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Eydie Gorme

1928 – 2013

by Gwen Nefsky Frankfeldt

One of the great stylists of the American popular song, Eydie Gorme has had a loyal following from the 1950s to the present. She achieved national prominence with her appearances on Steve Allen’s Tonight! show, where she met and performed with her husband Steve Lawrence. Gorme’s dynamic nightclub act, frequently as a duo with Lawrence, has continued to draw sell-out crowds while resisting passing trends and keeping true to the best traditions of the American “standard”—traditions she herself helped to establish.

She was born Edith Gorme on August 16, 1928 in New York City, the daughter of Nessim Gorme, an immigrant tailor, and Fortune Gorme. Both parents were Turkish-born Jews of Spanish descent, so she and her older siblings, Corene and Robert, grew up speaking fluent Spanish. Ironically, she was the only one of the three not to be given music lessons, since the others had not made much use of theirs.

Gorme made her singing debut at age three, when she toddled away from her parents in a department store and got on line to perform in a children’s radio show being broadcast there. At William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx, New York, she was voted “the prettiest, peppiest cheerleader,” starred in most of the school musicals, and sang with her friend Ken Greengrass’s band on weekends.

After high school, Gorme briefly worked as an interpreter for a theatrical supply export company and later as its manager, while taking night classes in foreign trade and economics at the City College of New York. But she continued performing with Greengrass on weekends and soon took the plunge, leaving her job to try to make it as a singer. Greengrass disbanded his orchestra to become her manager, a role he retained for many years.

Gorme’s first break came when bandleader Tommy Tucker hired her as vocalist for a two-month road tour. She then toured for a year with Tex Benecke’s orchestra and also sang with the Ray Eberle orchestra before deciding she was ready to try performing on her own. As a single act, Gorme toured the nightclub and theater circuit and made guest appearances on top radio and television programs. She signed her first recording contract with Coral Records in 1952 and soon made the Top Twenty. Through the Voice of America, she hosted her own radio show, Cita con Eydie [A date with Eydie], which was transmitted to Spanish-speaking countries around the world.

In the fall of 1953, Gorme joined the permanent cast of Tonight!, where for the next four years she sang and also wrote and performed in sketches with Steve Lawrence. They had much in common, and friendship gradually blossomed into romance. The son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Lawrence was born Sidney Liebowitz in Brooklyn, New York, on July 8, 1935. He had started singing in the synagogue choir where his father served as cantor while supporting the family as a housepainter. Gorme and Lawrence were married in Las Vegas on December 29, 1957. They later had two sons, David Nessim and Michael.

Meanwhile, in February 1956, Gorme made her New York nightclub debut as a last-minute replacement at the Copacabana and was such a hit that she was booked as a headliner for July. The following January brought her first Broadway appearance, as singing star of the Jerry Lewis Stage Show at the Palace Theatre. In the summer of 1958, the husband-and-wife team had their own weekly musical variety show on television as summer replacements for Steve Allen. Gorme then embarked on a two-year solo nightclub tour while her husband served in the Army. Reunited in 1960, the pair won a Grammy Award for their first complete duet album, We Got Us, which was followed by several others over the next few years. 1968 found them on Broadway in Golden Rainbow, and the following year they recorded their first musical, What It Was, Was Love.

Gorme has continued to perform both solo and with Lawrence, recording albums and singles, and appearing on television and in nightclubs. Her best-known hits include the singles “Too Close for Comfort,” “Mama, Teach Me to Dance” (both 1956), “Love Me Forever” (1957), “You Need Hands” (1958), “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” (1963 Grammy nominee), and “If He Walked into My Life” (1966 Grammy Award), and the albums Eydie in Love (1958 Grammy nominee), We Got Us with Steve Lawrence (1960 Grammy Award), La Gorme (1976 Grammy nominee), and Muy Amigos/Close Friends with Danny Rivers (1977 Grammy nominee). Her TV appearances with Lawrence have also won recognition, with a 1976 Emmy nomination for Steve and Eydie: Our Love Is Here to Stay, and seven Emmys in 1979 for Steve and Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin.

Throughout the 1980s, Gorme and Lawrence appeared on many well-known stages, including Carnegie Hall, the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and Bally’s in Las Vegas. In 1991, they joined Frank Sinatra on his year-long Diamond Jubilee Tour, in celebration of his seventy-fifth birthday. In 1995 Gorme and Lawrence received Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Society of Singers and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In her long career, Eydie Gorme has delighted countless audiences and has helped create a classic style of American popular singing whose appeal and vitality are eternal.

Eydie Gorme died on August 10, 2013 in Las Vegas. She was 84.

SELECTED WORKS BY EYDIE GORME

Albums

Amor (1964); Blame It on the Bossa Nova (1963); Come in from the Rain (1985); Come Sing with Me (1961); Don’t Go to Strangers (1966); Eydie Gorme (1957); Eydie Gorme on Stage (1959); Eydie Gorme Vamps the Roaring 20s (1958); Eydie Gorme’s Greatest Hits (1967); Eydie in Dixie-Land (1960); Eydie in Love …(1958); Eydie Sings Showstoppers (1959); Eydie Swings the Blues (1957); Gorme Country Style (1964); I Feel So Spanish (1962); Let the Good Times Roll (1963); More Amor (1965); Navidad Means Christmas, with the Trio Los Panchos (1966); Sings/Canta (1987); Softly, As I Love You (1967); Tomame o Dejame (1985); Tonight I’ll Say a Prayer (1970); The Very Best of Eydie Gorme (1961).

With Steve Lawrence

Alone Together (1989); The Best of Steve and Eydie (1977); Cozy (1961); The Golden Hits (1960); I Still Believe in Love (1985); On Broadway (1967); Our Best to You (1977); Our Love Is Here to Stay (1977); Real True Lovin’ (1969); Since I Fell for You (1993); Twenty Golden Performances (1977); We Can Make It Together (1975); We Got Us (1960); What It Was, Was Love (1969).

Bibliography

Current Biography (February 1965): 17–18; The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Edited by Colin Larkin. Vol. 3 (1992): 1706–1707; Who’s Who (1996).

How to cite this page

Frankfeldt, Gwen Nefsky. "Eydie Gorme." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/gorme-edye>.

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