Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sephardi Jews

A little lesson in history:   Sephardi Jews are, generally speaking, the result of the blending of Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the Iberian Peninsula before 1492.  Descendants of these exiled people follow the Sephardic Halakha in their traditons, customs and religion.  

August 16, 1931, Edith Gormezano was born in the Bronx of New York City, the youngest of three children.  Her father was a tailor from Sicily, her mother was from Turkey, and they were Sephardic Jews.  By the age of three Edith had made her radio debut; in high school she sang with a band organized by her friend Ken Greengrass.   After high school she took a job as a Spanish interpreter with Theatrical Supply Export Company while studying at City College night school.    Her desire to continue a singing career led her back to Greengrass who agreed to become her manager.   You would hardly go professional with the name Edith Gormezano no matter how proud you might be of your parents.   Thus:   Eydie Gorme.

During her early career Eydie sang with Tommy Tucker in his touring band; then with Tex Beneke.   She went solo 1952 recording a series of singles with Coral Record. Steve Allen, the host of the Tonight Show, which at the time only aired in New York, brought her in as regular guest.  Steve Lawrence was a regular on the Tonight Show also.

The program went national in 1954 on NBC.  Lawrence and Gorme made a single recording as a duo, "Make Yourself Comfortable" on one side and "I've Gotta Crow" on the flip.
(The latter from the hit musical Peter Pan)

In 1956 Gorme got a job at the Copacabana Club in NY. She was now recording for ABC-Paramont ("Too Close for Comfort",  "Mama, Teach Me To Dance", "Love Me Forever") .   SHe  had two LP"s in the Top 20:  "Eydie Gorme" and Eydie Sings the Blues".
In 1957 Steve Allen left the Tonight Show and was hosting a prime time series, Steve Allen Presents.     Eydie and Steve, now married, took over as summer replacement hosts.
Eydie did not score another US hit (she did have a Top Ten hit in the UK,  "Yes, My Darling Daughter" in 1962.  But in 1963 she recorded "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" and not only hit the charts in the Top Ten, but earned a nomination for  Grammy for "Best Female Vocal Performance.  She continued to record, sometimes with Steve Lawrence, sometimes solo, and placed several more tunes in the high numbers on the charts.  BUT -  along came the British invasion.  Like many performers of "easy listening" style music, her popularity faded.

Eydie teamed up with TRIO LOS PANCHOS, a Spanish language album.  They recorded "Amor" amd "More Amor" both successful efforts.   At the same time she began trying her hand, or more appropriately, her voice, at some show tunes: "Do I Hear A Waltz", "What Did I Have That I Don't Have", and "If He Walked Into My Life" which gave her another TopTen easy listening hit, and she earned her first solo award - Best Female Vocal Performer Grammy.  (what does a Grammy look like?  I know what an Oscor looks like, it 's clearly a man.  Is a Grammy and little old lady in a rocking chair? Just wondering.)

Meanwhile, Eydie and Steve Lawrence were working on their ambitions as a couple.   Together they starred in "Golden Rainbow, which was a stage adaptation of Frank Sinatra's " A Hole In The Head", a movie which was first a Broadway play. They  opened in February 1968 and ran until January of 1969.   Into the 1970's Gorme and Lawrence were "out of  the charts"  in their careers.  Music changed and their easy listening was not grabbing the attention of the young set.  However, their reputations as entertainers kept them in the club scene.  Gorme made a solo album, "It Was A Good TIme" and together they made "We Can Make It" which featured the Osmonds.  Eydie made other Spanish language recordings with Danny Rivera, and Gorme and Lawrence had a TV special in 1975.  "Our Love Is Here To Stay" was their tribute to Gershwin which won and Emmy Award.  

I dropped in on my beloved sister-in-law Esther one day and caught her doing a little dance and singing along with Steve and Eydie's "Hallelulah".  She told me it was her favorite song of all time.   SHe said she heard it on the radio and called  the station to see if she could get a recording.  The told her they did not sell tapes, but would pass the request on.   She got her tape, directly from Steve and Eydie.  Unfortunately, she did not save the nice little note they put in it, but I have that tape.   It's just a cheerful little piece that grows on you.   Steve and Eydie recorded that under the name
"Parker and Penny."  

There's more to the Gorme Lawrence story.   Check back in a week or so for the "rest of the story."

Keep the music playing; hum along, whistle and dance if you can.

Ref:  A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers
         Sephardi Jews: Wikipedia
         Yahoo Music & Wikipedia

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