But, where showbiz is concerned, Steve Lawrence isn’t just any 78-year-old.
“To my knowledge, it’s over 50-something, and my first in 10 years, at least,” the familiar voice, calculating the number of albums he’s released since his first in 1953, tells PEOPLE from the home in Las Vegas he and his late wife Eydie Gorme shared since 1980.
Titled When You Come Back to Me Again, after the Garth Brooks song on the lead track, the new album contains 10 songs and, according to Lawrence, has him “surrounded with a new sound.”
Not that the listener should expect One Direction. “I can’t compete with the kids,” Lawrence admits, “but they can’t compete with me.”
In addition to some Elton John (The Lion King‘s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”) and other relatively recent hits, “I picked a handful of old songs that escaped me back in the day,” says Lawrence. These include those made famous by Nat “King” Cole (“That Sunday, That Summer”), Ruby and the Romantics (“Our Day Will Come”) and Mama Cass (“Dream a Little Dream of Me”).
“He’s a legend and one of the few that still sings like a young man,” the album’s producer, Ron Dante, tells PEOPLE. It was Dante, co-producer of Barry Manilow’s early hits, who two years ago called Lawrence out of the blue and proposed the album – which they actually finished a year ago.
“Eydie heard it,” said Lawrence. She said, ‘Honey, it sounds wonderful.’ ”
She and Lawrence, undoubtedly the most successful husband-and-wife musical duo in history, had already retired the act, but as his album was being prepped for release, Gorme’s health took a turn. Mike Curb, head of the record label, agreed to put the project on hold.
Gorme died last August. She and Lawrence had been married for 56 years.
‘I Thought She Would Outlive Me’
“I swear to God, I thought she’d outlive me. She was so strong,” said Lawrence. “We were literally joined at the hip. Dean Martin used to call me, even if I was by myself, ‘Hey, Steve and Eydie.’ When you have a wonderful life together like we did, it makes it all the more difficult. ”
Over the past few months, he says, “It’s been tough, but life goes on. I’m not saying there aren’t moments when I don’t lose it, but I try to be alone when that happens.”
One thing Lawrence, who used to exercise his comedic chops on The Carol Burnett Show, did recently was a Two and a Half Men episode that aired Jan. 30. Along with Garry Marshall and Tim Conway, he played a buddy of the Carl Reiner character, who married the mother on the show (Holland Taylor).
As for the album, he and Curb agreed the time was finally right to release it for this Valentine’s Day. It is available as of Tuesday, exclusively as a CD on Amazon.com.
It also contains a Valentine all its own. Marked plainly on the CD cover: “This album is dedicated to my beloved wife Eydie Gorme.”