eddie fisher

American Idol

Eddie Fisher
August 10, 1928-September 22, 2010

movie screenWhen Eddie Fisher died on September 22, at age 82, of complications from hip surgery, the obits inevitably centered on his tumultuous love life. Three high-profile marriages—to Debbie Reynolds, whom he dumped for Elizabeth Taylor, who dumped him for Richard Burton, following which he married Connie Stevens after impregnating her, but not before trying to back out, then reconsidering after the fan magazines began excoriating his boorish, irresponsible behavior—suddenly became the sum and substance of his character and his life.

Almost lost in the sensational headlines of his marital woes was Fisher's astounding run as a pop singer from 1948, when he broke in with Buddy Morrow's band as a 19-year-old lead vocalist, to his final Top 10 single, 1956's "Cindy, Oh Cindy." In those years he had no less than 39 Top 20 singles, four #1 singles, 18 others in the Top 10; his mid-1950 chart topper, "I'm Walking Behind You," was lodged in the top spot for seven weeks (outdoing by far a competing hit version by Frank Sinatra), and six months later, his "Oh! My Papa," an English version of a song from the Swiss musical Fireworks, had an eight-week run at #1; one of his other two Number One hits also enjoyed a multi-week stay at the top.

Eddie Fisher, 'Turn Back The Hands of Time,' his second Top 10 hit, at #8 in August 1951.

liz, eddie fisherInvariably dreamy and romantic, or cloyingly sentimental but sung with unswerving sincerity, Fisher's songs were always beautifully arranged and impeccably produced, with his warm tenor voice prominently miked in front of the swooning strings in a way that magnified the feeling in his subtle tonal shadings and enhanced the conviction in his heartfelt crooning. Never as brooding or as coolly assured as his contemporary, Sinatra, Fisher was an ideal voice for post-War, pre-rock 'n' roll American mainstream pop in that his personality never overwhelmed his material—the Hallmark messages were unsullied by personal complexities or subtext; they were what they seemed to be on the surface, and millions of fans responded to their easily accessible romanticism. His recording career was boosted immeasurably by his weekly visits to countless American homes on his NBC variety series, Coke Time with Eddie Fisher, but after his messy public divorce from Reynolds and subsequent marriage to newly widowed (and already twice divorced) Elizabeth Taylor (whose husband—and friend of Eddie—producer Mike Todd, died in a plane crash in 1958), NBC dropped him from its lineup in March 1959. He later unloaded on his famous ex-wives in two autobiographies, 1981's Eddie: My Life, My Loves, and in 1999 the far more explicit Been There, Done That. The latter's frank revelations of her father's sexual life prompted his daughter by Ms. Reynolds, the actress and author Carrie Fisher, to consider adopting her mother's surname and "having my DNA fumigated." However, Taylor and Reynolds had the last laugh—and many of them—in mercilessly skewering Fisher in a 2001 TV movie written by Carrie Fisher, Two Old Broads, that featured the two stars ridiculing an ex-husband they shared, named Freddie. Decades before that, though, even Jackie Kennedy, commenting on her public image to author William Manchester (The Death Of a President), said, "Anybody who is against me will look like a rat, unless I run off with Eddie Fisher!"—bespeaking a track record as a symbol of marital malfeasance virtually without equal in the tawdry annals of show biz.

Eddie Fisher, 'I'm Walking Behind You,' a #1 single for three weeks in mid-1953, outpacing a competing version by Frank Sinatra.

Although Fisher recorded only sporadically after 1957 (his last chart record was 1967's "Now I Know," at a lowly 131), he continued to perform in major concert halls and Las Vegas showrooms. His final commercially available recordings were cut in 1984 for the Bainbridge label, for an album titled After All that Fisher tried to have stopped from being released. His last, still unreleased studio sessions came in 1995 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; according to the arranger-conductor for those sessions, Vincent Falcone, writing in his 2005 autobiography Frankly: Just Between Us, Fisher had done "the best singing of his life" with the Orchestra.

In addition to his marriages to Reynolds, Taylor and Stevens, Fisher had a one-year marriage to Terry Richard (1975-1976) and from 1993 to 2001 was married to Betty Lin, who predeceased him. By Reynolds he had two children, daughter Carrie and son Todd; by Stevens, two daughters, the actress Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher.

Eddie Fisher has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for his musical career, one for his television career.

Eddie Fisher, 'Oh! My Papa' (1954), a #1 single for eight weeks in late 1953

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