Steve Lawrence

Lawrence's wife and singing partner Eydie Gorme died in August. The singer talks new album "When You Come Back to Me Again," his friendship with Brooks, and why he's "not ready" to perform live. "Eydie was half of my life for 56 years"

Steve Lawrence admits that he was a little skeptical when his phone rang, and it was record producer Ron Dante on the other end of the line.

"He said 'I saw you in Las Vegas a little while ago, and you sounded great. I'd love to get you back in the music business again on records.' I said 'Who is this?' I thought it was somebody putting me on," he confessed to Billboard, "but he finally convinced me. I told him the kind of music I liked to sing and listen to was not very much in vogue now. Are you sure about this?' I told him I wasn't going to do anything that I didn't approve of. He said 'Of course.' You'll have full say, and if you don't like it, we won't do it. I would like the ability to bring you some songs that feel and sound like they were intended for you – from writers like Billy Joel or Elton John."

The legendary performer did record songs from those two artists, like "Tell Her About It" and "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" on his new album "When You Come Back To Me Again" -- but it's the Garth Brooks co-penned title track that is getting the most attention. Lawrence said he has been a fan of the song since seeing it in the film "Frequency."

"We saw that film three or four times, and the song just  haunted me. He was playing at Steve Wynn's hotel, and Steve invited Eydie and myself to come to see him. We were sitting on the eighth row on the aisle. He is such a magnetic force on the stage. At the end of the show, he opened things up for some questions and requests. When the spotlight is on you, you can't see more then three or four rows up.  I yelled 'Why don't you do 'When You Come Back To Me Again'? He asked where I had heard it, and I said 'Frequency.' He took his guitar and played it. The house came down and they loved it."

Later that night, the identity of the audience member was revealed to Brooks – by Lawrence himself. After the show, we went down to have dinner at Steve Wynn's Steakhouse, and he came in with Garth. They had dinner two tables down, and I couldn't take it. I went over and said 'Hi, Garth. I'm Steve Lawrence.' He said 'Oh, my goodness.' I'm such a fan of yours. He was very aware of my records. I told him that was me that had made the request. He asked if was Eydie was with me, and I introduced them. He said 'If my wife knew you were here, she'd jump on a plane and fly out to see you. She idolizes you.' So, we became friends."

Lawrence came up with the idea of recording the song for the project, and Brooks offered his services. "I did the song, and he said he'd do whatever I wanted. I sent him a copy, and the next time he went to Nashville, he and Trisha (Yearwood) recorded the harmony. That's the most expensive back up singers I've ever had in my life," he joked, also saying that the country power couple have become close friends. "They really took a piece of our hearts. They are very special people – both of them."

"When You Come Back To Me Again" is the first Lawrence recording since the passing of his wife, Eydie Gorme, in August. He says the lyrics of the Brooks track definitely take on new meaning now – though Gorme had not taken ill when he recorded the tune.

"It's really subliminal," he said. "It's about a boat that is lost out at sea, and he's got someone out there that believes in him. It's about a person having a tough time, and it hits home to me on so many levels. But, it hit Eydie and me when we saw 'Frequency.' We recognized what he and Jenny Yates were saying. It's a wonderful piece of symmetry to compare that boat and its' rough time on the oceans to him in life."

There are no concerts on the books for Lawrence to promote the Amazon-exclusive disc right now – for obvious reasons. "I'm not ready. I can't handle that just yet. Eydie was half of my life for 56 years. She was more than just my wife. She was my friend, my lover, my business associate. We were joined at the hip. We became one person – 'Steve & Eydie.' Dean Martin nailed us a long time ago. He'd call me Steve & Eydie," he said with a smile. "He was right." 

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