For people of a certain age, the names of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé call up a kind of showbiz that doesn’t exist anymore, an era of TV variety and Las Vegas showrooms, tuxedos and evening gowns and big-band arrangements, and of easy-listening radio. That they were enormous stars of the 60s and 70s, there’s no doubt—and they remained a popular act for years after, until Eydie retired from performing in 2009. But here’s the thing about Steve and Eydie: you’re probably not able to name one song most clearly associated with them. To find their songs, we have to go to the record books.
Lawrence hit the Billboard singles charts under his own name 21 times between 1957 and 1964. In January 1963, he had a #1 hit, “Go Away Little Girl,” and he reached the Top 10 on four other occasions, all between 1957 and 1961. Eydie charted under her own name 16 times between 1956 and 1969. Her biggest chart hit was “Blame It on the Bossa Nova”—a trifle in the grand scheme of things, albeit a trifle written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil—which made the Top 10 early in 1963 at the height of the bossa nova craze. (“Go Away Little Girl” and “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” spent a couple of weeks together in the Top 20 late in February.) Together, Steve and Eydie hit the Billboard singles chart three times, twice in 1963 but not again until 1972, when “We Can Make It Together” was billed to Steve and Eydie featuring the Osmonds, despite sounding like a Partridge Family outtake.
As you might expect, Steve and Eydie made a big impression on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart. “Go Away Little Girl” topped it for six weeks in December 1962 and January 1963. Oddly, “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” failed to make what was then known as the Middle-Road Singles chart; Eydie’s biggest easy-listening hit under her own name was “If He Walked Into My Life” from the musical Mame in 1966. It’s a big, traditional Broadway pop song, and her performance is magnificent—she just flat sings the hell out of it.
Steve and Eydie would hit the easy-listening chart 10 times together, including the 1979 hit “Hallelujah,” on which they were billed as Parker and Penny. Although “Hallelujah” had won the Eurovision Song Contest, Steve and Eydie figured that radio stations would shy away from it if they were billed under their real names. Lawrence told a reporter in 1989, “It reached #46 before some disc jockey in Chicago blew our cover.”
Eydie had more success on the album chart than Steve did, charting a dozen albums to his six. Chart guru Joel Whitburn ranks each performer’s debut album as their most successful, Gorme’s self-titled 1957 album and Here’s Steve Lawrence from 1958. Steve and Eydie charted three albums as a duo in the late 60s, none getting above #136. Nevertheless, it’s for one of their albums that they might be best remembered.
Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé released That Holiday Feeling! in time for Christmas 1964. The album’s most famous songs will be on the radio for a 50th Christmas later this year, “That Holiday Feeling” and “Happy Holiday.” They hit that December sweet spot, when we want to hear something warm and familiar and traditional, something that takes us back to Christmas as children, when the tree glowed brighter, the snow piled deeper, and the season seemed more magical than it does now. For traditional pop singers of the 20th century, that’s the main route to immortality in the 21st.
Eydie Gormé died this past weekend, as you almost certainly know. Tomorrow would have been her 85th birthday.