Cabaret singer and Delray Beach resident Deborah Silver came to South Florida by way of Mississippi, where she grew up in an environment saturated by the blues. It’s a sound that continues to infuse her sultry vocals, but so does the pop and punch of Broadway grandeur. These styles combine with Silver’s other influences, from soul to country, in her pair of albums—2014’s “Pure Silver” and her forthcoming “The Gold Standards.”
The latter, which releases Sept. 16, features 13 standards including “The Nearness of You,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Pennies From Heaven,” with jazz legend Jack Jones dueting on “I’ve Got a Crush on You.” If you order the albumon its release date, 100 percent of the sales will support research for ALS, a disease that has had a personal impact on Silver. She discusses her music, the new album and her ALS activism with Boca Raton.
What do you think accounts for the enduring popularity of these “gold standards” in an era of increasingly synthesized pop music?
These songs are well written and timeless. They have been recorded and re-recorded over the years by countless artists who have added their own interpretations. These composers were so talented that each song can transition into any time period, and through the years many have evolved into becoming standards of that decade as well. For example, look at Tony Bennett—he certainly has brought back an entire new audience for his music. and of course Michael Buble caught the interest of my children and their friends who are all listening to the music my parents listened to when I was young!
Do you have particular memories of the first time you heard these songs that have stuck with you?
My mother gave up a career as an opera singer in New York to marry my father and move to Mississippi. She had a beautiful soprano voice and was always singing to us, and it wasn’t opera; it was these wonderful gems from the Great American Songbook. I can remember cruising down the highway in Mississippi in our station wagon as she taught us hit after hit. She was better than the radio!
What is the signature “Silver spin” that you apply to these songs to make them your own?
Growing up in Mississippi, my preferences in music ran as wide as the Mississippi River. My personal musical activity ranged from humming hits from Earth, Wind and Fire and singing along with Streisand to dancing along with Liza to embracing my twang like Reba to feeling the soul of Luther Vandross. As I grew older, my tastes began to lean toward Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington, and the more I heard the strength and conviction in their vocals, the more I wanted to find my own place in the musical world. My signature “Silver spin” is taking a standard and changing it up a bit with a combination of all the styles I loved listening to while growing up.
Did you record your duet with Jack Jones in person or long-distance? What was he like to worth with?
We met in person and then of course, like many artists do, went back and forth electronically to get the optimal mix because we are both perfectionists. He was amazing to work with, and even though he is an industry legend, he couldn’t have been nicer. Jack has a great sense of humor and is completely charming. Coming from the hospitality state of Mississippi where everyone is so genuine, I loved finding out just how down-to-earth Jack is as well. I think that is one of the reasons why we clicked.
What brought you to Delray Beach? Can you thrive as a cabaret singer in Palm Beach County, away from the central hub of New York City?
My husband brought me to the east coast; I was living in Los Angeles before we married. Although I love living here, my musical career expands far beyond Palm Beach County. I perform all across the country, so where I live is secondary. There are certainly a lot of people living in this area who appreciate this style of music, and it is fun to be able to share it with them locally as well.
How did you come up with the idea to “SLAM” ALS?
In 2009, my sister, Marjie, was diagnosed with ALS. Since then, fighting this fatal disease has been our family’s mission. Beginning immediately after her diagnosis, my son and daughter started projects that have raised over $115,000 for research. However, we need millions to cure this horrendous disease that must be stopped. Unfortunately, it just can’t happen until we have enough funding to pay for that research. There are so many wonderful organizations out there that are helping the victims of this disease, but the bottom line is we need the money, and we need it yesterday.
We are taking our fight against ALS to a new level. My 17-year-old daughter, Madison, and I teamed up to create slamALS.org, a worldwide online challenge to raise funds for research which will go directly to the New York based nonprofit organization Project ALS. We felt a grassroots movement begun by a family who is desperate to cure ALS would be the fastest way to accomplish this and help save the lives of 450,000 people around the world with ALS.
The idea behind the name SLAM ALS is that ALS spelled backwards is SLA.
We added the M for:
1. Marjie—Madison’s aunt/my sister who is a victim of ALS
2. Month of May, ALS Awareness Month, is when we launched.
3. Madison and her Mommy—working together to help get this cure
4. Because we need a Miracle!
What are some of the most memorable “slams” that have been submitted?
Building on the viral success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, we are asking people to “SLAM” on social media and “SEND” a donation of which 100 percent will go toward a cure, challenging other individuals to do the same. Each week on our website, slamALS.org, we present the Slammy Award for the Slam of the Week. Our first Slam of the week was a student slamming his cold ice cream birthday cake in his face, instead of eating it. It spread quickly from Florida all the way to California and made the 11 p.m. news on CBS.
A few “SLAM”ples of “Celebrity SLAMbassadors” include talk show legend Larry King slamming his suspenders, rapper and television personality Vanilla Iceslamming “Ice Ice Baby” by knocking down an ice sculpture of the letters “ALS,” 10-time Tony Award-winner Tommy Tune slamming his tap shoes, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Chris Evert slamming her racket, legendary NFL defensive end Jason Taylor slamming air out of a football, UFC fighter Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort slamming a fighting kick and Miami Heat CaptainUdonis Haslem slam-dunking a basketball. Even the young members of the cast of “Matilda” on Broadway slammed their books shut for ALS and challenged the cast of “Hamilton” to do the same.
Other “SLAMples” of celebrities who have agreed to join the SLAM Team include: Kristin Chenoweth, who said she will slam a high note; Vegas magicians Penn and Teller informed us they were happy to create slam magic; comedian Caroline Rhea suggested she might hold a lamb and say the “S” is silent; with many more saying yes to SLAM ALS, including Angie Harmon, Dennis Miller, Richard Kind, Larry Gatlin, Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchelland former Laker and New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher.
We are grateful to everyone who has slammed for ALS and hope everyone reading this will do a slam of their own! If you want to skip the slam video, you can simply slam a check in the mail or slam your credit card number on the donate button. That is the best slam of ALS you could possibly do!
How much ALS funds are you hoping to raise on the Sept. 16 CD release day?
One dollar more than what it takes to cure this disease.
For more information about Deborah Silver, and to listen to samples from “The Gold Standards,” visit deborahsilvermusic.com.