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Singer Eydie Gorme dies at 84

By Saeed Ahmed, CNN
updated 3:13 PM EDT, Sun August 11, 2013
Click through to see<a href='http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/world/obituaries-2013'> people who passed away</a> in 2013. Click through to see people who passed away in 2013.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Her biggest English hit is the Grammy-nominated "Blame it on the Bossa Nova"
  • She also scored a major hit in Spanish with "Amor"
  • She met her husband on "The Tonight Show"

(CNN) -- Singer Eydie Gorme, who enjoyed decades-long success as half of the duo Steve & Eydie and as a solo artist in her own right, has died. She was 84.

She is best known in the English-speaking world for her 1963 Grammy-nominated "Blame it on the Bossa Nova." In the Spanish-speaking market, Gorme's major hit was 1964's "Amor."

Gorme died Saturday in Las Vegas after a brief illness, her publicist said -- without disclosing what had ailed her.

Her husband Steve Lawrence, her son and other family members were by her side 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," Lawrence said.

"While my personal loss is unimaginable, the world has lost one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time."

Early years

Gorme was born in New York on August 16, 1928 to Sephardic Jewish parents.

Her father, Nessim Garmezano, was a tailor from Sicily who changed his last name when he arrived in the United States.

Gorme began singing straight out of high school with various big bands. But her big break came after she auditioned for, and joined, "The Tonight Show" in 1953.

There, for $90 a week, she sang solos and sang duets with the up-and-coming Steve Lawrence.

"I mean, she could sing with me, with Andy Williams, Placido Domingo," Lawrence told CNN's "Larry King Live" in 2003, commenting on Gorme's three-octave range. "She could sing with just about anybody."

The two performed on the show for five years, and married in 1957.

"I just fell madly in love with him," Gorme said in the same interview.

A pairing of necessity

After their "Tonight Show" stint, the pair had a short-lived TV show of their own, "The Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Show."

Then, Lawrence entered the Army -- leaving Gorme, a new mother, to frequent the night club circuit on her own.

"I was traveling and working alone while he was in the Army and taking my baby with me everyplace, and it was very difficult," Gorme said.

Two years later when Lawrence was discharged, the couple came to a decision.

"I said, 'Either I'm going to quit and just stay home and be a housewife,'" Gorme said, "'Or maybe we should, I don't know, try and get something ...'"

"We started working together out of necessity," Lawrence added.

Their career took off, with audiences drawn to their penchant for the classics in favor of rock 'n' roll -- as well as their spontaneous banter.

"Well, we never rehearsed the first night," Gorme said.

"No, we never did. We never did. And we still don't," Lawrence said.

Their two boys -- David and Michael -- traveled with them. Gorme would, in her words, "hotel school" them.

Tragedy strikes

When Michael Lawrence was 23, he died of ventricular fibrillation, a heart condition.

"It was very hard for all of us, but it's still very hard," Gorme said.

"You don't deal with it, you just go on as best you can. And fortunately, we all held on," Lawrence said.

For a year, the pair mourned. Then they decided to go back on tour, with their surviving son David joining them on stage on the piano.

The pair continued touring well into the 2000s.

During their long career, they toured with Frank Sinatra, threw the first pair of dice in Atlantic City and recorded a lounge version of Soundgarden's grunge classic "Black Hole Sun."

"I'm very thankful that Eydie and I, not only do we have a great love, and a great friendship," Lawrence said.

In addition to her husband and son, Gorme is survived by her granddaughter.

Services are pending and will be private.

People we lost in 2013

CNN's Matthew Carey contributed to this report.

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