Blame It on the Bossa Nova: Remembering Eydie Gorme
Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme—never Eydie and Steve. But theirs was a relationship where she never took a back seat.
I am old enough to remember the duet’s appearances on every conceivable variety show in the 1960s and 70s. (By the way, whatever happened to the concept of a variety show?) The Hollywood Palace, the Ed Sullivan Show, their own Emmy-winning show and tribute to “Our Love is Here to Stay" –the two were everywhere on television with well-timed, smooth, seemingly effortless performances. They were always smiling, even when their dialogue included the mild carping of a long-married couple. And they were invariably dressed in tux and gown, bringing a touch of class to America’s living room.
To the teenager I was, they were old hat, corny even. No couple could really be that happy all the time. Their music was distinctly of another age, neat not electric, pop not rock. They could make “Let the Sunshine In” actually palatable to older “uptight” audiences rather than the rough mix of pleading and celebration from the “American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” Hair that spoke to my generation.
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It turns out they actually were what they seemed, only more so. Their marriage lasted more than 55 years, which might be a modern record for couples who perform together. She kept her own stage name throughout her career, and the couple had their own solo hits in “Blame It on the Bossa Nova,” “Amor,” and “Go Away, Little Girl.” But their work with each other actually kept them together rather than tearing them apart. As Mr. Lawrence recalled a particularly fraught performance, “The more we snapped at each other, the more the audience loved it. After the show we were fine. It was like therapy.”
I’ve been listening to Eydie sing today, particularly a standout performance of a song from the 1966 musical Mame. I dare you to listen to her sing “If He Walked Into My Life” here and not feel the expressive pull, the regret, the heartache as she hits every dramatic emotional nuance of this difficult song. Not only is she technically right on the money, she nails it with aplomb and finish. Listen to it, and I guarantee you’ll feel what Steve Lawrence felt about her: “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.”