A ‘Soldier of Love’ brings his tour to town
By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
While he may not remember the last time he stepped foot in San Diego, Donny Osmond sure knows what kind of a show he plans to put on for San Diegans on Sunday, Jan. 31, at the historic Balboa Theatre Downtown.
Called “The Soundtrack of My Life Tour,” Osmond prefers not to refer to it as a “concert,” or consider it merely a tour to support his new album of the same name.
“This is more a spectacle … that’s probably too big of a word,” he said. “It’s probably more of [a] musical celebration of 50-plus years.”
That is a reference to the five decades that Osmond has been performing, and “The Soundtrack of my Life” — an anthology of popular songs released during his lifetime — is his 60th album. The record includes eight remakes and three original tracks, with three additional remakes on a deluxe version.
“And yes, I am promoting an album, but people want to hear the hits,” he said. “You have to put a nice pace to the show together.”
Osmond was originally set to perform in San Diego last September, but he had emergency vocal surgery in August by the same laryngologist who brought Adele and Sam Smith back to the stage.
The career crooner bested his sister Marie’s 2007 appearance on the popular “Dancing With the Stars” show when he took home the mirror ball trophy in 2009. It was in between these two appearances the pair also began tearing up the Las Vegas strip with a stage version of The Donny and Marie Show. Now in their eighth — and apparently final — year of the award-winning residence at the Flamingo Hilton, Osmond said the tour he is bringing to San Diego is a combination of his chart-topping hits, his new album, his Vegas show, and just some good old-fashioned downtime with the audience. He said he spends close to 10 minutes interacting with the crowd during the “purple card segment,” cards handed out to random attendees before the show to ask questions or make requests.
“I was raised with variety and putting on a show,” he said, adding that at 14, watching Elvis Presley on stage influenced him greatly.
“He had the audience in the palm of his hand,” he said. “There were moments where he just [Donny launches into Elvis’ voice singing “Love Me Tender”] and all that he brought, the dynamics of the show and then BOOM [he drops into Elvis’s voice once again. “We’re Caught in a Trap”] and the place was going crazy.
“So it really affected me,” he said. “I thought, ‘this is a show.’”
The website donny.com is a wealth of information about the pop star. Along with links to his personal accounts on social media, it also offers a discography with photos from every decade of his career; links to his performance schedules; teasers for his current album; a complete list of Donny (and Marie) in the news; and a link to donnyosmond.com, “Donny Osmond Home,” a business venture with his wife that includes home furnishings, home improvement, blogs, etc.
There is another section on the website that many could, at face value, find fault with; a space where Osmond talks about what it means to be Mormon.
Simply called, “My Beliefs,” this section is done so thoughtfully and presented so carefully, however, it is difficult to find fault with him. In fact, it is much easier to find renewed respect for the courageous way he has chosen to bridge the gap between his deeply held beliefs and his very public life and the diversity of his fans.
“I thought it was one of those things that was actually necessary,” he said. “Back in the ’70s [being Mormon] was pretty obscure. People didn’t really have a lot of knowledge about what it really was. Many thought it was a cult, some people still do.”
He said the section is there if people are interested in finding it.
“I’m certainly not going to shove it down people’s throats, because religion is such a personal thing,” he said. “But it gives me an opportunity to answer a lot of these questions and put to bed the erroneous propaganda that is out there. But I really am very careful not to talk about it in public and I definitely don’t talk about it on stage.”
Osmond said he was well aware of the Mormon Church’s recent decision declaring gays as ‘apostates’ and barring their children from baptism within the church.
“That’s quite controversial what the church came out with regarding children,” he said. “Thousands have left. It’s a real tough issue.”
He said some of his best friends are gay and he even has four openly gay staff working on his tour. He said he “thinks it’s wonderful” that they no longer have to “hide or feel ashamed.”
“My make-up artist and my dresser Jake, he’s actually a Mormon and he is openly gay,” Osmond said. “We have the greatest conversations and we have the best relationship. He’s like my brother and I just love the guy.”
He also addressed “8,” the film made by Dustin Lance Black, also raised Mormon, whose original research for a film on homeless LGBT youth changed directions once he found how many of them were Mormons thrown out of their homes.
“Oh my goodness,” Osmond said, learning the news. “See, that’s where people go wrong,” he said. “You embrace them. You love them.”
So what about those purple socks?
“We were playing these stadiums and arenas and with all the people in the nosebleed sections, no one could see who was who,” he said, adding that as a result, his mother decided to give everyone a color.
“My original color was yellow, I’m so glad they changed it,” he said.
The socks themselves, however, weren’t originally part of that plan.
“One Christmas, I think it was 1974, there was a big sale going on at K-Mart; a blue light special, and there were all of these purple socks,” he explained. “As a joke present, my mom and my sister were out shopping and they said, ‘let’s just get Donny these since his color is purple.”
And there you have it.
The CD cover of “The Soundtrack of my Life” shows a pensive “adult” Donny Osmond — the singer is now 57 — dressed in a suit and looking down while adjusting his cuff links. The image is overlaid on a screened image of a much younger Osmond, wearing a big cuff-style shirt of the 1970s, also looking pensive but directly at the camera.
The thoughtfulness seen on the cover comes across inside the record.
“To do an album like this and take classics and touch upon them is kind of a bold move because if you do it just like the original, then you’re basically doing karaoke and I’m not interested in that,” Osmond said.
The compilation is an interesting one and offers the listener a great deal of diversity — not only in the selections and style of the music, but also his voice.
Starting with a list of 300 songs, Osmond said over the course of a year, he and his producer, Eliot Kennedy, tailored the list down to the final 14 he chose and discussed how to approach each one.
“The criteria were that each song had to have a significant story as to why I was recording it and covering it and then I had to take that song and make it my own,” he said.
Though many of the songs were written by those considered his peers, many were superstars in their own right long before he was.
“Let’s take for instance ‘The Long and Winding Road,’” he said. “How do you improve on Paul’s performance? You can’t. So you just make it your own.”
Other songs on the record include “My Cherie Amour,” with Stevie Wonder playing harmonica; Elton John’s “Your Song”; “Ben,” originally written for Osmond but made famous by Michael Jackson; Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up”; “Baby Love” by the Supremes; and “Nothing Compares to You” by Prince; among many other tracks, including three Osmond and Kennedy wrote, including “Survivor,” a song about his own survival.
His personal connections to each song are listed on the liner notes of the record and also on a new app (simply called, “Donny Osmond”) created specifically for the album, now available for download through either iOS or Android devices. The app offers short clips of each song along (including the deluxe selections) with the liner notes for each song. It is a great introduction for anyone interested in “The Soundtrack of My Life.”
Looking back at his career, Osmond contemplated what he’d have done differently.
“I wouldn’t have worn the purple socks,” he said, laughing.
Donny Osmond and “The Soundtrack of My Life Tour” perform at the Balboa Theatre, located 868 Fourth Ave., Downtown, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. For tickets, visit sandiegotheatres.org.
—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at email@example.com.