Debby Boone’s first Concord Records release, Reflections of Rosemary, is an intimate musical portrait of her mother-in-law, the legendary singer Rosemary Clooney. The CD is a collection of fourteen tunes distinguished by Boone’s strong, striking vocal talents and a very personal, emotionally rich story line. “I wanted to select songs that would give an insight into Rosemary from a family perspective, and from the more than 30 years that I spent with her,” says Boone. Although some songs were either recorded or often performed onstage by the “Girl Singer,” including Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo,” and Sammy Cahn and Jule Stynes’ “Time After Time,” Boone included other tunes for more personal family reasons-all of which are lovingly and beautifully described in the liner notes for Reflections of Rosemary.
Boone movingly details why she included each song on the CD, from Clooney’s respect for Frank Sinatra (“In The Wee Small House of the Morning”), to a song the family agreed expressed their feelings for Rosemary and her home, fondly referred to as “The Roxbury House” (Randy Newman’s haunting and deceptively simple “I’ll Be Home”). “Blue Skies,” for example, has special meaning for Debby’s son, Jordan. “He was the first of Rosemary’s grandchildren and the relationship they shared for twenty-two years was one of pure joy,” explains Boone. “When Jordan was two years old, Rosemary began singing the song to him. He loved it! She would sing it to him when he was sad, when he took a fall and was crying, anytime he needed his spirits lifted. She’d call him from the road, and he’d listen to her sing it, and it never failed to put a big bright smile on his face.”
Boone tips her hat to fate when she performs “It Might As Well Be Spring,” a song from the movie “State Fair.” The screen version of the musical starred her father, Pat Boone, and was directed by her future father-in-law, Jose Ferrer. Debby says, “When Pat and Jose were working together all those years ago and fast becoming friends, little did they know that 24-years later they would share four grandchildren.” And for her husband, Gabriel, Debby selected a joyous expression of love in the Jule Styne / Bob Merrill song, “The Music That Makes Me Dance.”
Boone amusingly relates how Clooney used to laugh at her lengthy vocalizing before each show. The extent of Rosemary’s vocal warm-up was a quick pass at the opening melody from “The Best is Yet to Come.” “One good cough and she’d head for the stage,” laughs Debby. Rosemary’s presence can be felt as Boone sings Dave Frischberg and Johnny Mandel’s treasure, “You Are There,” while Clooney’s good friend, Bing Crosby, is remembered on the CD with the medley from Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, “But Beautiful / Moonlight Becomes You / Like Someone In Love.” And, “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” has special meaning for John Oddo, Clooney’s longtime arranger and musical director, as well as the conductor and pianist on Reflections of Rosemary - it was the first tune he ever arranged for Rosemary.
Reflections of Rosemary was produced by Clooney’s long-time producer/manager Allen Sviridoff, who helped to fill the CD with musicians who had meant a great deal to Rosemary throughout her career. In addition to John Oddo, there are special guest appearances by tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton and guitarist John Pizzarelli, both of whom toured and recorded with Clooney. Throughout the CD, Boone’s beautiful vocals are accompanied by Gary Foster (alto and tenor saxophone), Warren Luening (trumpet, flugelhorn), Chuck Berghofer (bass), Gregg Field (drums), Jim Fox (guitar) and Daniel Greco (percussionist). Cellist Armen Ksajikian appears on “I’ll Be Home;” Dan Higgins appears on “I’m So Lonesome I could Cry” (tenor sax) and on “It Might Be As Well Be Spring” (alto flute).
Debby Boone earned instant fame in 1977 when “You Light Up My Life” became an overnight hit. The tune, which outranked even The Beatles by claiming the Number One spot on the Billboard charts for ten straight weeks, sold in excess of four million copies; the album went platinum with sales in excess of two million. The song went on to win an Academy Award for Best Song in a Motion Picture, and Debby received the Grammy Award for Best New Artist of the Year. Since her remarkable entree into the music industry, she has won two additional Grammy Awards and has received seven Grammy nominations.
In addition to her recording career, Debby has starred as the lead in numerous stage productions, such as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” on Broadway and as Maria in Lincoln Center’s 30th Anniversary production of The Sound of Music, which garnered a Drama Desk nomination. She also starred as Rizzo in the Broadway production of Grease, and toured nationally in Meet Me in St. Louis. Most recently, Debby performed the role of Anna in the 50th Anniversary staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I and launched her symphony program “Debby Boone Sings Stage and Screen.” Debby has also written six charming children’s books in collaboration with her husband, Gabriel Ferrer, who created the illustrations for the best-selling series.
This latest project, Reflections of Rosemary, is clearly more than just a performance for Debby Boone, however. It is a deeply heart-felt tribute to a woman for whom she had great love and respect.