Steve Lawrence, ‘Go Away Little Girl’ Singer, Dead at 88 from ‘Complications Due to Alzheimer’s Disease’

The New York City native and one-time ‘The Tonight Show’ fixture, was one-half of the singing duo Steve and Eydie with his late wife, Eydie Gormé

Steve Lawrence, the singer best known as a member of the duo Steve and Eydie with his late wife Eydie Gormé, died on Thursday at the age of 88. His hits included “Go Away Little Girl,” which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart in 1963 and returned to the top in 1971 via a cover by a then 13-year-old Donny Osmond.

The Emmy- and Grammy-winning musician’s death was caused by “complications due to Alzheimer’s disease,” according to a press release. He is survived by his son David, daughter-in-law Faye, granddaughter Mabel, brother Bernie and many extended family members.

“My dad was an inspiration to so many people,” said David in a statement. “But, to me, he was just this charming, handsome, hysterically funny guy who sang a lot. Sometimes alone and sometimes with his insanely talented wife.”

David continued, “I am so lucky to have had him as a father and so proud to be his son. My hope is that his contributions to the entertainment industry will be remembered for many years to come.”

Lawrence was born Sidney Liebowitz in 1935 in Brooklyn, New York. His love of and talent for singing came from his dad, who was a cantor in their synagogue.
In 1953, he was hired for Steve Allen’s local New York late night show as one of the singers in the musical ensemble. That’s where he connected with Gormé, who’d also been hired. “I just fell madly in love with him,” Gormé said when the couple appeared on Larry King Live in 2003.

Allen’s show eventually became The Tonight Show, and they both stayed with it until Allen left in 1957. Lawrence and Gormé married in Las Vegas that same year.

Lawrence released dozens of albums in his lifetime, both with and without Gormé. On his own he scored 14 chart hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 (including four top tens) between 1959 and 1964, including “Go Away Little Girl” and “Footsteps.” The former was written by the husband-and-wife songwriting duo Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

In 1997, Steve and Eydie recorded a lounge remake of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” the Seattle grunge band’s signature song from 1994.

“Disney came to us. They were doing a ‘Loungapalooza’-type of album, and they asked us to do a song that was made popular by Soundgarden, which is a heavy metal rock group,” Lawrence recalled to King. “And they sent the CD and said, ‘Would you?’ And this is when I was considering recording this. And I said, ‘Are you talking about us, Steve and Eydie?’ They said, ‘We want you to do it in your own way.'”

He also made many more television appearances, including hosting The Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé Show in the summer of 1958. In 1965, he hosted The Steve Lawrence Show on CBS. He received a Tony nomination for his role in the 1964 Broadway musical What Makes Sammy Run?, and he and Gormé starred together in the 1968 musical Golden Rainbow. Together and separately, Lawrence and Gormé made many appearances on The Tonight Show once ​​Johnny Carson took over.

Lawrence was drafted into the U.S. Army in the 1950s and was a singer in The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, DC.

Though they had sung together on The Tonight Show, they only billed themselves as a duo after their marriage, when they realized they weren’t spending enough time together.

“We started working together out of necessity,” Lawrence told King. The pair won an Emmy in 1979 for Steve & Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin, a tribute to the composer, and they won a Grammy together for their 1960 album We Got Us.

Lawrence and Gormé found huge success in Las Vegas, playing shows together that featured songs and banter about their relationship. In later years they toured the country playing nightclubs. And as music tastes changed and evolved, they stayed with the type of music that made them famous.

“A lot of people our age . . . try to make the switch and do rock,” Gormé told The New York Times in 1992, when she was 60 and he was 57. “But if we came out in jeans and sneakers it would look ridiculous. We’re stuck with who we are.”

In 1980, Lawrence appeared in the smash musical comedy The Blues Brothers as the titular brothers’ agent. He reprised his role in the sequel, 1998’s Blues Brothers 2000. He made other appearances in movies and television, including playing Fran Fine’s father on the long-running series The Nanny.

Lawrence and Gormé were good friends with Frank Sinatra. They joined him for his Diamond Jubilee World Tour, his final, which ran from 1990 to 1991.

Lawrence explained in a 2016 interview with The Desert Sun that Sinatra had shared many of his iconic arrangements with him.

“He sent it to me in a big box with a note. He said, ‘I know you like this music, Steve, and I just want to see that this music goes on. You’re one of the few younger kids that can do this almost as good as me,’” Lawrence recalled. “So I said, ‘OK, thank you.’ I was very flattered. He really liked Eydie and I a lot.”

Gormé died in 2013. Lawrence said in a statement at the time, “Eydie has been my partner on stage and in 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.”

Lawrence and Gormé had two children: David, a composer whose work includes the score for High School Musical, and Michael, who died in 1986 from an undiagnosed heart condition.

In 2019, Lawrence revealed his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He said in a statement at the time, “I have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s in the early stages. I am being treated with medications under the supervision of some of the finest doctors in the field. Fortunately, they have managed to slow down this horrific process.”

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