Born Sidney Leibowitz, 8 July, 1935, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born 6 months to the day after Elvis, both as a solo performer and in tandem with wife Eydie Gorme, traditional pop stylist Steve Lawrence enjoyed success on record, on Broadway and on the club circuit
He didn't do badly battling the rockers in the charts
He was the son of a cantor and while in high school began singing in the glee club as well as studying piano, saxophone, composing and arranging. He adopted the names of his nephews for his pro name. Lawrence made his debut around the age of 16/17 with King Records from 1953 (incl. Poinciana and Mine and Mine Alone) and his relative success led to him leaving school before graduating. Later, gaining wide exposure through his appearances on Steve Allen's Tonight Show over some five seasons, he first met and performed with singer Gorme, (4 years older) whom he subsequently married on Dec. 29, 1957 in Vegas - the same year he scored his first major hit with "The Banana Boat Song"
Also in 1957, Lawrence's cover of Buddy Knox's "Party Doll" reached the Top Five; a string of lesser hits followed, including "Fabulous" and "Fraulein" and in 1958 he issued his debut LP Here's Steve Lawrence. This early material was on Coral and he subsequently shifted to ABC-Paramount, United Artists and Columbia
Following being drafted from 1958 to 1960, Lawrence served in the U.S. Army, where he performed as official vocalist with military bands on recruitment drives and at bond rallies; upon his exit from duty he and Gorme, who had both previously worked primarily as solo acts, began teaming more and more frequently
In 1959 the couple also hosted their own television variety program, later scoring with the Gershwin tribute special Our Love Is Here To Stay and its accompanying soundtrack LP.
Following Steve's two hits in 957, there was almost a three-year wait for the next big US hit (a delay surely not unconnected with his Army service). Pretty Blue Eyes was followed quickly by Footsteps, two of this writer's favourite pop songs from the era when the 50s gave way to the 60s
The latter was SL's biggest solo hit in the UK and written by Barry Mann/Hank Hunter. Teddy Randazzo & Bobby Weinstein penned PBE, a UK hit (4) for Craig Douglas
US wise, covering the Matt Monro top three British hit 'Portrait of My Love' , Steve charted in the Spring of 1961, then went all the way to the top with 'Go Away Little Girl' at year end of 1962 with his first Columbia single (written by Goffin/King)
As a duo, Steve & Eydie scored twice in 1963/4. The catchy I Want To Stay Here (also by Goffin/King) made 3 in UK and deserved better than 28 Stateside and I Can't Stop Talking About You. IWTSH shared its place in the UK Top 10 with She Loves You, The Legion's Last Patrol, Just Like Eddie and Wipe Out. Steve's last UK chart entry was late in 1963 with Walking Proud (another Goffin/King)
In 1962 Lawrence had starred on Broadway in a production of What Makes Sammy Run? and subsequently appeared as a guest star on a number of TV series. 'Sammy' earned Steve the New York drama critics award and Tony nomination for his Broadway debut
In '64 he issued the cleverly conceived 'Academy Award Losers' album (great songs that didn't win)
The couple shared the Broadway stage in the musical comedy-drama, "Golden Rainbow" and recorded as Parker & Penny in 1979 (why?)
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Steve and Mrs. Steve regularly toured clubs and often appeared in Las Vegas, many times in support of Frank Sinatra.
A veteran of films, television, and the Las Vegas stage, Steve Lawrence is probably most recognisable to film audiences as The Blues Brothers' Maury Sline (1980) and went on to do sporadic screen work for the next couple of decades. In addition to supporting roles in Blues Brothers 2000 (1998), the boxing drama Play It To The Bone (2000) and the crime mystery The Yards, Lawrence had a recurring role on the TV sitcom The Nanny.
The year 2000 marked an important career milestone when Steve & Eydie celebrated their 40th anniversary as one of the most popular singing duos. It was Friday, October 6, 1960 when the pair had stepped on the stage for the first time as 'Steve & Eydie' and they still get great pleasure from performing live
They were the 1995 recipients of the Society of Singers' prestigious 'Ella Lifetime Achievement Award'. In addition, Steve & Eydie received a lifetime achievement award from the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in New York, honouring their on-going tribute to American songwriters. Steve and Eydie's television specials saluting the great American songwriters were highly acclaimed, especially "Steve and Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin" which received seven Emmy awards. Their tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, "Our Love Is Here To Stay" received two more Emmy's and "From This Moment On" their musical salute to Cole Porter won the duo an award of excellence from the Film Advisory Board.
A highlight of Steve & Eydie's career was their "Diamond Jubilee World Tour" with Frank Sinatra, playing to SRO audiences around the world and getting rave reviews
Steve Lawrence has released only two newly recorded solo albums in the last 30 odd years, 1981's Take It On Home and a relatively recent one. The inspiration for heading into the recording studio for the first time in over two decades was his mentor, Frank Sinatra, who bequeathed him a batch of song arrangements when he retired. Lawrence makes use of those arrangements, written by the likes of Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones, and Don Costa, on a tribute album that deliberately sounds a lot like a Sinatra recording. Lawrence was always a student of Sinatra, demonstrating that, in his mid-sixties, he is still in very good voice, making you wish he had an opportunity to record more frequently
I like his lilting voice. Aside from the singles I mention, there are nice album tracks like 'House Without Windows", the song recorded by Orbison
Colin Kilgour: July 2003
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