Eydie Gorme, ‘Blame it on the Bossa Nova’ Singer, Dies at 84
Her publicist, Howard Bragman, said Ms. Gorme, who performed as a solo act and as a team with her husband, Steve Lawrence, died at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas after a brief, undisclosed illness.
Ms. Gorme was a successful band singer and nightclub entertainer when she was invited to join the cast of Steve Allen’s local New York television show in 1953.
She sang solos and did duets and comedy skits with Mr. Lawrence, a young singer who had joined the show a year earlier. When the program became NBC’s “Tonight Show” in 1954, the young couple went with it.
They married in Las Vegas in 1957.
“Eydie has been my partner on stage and in life for more than 55 years,” Mr. Lawrence said in a statement. “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.”
Although usually recognized for her musical partnership with Mr. Lawrence, Ms. Gorme broke through on her own with the Grammy-nominated “Blame it on the Bossa Nova.” The bouncy tune about a dance craze of the time was written by the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
Her husband had had an equally huge solo hit in 1962 with “Go Away Little Girl,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
Ms. Gorme would score another solo hit in 1964, but this time for a Spanish-language recording.
Ms. Gorme, who was born in New York City to Sephardic Jewish parents, grew up speaking both English and Spanish. When she and her husband were at the height of their career as a team in 1964, the president of Columbia Records Goddard Lieberson suggested she put that Spanish to use in the recording studio.
The result was “Amor,” recorded with the Mexican combo Trio Los Panchos.
The song became a hit throughout Latin America, which resulted in more recordings for the Latino market, and Mr. Lawrence and Ms. Gorme performed as a duo throughout Latin America.
“Our Spanish stuff outsells our English recordings,” Mr. Lawrence said in 2004. “She’s like a diva to the Spanish world.”
The couple had an impressive, long-lasting career in English-language music as well, encompassing recordings and appearances on TV, in nightclubs and in concert halls.
Throughout it, they stuck for the most part with the music of classic composers like Berlin, Kern, Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and other giants of Broadway and Hollywood musicals. They eschewed rock ‘n’ roll and made no apologies for it.
“People come with a general idea of what they’re going to get,” Mr. Lawrence said of their show in a 1989 interview. “They buy a certain cereal, and they know what to expect from that package.”
Soon after their marriage, the pair had landed their own TV program, “The Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Show,” which was a summer replacement for Mr. Allen.
Not long after that, however, Mr. Lawrence entered the Army, and Ms. Gorme went on the nightclub circuit as a soloist until his return two years later. Their careers took off.
They appeared at leading nightclubs in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas, combining music with the comedy bits they had learned on Mr. Allen’s show.
With nightclubs dwindling in popularity in the 1980s, they moved their act to large theaters and auditoriums, drawing not only older audiences but also the baby boomers who had grown up on rock ‘n’ roll.
Ms. Gorme was born Aug. 16, 1928 and began to consider a music career while still a student at William Taft High School in the Bronx, where she had been voted the “Prettiest, Peppiest Cheerleader.”
After graduation, she worked as a Spanish interpreter for a time but also sang on weekends with the band of Ken Greenglass, who encouraged her and eventually became her manager.
Her first big break came when she landed a tour with the Tommy Tucker band, and she followed that up with gigs with Tex Beneke, Ray Eberle and on radio and television.
Early in her career, Ms. Gorme considered changing her name, but her mother protested.
“It’s bad enough that you’re in show business. How will the neighbors know if you’re ever a success?” she told her, so Ms. Gorme decided to keep the family name but changed her given name from Edith to Edie.
Later, having grown tired of people mistaking it for Eddie, she changed the spelling to Eydie.
Survivors include her husband, Mr. Lawrence, her son David and a granddaughter. Another son, Michael, died of heart failure in 1986 at age 23.