STORY WRITTEN BY DAVID KLEINMAN
For Digital First Media
Debuting at the tender age of five, Donny Osmond can relate better than most seasoned entertainers to how tenuous the grasp for creative control can be at the beginning. His role within his older’s brothers barbershop quartet, as a sort of precocious novelty act, was predetermined for his first performance in 1963 on “The Andy Williams Show.”
Eight years later, when the musical tide was changing to melodic pop tunes, Osmond and his brothers were re-branded as teen idols. They ruled the radio airwaves with sugary-sweet tracks like “Puppy Love” and “One Bad Apple” that were selected without any of the artist’s input. Record company executives with a breadth of experience churning out hit singles hoped to emulate their previous success stories by relying on time-tested formulas that worked.
“It drove me crazy,” Osmond recalled during a recent telephone interview from his home in Provo, UT. “I learned ‘Go Away Little Girl’ just the night before and they gave me five minutes to record the vocals. That’s the way [label founder] Mike Curb wanted me to do it, that’s the way I did it. He wanted it fresh, not a lot of rehearsal. You just throw yourself into it and apparently it worked.”
Osmond’s squeaky-clean image served him well as a bubblegum-pop star until the rise in popularity of rock n’ roll steamrolled over disco’s hold on society’s consciousness in late 1979. A nearly decade-long sabbatical from the recording studio followed until he re-branded himself yet again for a comeback.
Marketed to radio stations under the guise of a ‘mystery artist’, rock song “Soldier of Love” soared Osmond back to the top of the Billboard charts. Over a quarter-century after his debut Osmond first began calling the shots for his own career.
“A lot of people don’t realize that when I record there’s three hats that I wear; I wear the engineer hat that sits behind the desk and makes sure technically everything is cleaned out properly, I wear the producer’s hat so I can tell exactly how to sing it and I wear the artist’s hat, who executed the song. I like to produce myself because I know exactly what I’m doing.”
Today, Osmond continues to sing and dance to the beat of his own drum. For his latest studio album “The Soundtrack of My Life,” his sixtieth in a prolific discography, individual personality became key. Each hand-picked cover harbors a unique connection to his life; from the moment he knew he would marry his wife at an Elton John concert during Your Song’ to Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” a track she played for Osmond during his deepest doubts and more.
“I have a chance now to do it the way I want to do it,” he said. “This current album definitely has me all over it, I basically did the whole thing. A lot of the vocals, they’re not perfect. They’re not auto-tuned because what I like to hear is the real singer, what does he really sound like? That’s what I want to put across in my live shows, this is the entertainer singing for you — not a computer.”
Fresh off a Christmas tour with Marie, he admitted that it takes time to get everything just right for the band, the crew and himself. Coincidentally and appropriately, Osmond’s performance in Lancaster on Jan. 21 will be at the tail end of what he affectionately calls his “D Tour.”
Osmond says he hopes to “under-promise and over-deliver” when he takes the American Music Theatre stage. He promises there will be something for everyone; a bit of the razzle-dazzle of his Las Vegas residency with Marie, an up close and personal approach with just the man and his microphone and a sampling of every aspect of his 53-year career.
“Show business has a tendency to eat you up and spit you out and not just professionally but personally. I’m probably on my sixth or seventh career, you have to reinvent yourself in order to survive. I’m closing the show with ‘Survivor’ and that will tell it all.
“The line, ‘But a man can’t be measured by the number of times he is knocked down. It’s all about what he does when he gets back up again’, that’s what I want the people to see. The naysayers say I’m all ‘Puppy Love’ and all that kind of stuff, it’s completely the perception. Perception versus reality is deceiving.”