Eydie Gorme, ‘Blame It on the Bossa Nova’ singer, dies at 84

August 11, 2013

Eydie Gorme, the bouncy, bantering, big-voiced pop singer and entertainer who, as a solo act and with her husband, Steve Lawrence, performed on the air, in clubs, onstage and on records for more than 50 years, died Aug. 10 in Las Vegas. She was 84.

Her publicist, Howard Bragman, announced the death but did not disclose the cause. Health problems were cited in 2009 when she remained home as her husband went on tour. Their official Web site said the next year that health issues had prompted her retirement from touring.

With her bouffant hairdos and beaded and feathered dresses, Ms. Gorme (pronounced gor-MAY) personified Vegas-style glamour. Best known for the novelty song “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” (1963) and her Grammy-winning ballad “If He Walked Into My Life” (1966), Ms. Gorme, whose other solo hits included “Too Close for Comfort” (1956), was a mainstay of television variety shows as well as easy-listening and adult-contemporary radio.

Lawrence and Ms. Gorme — marketed as Steve and Eydie — proved an enduring duo, in both their personal bond and their audience appeal. Their breezy repartee was comfortably steeped in the sentiment of old marrieds, who trusted each other enough to tease about almost any subject, from the mundane to the slightly risque.

Their routine had its roots in Louis Prima and Keely Smith and presaged Sonny Bono and Cher. Steve and Eydie’s best-known duets included “We Got Us” (1960), which won a Grammy for best pop vocal group performance; “I Want to Stay Here” (1963); and “I Can’t Stop Talking About You” (1963). Lawrence also had a notable solo career with hits including “Go Away, Little Girl,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

Ms. Gorme, who was born to Sephardic Jewish parents and grew up in New York speaking Spanish, had a significant following in Latin America. A bolero, “Amor” (1964), recorded with the Mexican romantico group Trio Los Panchos, became a Latin music standard and launched a series of recordings, including “Sabor a Mi,” that sought to capture more of that market. A later duet with Brazilian singer Roberto Carlos, “Sentado a La Vera del Camino” (“Seated at the Edge of the Road”), reached No. 2 in 1988.

Edith Gormezano was born Aug. 16, 1928, in the Bronx to immigrant parents. After graduating from high school, she worked as a Spanish interpreter during the day and attended the City College of New York at night. On weekends, she pursued her musical ambitions as a singer.

She joined the bands of Tommy Tucker, Tex Beneke and Ray Eberle in the early 1950s. Her breakthrough came in 1953 with regular appearances on “The Tonight Show” show during its infancy as a local New York broadcast with host Steve Allen.

“They asked me how many songs I knew, and I said 2,000,” she told the New York Times in 1992, describing her audition. “They took one look at me and weren’t so sure. They were looking for a blonde, someone who looked like Marilyn Monroe. And I was, well, me. With my bangs.

“They said they would give me two weeks,” she added. “And every two they extended it. For four years.”

Ms. Gorme and Lawrence first performed together on “The Tonight Show” in 1954 and that year recorded the first of many duets, “Make Yourself Comfortable.” Their romance — frequently described as tempestuous — blossomed backstage over the objections of Lawrence’s mother.

“To the day his mother died, she said I wasn’t Jewish but Spanish,” she told the Times.

In later years, Ms. Gorme and Lawrence were involved in historic preservation, including an initiative to save the historic Chicago Theatre in the 1980s.

Besides her husband of 56 years, survivors include a son, David, and a granddaughter. Another son, Michael, died of a heart condition in 1986 at 23.

In interviews, Steve and Eydie often would finish each other’s sentences and thoughts, as in this dialogue from the Times interview from 1992:

“We’ve been married 35 years, and —” Mr. Lawrence said.

“Thirty-four,” Ms. Gorme interrupted.

“Thirty-five in December,” Mr. Lawrence continued.

“He’s always pushing it!” Ms. Gorme said.

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