My faithful readers will remember when I first mentioned Donny Osmond on this blog. It was a throw-away line in a post I wrote about Michael Jackson’s death. In response to my musing that I thought Donny was an underappreciated talent, I got flooded with emails, Twitters and Facebook messages (People, talk to the blog!) In fact, I got more feedback on Donny than I did on Michael Jackson. So I had to come out as a secret Donny Osmond fan in a follow-up post. Next thing I know, it’s picked up in the forums at Donny’s official fan site and even reprinted on the front page. And again, the Twitters, Facebook messages and emails confirm that there are a lot of Donny fans out there. Even ones who aren’t embarrassed to admit it.
So I thought I’d better examine this Donny phenomenon in a little more depth. Not being a scholar of music or even particularly knowledgable about modern music, I contacted my go-to guy on all music theory, history and trivia from the Blues of the 20s to Rock of the New Millenium. That would be my brother, Steven, who has been a professional guitarist and student of American music since high school. Knowing how Steven used to meet mention of bubblegum singers like Bobby Sherman with a sneer and an Eric Clapton guitar lick, I was a little nervous about asking for his musical assessment of Donny. I was completely surprised. Steve has a great appreciation of Donny, who he says is an artist with a lot of cred among serious rock musicians:
We rockers always appreciate a good vocalist as they are always so hard to find. It really doesn’t matter what style you do as it is very easy to spot the pretenders. Donny is no pretender. He’s a pro with serious vocal ability.
Then he went on to point me toward a YouTube clip that he thinks illustrates his point. In Rock guitar legend Jeff Beck’s Ambitious video, the scenerio is a tongue-in-cheek “audition” where various singers and wannabes are lining up to try out as lead singer. Among them is Donny Osmond taking a cheerful poke at his own career. But as they say, the laughing stops when Donny starts to sing. Steven points out, “Donny’s vocals can definitely stand up to and even complement Beck’s guitar playing.” (In fact, Steve wondered why Beck didn’t go ahead and cut a collaborative album with Donny. He’d buy it.) But of course, as I said last time and Steve confirms, Donny can do most everything.
Judging from the Donny Osmond CDs I’ve downloaded recently, what Donny prefers to do is what used to be termed “Blue Eyed Soul”. You can hear how he’s mastered that genre on his cover of the old Spinners hit Could It Be I’m Falling in Love and he puts a nice twist on Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together. Plus, he shows the BeeGees how it should have been done with a surprising take on How Deep is Your Love, a song I spent the Seventies trying to avoid. When Donny sings it, I’ve been known to hit repeat on my iPod one, or maybe even two, times. Then, on the same CD, Donny tackles Broadway with Seasons of Love (Rent) and This is the Moment (Jekyll and Hyde), Reggae with I Can See Clearly Now, and even performs an interesting do-over on his own old hit Puppy Love. As Steven says, when you have real talent and a true understanding and feeling for the music, you can cross into most any genre. The only thing I haven’t seen Donny tackle is the standards, which sorely need him. At a time when we’ve got Rod Stewart mangling Porter and Michael Buble injecting too much sugar into Berlin, the American Songbooks need Donny Osmond.
So c’mon, folks. I know there are a lot of you out there who agree with me. Git yer Donny on and let’s start a movement. Download your favorite Donny Osmond songs and hold that iPod up high, no matter where you are. Tell the world, WE ARE DONNY NATION. Say it loud, Donny Fan and Proud!
NOTE: Here’s that Jeff Beck Ambitious video I told you about. Watch it and tell me if you don’t think Donny should be a rocker front man.