Gormé was born Edith Gormezano (census sources indicate Edith Garmezano) in The Bronx, New York, in 1928, the daughter of Nessim and Fortuna, Sephardic Jewish immigrants. Her father, a tailor, was from Sicily and her mother was from Turkey. Gormé was a cousin of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka. She graduated from William Howard Taft High School in 1946 with Stanley Kubrick in her class. She worked for the United Nations as an interpreter, using her fluency in the Ladino and Spanish languages, while singing in Ken Greenglass’s band during the weekends.
She got her big break and her recording debut in 1950 with the Tommy Tucker Orchestra and Don Brown. She made a second recording which featured Dick Noel. MGM issued these two recordings on 78. Gormé worked in Tex Beneke’s band. In 1951 she made several radio recordings that have been reissued on vinyl LP and recently on CD. In 1952 Gormé went on to record solo, and her first recordings were issued on the Coral label. During this time, she was featured on the radio program “Cita Con Eydie” (“A Date with Eydie”). She changed her name from Edith to Edie but later changed it to Eydie because people constantly mispronounced Edie as Eddie. Gorme also considered changing her family name; however, her mother protested, “It’s bad enough that you’re in show business. How will the neighbors know if you’re ever a success?”
In 1953, Gormé made her first television appearance, and met her future husband, singer Steve Lawrence, when they were booked to the original The Tonight Show, hosted by Steve Allen. In 1958, they starred together in The Steve Lawrence-Eydie Gorme Show, a summer replacement for The Steve Allen Show. During the 1970s, the two made guest appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, either with Eydie appearing as the guest and going into her song and Steve suddenly coming out from backstage and joining her or the other way around. Gormé and Lawrence were married in Las Vegas on December 29, 1957. They became famous on stage for their banter, which usually involved tart yet affectionate, and sometimes bawdy, references to their married life, which remained a feature of their live act.
Eydie Gormé enjoyed hit singles of her own, none selling bigger than 1963’s “Blame It on the Bossa Nova”, which was also her final foray into the Top 40 pop charts. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. In the UK, “Yes, My Darling Daughter” reached #10. She won a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance in 1967, for her version of “If He Walked Into My Life”, from Mame. The latter made #5 on the Billboard magazine Easy Listening chart in 1966, despite failing to make the Billboard Hot 100. Many of Gormé’s singles chart success from 1963 onward were on the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary charts, where she placed 27 singles (both solo and with her husband) from 1963 to 1979 (of which “If He Walked Into My Life” was the most successful). As a soloist, her other biggest hits during that period included “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (#17 Easy Listening, 1966) and “Tonight I’ll Say a Prayer” (#45 Pop and #8 Easy Listening, 1969, also her last Hot 100 entry as a solo artist).
She gained crossover success in the Latin music market through a series of albums she made in Spanish with the famed Trio Los Panchos. In 1964, the two acts joined forces for a collection of Spanish-language standards called Amor. “Sabor a Mí” became closely identified with Gormé and emerged as one of her signature tunes. The disc was later reissued as “Canta en Español”. In 1965, a sequel appeared called More Amor (later reissued as “Cuatro Vidas”). Her last album with Los Panchos was a 1966 Christmas collection, “Navidad Means Christmas”, later reissued as “Blanca Navidad”. Gormé also recorded other Spanish albums in her career, including the Grammy-nominated La Gormé (1976), a contemporary outing. The 1977 release Muy Amigos/Close Friends, a duet collection with Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera, also received a Grammy nomination.
As a duo with her husband, the act was billed as Steve and Eydie. They began their careers as members of the cast of the Steve Allen original Tonight Show. On February 8, 1960 they were awarded a star for recording on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1541 Vine Street. Also in 1960, Steve and Eydie were awarded the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group for the album “We Got Us”. Their biggest hit single as a duo, “I Just Want to Stay Here”, was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and reached #28 in 1963. Under the pseudonym “Parker and Penny”, Lawrence and Gormé achieved their last chart single (#46 on the Adult Contemporary chart) with a cover of the 1979 Eurovision song contest winner, “Hallelujah”. The song most closely identified with the duo, the Steve Allen composition “This Could Be the Start of Something”, never reached the charts, though it remained a staple in their live act. Gormé and Lawrence appeared numerous times on TV, including 13 appearances on The Carol Burnett Show, as well as The Nanny. She and Lawrence starred together on Broadway in the musical Golden Rainbow. After the 1970s, the couple focused strictly on the American pop repertoire, recording several albums themed around individual American pop composers. As the 21st century arrived, the couple announced their plans to cut back on their touring, launching a “One More For The Road” tour in 2002. In 2006, Gormé became a blogger, posting occasional messages on her official website. In November 2009, after his wife retired, Lawrence embarked on a solo musical tour.
Gormé and Lawrence had two sons together. David Nessim Lawrence (b. 1960) is an ASCAP Award-winning composer who composed the score for High School Musical. Michael Robert Lawrence (b. 1962) died suddenly from ventricular fibrillation resulting from an undiagnosed heart condition in 1986 at the age of 23. Michael was an assistant editor for a television show at the time of his death and was apparently healthy despite a previous diagnosis of slight arrhythmia. Gormé and Lawrence were in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time of Michael’s death, having performed at the Fox Theater the night before. Upon learning of the tragedy, family friend Frank Sinatra sent his private plane to fly the couple to New York to meet David, who was attending school at the time. Following their son’s death, Gormé and Lawrence took a year off before touring again.
Gormé died on August 10, 2013, six days before her 85th birthday, at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas following a brief, undisclosed illness. Her husband, Steve Lawrence, was at her bedside, along with their surviving son, David. She is also survived by her granddaughter. Following his wife’s death, Lawrence issued a statement in which he paid tribute to her. “Eydie has been my partner on stage and in my life for more than 55 years. 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.”
- August, 16, 1928
- The Bronx, New York City, New York
- August, 10, 2013
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Hillside Memorial Park
- Culver City, California