Q&A: Marie Osmond
Yes, we know—she’s a little bit country. And a lot more than that. Five-plus decades on stages and in recording studios—and into her ninth year at the Flamingo with bro Donny—seemingly ageless Marie Osmond’s performing passion hasn’t waned. Last year, she recorded Music is Medicine, her first album since 2010, benefitting the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals she co-founded. Recently, Las Vegas Magazine’s Steve Bornfeld caught up with the enduring Strip fixture:
I’ve already seen you on my TV three times this morning in Nutrisystem commercials. Is it OK that people associate you with the phrase, “Lose your belly fat”?
They’re subtle, aren’t they! I did this video, Music is Medicine, and I’m an alien in it and I’m dancing with all these children from Children’s Hospital. All these kids 10 and under, they have no idea that I’ve sung songs for five decades, they just think I’m the Nutrisystem chick. Now I’m a really cool alien and they like me!
Five decades—that kind of longevity defies the odds. Did you ever envision such a long-lasting career?
I was talking with Olivia (Newton-John) and there are not many women in our business we can relate to who have been around as long as we have. It was a fun conversation because we said, “You know, we’ve done everything from the Olympics to Carnegie Hall, performing for kings and queens, all over the world.” I was joking around with Donny onstage the other night and I said there’s only one other sibling duo besides him and me that have done what we’ve done and that’s the Carpenters. There’s Michael and Janet (Jackson) but they didn’t really record together and do shows together on television and Vegas. I told Donny I really liked Richard Carpenter because he never spoke—he’s such an easy target!
Olivia was one of your duet partners on Music is Medicine. Why was this album so personal for you?
We said there is nothing we love more than giving back. She does it for breast cancer awareness and her animal causes and for me it’s children. People won’t know me in 50 years, they won’t care who I am, but they will remember Children’s Miracle Network, and my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will remember that Grandma started that. Those are the things that are important to me as far as a legacy. The best part is that 100 percent of the money goes local, all to the kids. There’s no charity like it.
How did the Children’s Miracle Network come about?
I started it with John Schneider. I was dating John at the time and things were great, and then I found out he was just using me to get to Donny—I’m teasing!—John is a very dear friend. We realized there were all these great causes. People should be able to use whatever popularity they have to influence kids’ lives. They never turn a child away. It’s a beautiful philosophy they have. We help 11 million kids a year. Every minute, 62 children enter a children’s hospital, so it’s a little over a child a second. We’ve raised $5.6 billion dollars to date.
How has fan reaction been to Music is Medicine?
I’ve had nurses and doctors and people who have been struggling and they say they play the (title) song all the time because it brings them great hope and joy. I do the song at the Flamingo and you can see the audience enjoy it. Music is healing, isn’t it?
Unlike some Vegas shows, yours is very connected to the audience in the way you bond with them. How do you make that connection?
We learned from some of the greatest entertainers that have existed--from Frank Sinatra to Sammy Davis Jr. to Elvis Presley, we worked with them all. And the young ones—on our talk show we debuted Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson. We have been multigenerational. But that room at the Flamingo, it’s not a room (a classic showroom rather than a theater) that a lot of people like to play in because people like to stand and sing. But that room lends itself to entertainment and connection. People appreciate that. But that’s us—we just keep it moving.
Onstage you both joke about your TV show in the 1970s. Do you enjoy reminiscing about that long-ago era?
It was a fun and personable show and such an innocent era of television. I had a girl say to me at a meet-and-greet, “Marie I grew up in a very abusive home and it was Friday nights (when the show aired) that saved me.”
You once said that age should never define your music. What did you mean?
We have people who grew up with “Paper Roses.” I was (13) years old when I recorded it. Then I had a bunch of hits with my brother. Then I had a bunch of hits on my own, into my 30s, like “There’s No Stopping Your Heart,” “Read My Lips,” “Meet Me in Montana.” Then I did Broadway—The King and I and The Sound of Music and learned to sing a different way. Now we have 25-year-olds coming to the show, bringing their moms who were in love with my brother and grew up with us, and even kids 7 and 8 seeing us for the first time, and it’s good as long as the songs still sound “radio,” like something they can relate to. There’s a change in the sound as you get older—so stay in shape, keep your vocal cords tight, it takes a lot of work. But if it’s a great song it transcends. That’s the power of music and it should never be defined by age. I know they may seem a little dated maybe but to me, it’s the dated that makes it fun.
Yet as the years pass, does the way you interpret them change?
Life matters. There’s a song called “Getting Better All the Time” with Olivia on my album, doing a duet and the song is beautiful. But we were laughing in the studio, saying you could never sing this song legitimately at 20 or 30—even 40 is questionable. You have to have that road under you, you have to have the sorrows and the joys that define your legitimacy in singing those words. I’m putting it into the Christmas show because of the loss of my son (Michael Blosil, who died in 2010). I think it’s a song people can relate to, and I could have sung that song before but not like I can sing it now.
Looking back and looking forward, how do you view your career right at this moment?
We’re at that age now where we might have been working longer than a lot of artists. When you start getting into five decades at our age, we might be breaking some records. If you’re around that long you better be current and you better be fresh and you better be good. Vegas isn’t a place you play around with. At this point in my life, I feel I’m one of those females that God has been very good to and I have learned a lot of great things and now I just do things that bring me happiness.
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