Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Eydie: A Torch Singer With Class To Burn

     She was a black and white goddess of song when I first saw her perform on Steve Allen’s version of the “Tonight Show” and I was sitting with the old man waiting for my mom to head off to work… the graveyard shift at the pediatric ward in a local hospital.
     Eydie Gorme was dark haired, and although the TV was without color, I envisioned her tresses a deep chocolate brown and soft and smelling of rose petals. Her lips were painted what I thought must be the richest vermillion imaginable. And her svelte form foamed into my adolescent mind with teen-age hormones rampant.
     Ah Eydie. Why did you have to marry that good looking guy….what’s his name?
     Oh yeah. Steve Lawrence. He had one hit……. “Go Away Little Girl”. Big deal!
     From those sweaty nights in the late 1950’s till this very day, I followed her career because her voice had balls. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know I’m transgender-ing adjectives. (I’m also inventing new words, apparently), but this woman could sing. I mean sing with a capitol GRRRRRF.
     It’s well known in the music business that she had a range of several octaves and could attack a song with no mercy, leaving lyrics, tone, volume and empathy crushed and broken in her wake when she finished. Smoke settled on stage or in the studio when this woman sang. And I mean this in a good way.
     She had a hit or two to pay the bills like “Blame It On The Bossa Nova”, but the real  skill she displayed as a performer lay with the American Song Book.
     As an example, I present to you her interpretation of an Iriving Berlin classic, “What About Me?”
     It’s true that this is not as well known as some of his most popular songs like “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, “White Christmas” Etc., but it stands the test of time and the lyrics are real grown-up words with real grown up feelings. Her reading of this will tear your heart out. This is not a miss-soft-as-silk giggly teen age gusher. This is a full grown adult woman with a broken heart and she is belting it out to the one man in her life who got away. She probably has a glass of Old Granddad next to her the piano. And no chaser.
     “And maybe a baby will climb upon your knee and put his arms around you…but what about me?” Each time I hear this, my breath is taken away.
     No woman singer alive could “read” or interpret lyrics any better then Edie. And that includes a lot of diva’s, not the least being Ella, Billie, Edith, Barbra, Aretha and all the rest.
      Out of the service and behind a civilian radio station console, smelling of soundproof tile, ozone, hot tubes, warm plastic and cold coffee, I glommed every album (Columbia, I think) she cut that was sent our way as part of the avalanche of records we received from record producers every week.
     She and Steve were the toast of Las Vegas and clubs all over the world. They were show people extraordinaire and few couple acts could compete. (Mostly because they got divorced - ie.Sonny and Cher, Louis Prima and Keely Smith among others).
     Eydie also was fluent in Spanish and had a wonderful career in that market. 
     She passed away a few days ago and left us a body of work that speaks for itself.
     If you have never listened, I mean really listened to her, you are missing out on an acoustic miracle. There is a place in my heart where her larger then life voice will always reside.
     So long Edyie. What about us.