Along with David Cassidy and The Bay City Rollers and armed with a sequin encrusted gleaming white jump suit whose sparkle was matched only by his teeth, Donny Osmond and his all-singing, all-dancing, dentally blessed brothers The Osmonds, became one of the most successful pop acts of all time. Between 1971 and 1978 The Osmonds sold some 25 million records and rivaled that other all-singing and dancing family, The Jacksons, for the hearts of American female teenagers.
Donald Clark Osmond was born in Ogden, Utah on December 9 1957. He was the seventh of eight brothers and one sister. In 1962, Donny’s older brothers Wayne, Alan, Merril and Jay were performing regularly at Disneyland in California, this led to a career-forming stint on the Andy Williams TV show for nine years as the in-house, cute, pre-teen boy band. Donny would join the group towards the end of the show’s run at the tender age of five. The group recorded unsuccessfully for Williams’ Barnaby label. They also embarked on a non-headline grabbing tour with country crooner Pat Boone.
By 1970 the group had lost their way. Their sound was decidedly middle-of-the-road and they were being left behind by their funkier and hipper rivals the Jackson Five with finger-snapping tunes, such as “I Want You Back” and “ABC”. In the wake of the success of The Jacksons, The Osmond’s manager signed them to MGM Records and set about recording the group in a more contemporary manner. Producer Rick Hall was hired and the result was the band’s first ever American Number One, the 1971 single “Bad Apple” - a song originally recorded by The Jackson 5! A string of international hits followed, mostly produced by Hall, including “Yo-Yo”, “Down by the Lazy River”, 1972’s whip-crackin’ Crazy Horses and 1974’s Love Me for a Reason.
In parallel with the group’s hits, Donny began a solo career. He recorded the Gerry Goffin and Carole King penned “Go Away Little Girl” and “Hey, Girl” before his biggest solo hit, 1972’s U.K. number one “Puppy Love”. “Too Young” and “Why” followed before further number-one hits with both “The Twelfth of Never” and “Young Love”. As a solo star, Donny was now as popular as his brothers.
By 1976 Donny also began recording with his sister, Marie, who had now joined the group. After they guest co-hosted an entertainment show on U.S. TV, an ABC executive offered them their own show. Donny and Marie accepted under one condition, the whole family would be involved. With the strapline "”She’s a little bit country; he’s a little bit rock and roll”, The Donny and Marie Show ran for four years and was a huge success. During the show’s run, Donny met and married Debra Glenn in 1978 and started a family. But in 1979 the show was cancelled, leading to further misfortune for the Osmond family when bad accountancy led them into debt and near bankruptcy. The family managed to pull together and come through it, but it coincided with a relatively lean period in Donny’s career.
Donny turned to acting and in 1982 he made his Broadway debut in a revival of George M. Cohan’s Little Johnny Jones. “I opened and closed that show in one night!” remembers Donny. Musical experiments with Jeff Beck, Boy George and Chicago followed on subsequent albums with little commercial success. Hope was around the corner though in the shape of an anonymous white label. By now U.S. radio stations refused to play Donny Osmond records so Donny and his manager decided to release his next single, “Soldier of Love” as a white label only release. It’s George Michael-ish, synth-based, funk beats proved a hit with listeners who bombarded radio stations demanding to know the identity of the artist. The tune returned Donny to the charts and a career high. Since then he has juggled the twin careers of music and acting, embarking on a successful U.S. stage run as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat up until the mid-‘90s. He also teamed up again with sister, Marie, in 1998 for a daytime talk show which ran for two years.
His latest (54th) album, 2004’s What I Meant to Say, shares song writing credits with soul legend Bobby Womack and ex-Take That-er, Gary Barlow. It’s a return to the kind of polish in which Donny excels and features, appropriately enough, in a cover of George Michael’s “Faith”. Donny has released a new single, “Breeze on By”, which reached Number Eight on the U.K. charts.