Steve Lawrence Announces Alzheimer's Diagnosis: A Look Back at the Singer's Extraordinary Life
The 83-year-old crooner opened up about his recent Alzheimer's diagnosis on Tuesday
Despite his recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Steve Lawrence has lived a life full of unforgettable moments.
In a letter released by his spokesman Howard Bragman on Tuesday, the 83-year-old crooner, best known as a member of the musical duo “Steve and Eydie” with his late wife Eydie Gormé, opened up about his recent diagnosis and how he has been coping with the news.
“Dear Friends, There have been a number of rumors and some press reaching out to me and I feel it’s important that I tell my own truth,” Lawrence wrote in the letter obtained by PEOPLE. “I have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s in the early stages. I am being treated with medications under the supervision of some of the finest doctors in the filed. Fortunately, they have managed to slow down this horrific process. I’m living my life, going out in public and trying to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends while I am still able to engage and enjoy.”
Lawrence was born Sidney Liebowitz in Brooklyn in 1935 to parents Max, a cantor, and Helen Liebowitz. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School in New York City, where he began studying piano, saxophone, composition and arranging.
At the age of 16, Lawrence made his recording debut for King Records with the track, “Mine and Mine Alone,” which was based on “Softly Awakes My Heart” from Samson & Delilah.
In 1953, Lawrence got his big break when he earned a spot as a singer on Steve Allen’s original Tonight Show, where he met, sang with and eventually married Gormé. Lawrence and Gormé were frequently paired up for duets on the show and by 1954, they released their first single as co-headliners, “Make Yourself Comfortable.”
Three years later, in 1957, Lawrence and Gormé got married in Las Vegas. For the next few years, the couple’s joint appearances — in which they sang popular hits of the day and exchanged personal banter — at nightclubs and on stages steadily grew their popularity.
By 1958, Lawrence and Gormé even briefly had their own summer TV show, The Steve Lawrence-Eydie Gormé Show, but it was canceled after one season when Lawrence was drafted into the Army. While stationed in Washington, D.C., Lawrence became the singer in the Army Band-Orchestra, “Pershing’s Own.” During that time, Gormé performed at nightclubs around where Lawrence was stationed.
After Lawrence’s discharge from the Army in 1960, the “Steve and Eydie” act was back in full swing and the title track of their first duo album, We Got Us, won them a Grammy award in 1961. (Gormé later went on to win a second Grammy for her solo recording of “If He Walked Into My Life” in 1966.)
“Dean Martin nailed us with that thing,” Lawrence told Closer of their moniker, “Steve and Eydie,” in 2014. “When I’d come into a restaurant, he would call me ‘Steve and Eydie’ — just me! And if Edie was behind me, he’d say ‘Hey, Steve and Eydie and Eydie!’”
The couple welcomed their first son, High School Musical composer David Lawrence, 59, in 1960. Their second son, Michael, whom they welcomed in 1962, died at the age of 23 in 1986 from an undiagnosed heart condition.
During the 1960s, Lawrence and Gormé were also finding solo success outside of their joint act. In 1962, Lawrence released his hit, “Go Away Little Girl.” A year later, Gormé scored a spot on the Billboard charts with “Blame It on the Bossa Nova.”
In 1967, the couple reunited to record their album, Together on Broadway, and then co-starred in the Broadway music Golden Rainbow from 1968 to 1969. They made their final singles chart appearance in 1972 with “We Can Make It Together” featuring the Osmonds.
Between the 1960s and 1980s, Lawrence also made several TV appearances on programs like The Judy Garland Show, The Julie Andrews Hour, The Carol Burnett Show, The Flip Wilson Show and Murder, She Wrote. In 1979, he and Gormé won an Emmy award in the outstanding variety program for their special, Steve & Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin.
Lawrence continued his career on camera by appearing as agent Maury Sline in the 1980 film, The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. He later reprised the role in the 1998 sequel, Blues Brothers 2000.
In 1990, Lawrence and Gormé released the album, Alone Together, on their own label, GL Music, and also guested on the Frank Sinatra Diamond Jubilee Tour in celebration of the singer’s 75th birthday.
“Steve and Eydie represent all that is good about performers and the interpretation of a song,” longtime pal Sinatra told The New York Times in 1992. “They’re the best.”
Along with Sinatra, the couple counted entertainers like Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Carol Burnett and Johnny Carson among their friends.
On Aug. 10, 2013, Lawrence’s life was forever changed when Gormé died from a brief illness just six days shy of her 85th birthday.
“Eydie has been my partner on stage and in life for more than 55 years,” he said in a statement shared with PEOPLE at the time. “I fell in love with her the moment I saw her and even more the first time I heard her sing.”
He added: “While my personal loss is unimaginable, the world has lost one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time.”
After Gormé’s death, Lawrence went on to appear on an episode of Two and a Half Men alongside Carl Reiner, Tim Conway and Garry Marshall.
In the episode, Lawrence, Marshall and Conway play Reiner’s character’s friends who help him celebrate his last days of bachelorhood.
Until now, Lawrence has lived a largely quiet life since the death of Gormé. While announcing his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, he made clear that he was not looking for “pity or sympathy” in this “bittersweet” moment though.
“I have lived and am living a wonderful, joyous life filled with love, support, and amazing moments,” he said. “With my beloved Eydie, I had one of the great loves of all time; my career has always been there for me as a source of joy and fulfillment; and you, my fans, have shown immeasurable love and support in ways I only could have imagined.”
“As I continue this journey, I ask for your prayers, your good wishes and implore you to find the joy every day, because what I feel is gratitude, love and hope — nothing more and nothing less, and I hope you can find the same,” he concluded. “With love, Steve Lawrence.”