978 special "Steve & Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin" won an Emmy Award. A previous program, "Steve & Eydie: Our Love Is Here to Stay," a tribute to George Gershwin, was nominated.

Edith Gormezano was born Aug. 16, 1928, in The Bronx. Like her future husband—née Sidney Liebowitz—she was Jewish. He parents were Sephardic Jews, from Sicily and Turkey. She grew up speaking both English and Spanish. (Later, she would record songs in Spanish and find considerable success in Spanish-speaking markets.) She made her recording debut in 1950, and later began singing with Tex Beneke's band.

Ms. Gorme and Lawrence never tried to update their act or deny who they were as entertainers. A lot of singers "try to make the switch and do rock," she told the New York Times in 1993. "But if we came out in jeans and sneakers it would look ridiculous. We're stuck with who we are."

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