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Entertainment superstar Donny Osmond came of age in the mid-1970s - an era of long-haired rock stars and sexual liberation. But Osmond and the rest of his performing siblings, with their traditional Mormon upbringing, had more in common with the previous generation. They favored the style of gracious song and dance men with canned stage patter, over the increasingly popular style of youthful rebellion. Fortunately, even the rebellious, hedonistic decade of the seventies needed perky entertainers who said "yes, sir" as much as it needed angry delinquents, and Osmond was able to parlay being an affable man of faith and family into more than four decades of solid work on stage and screen. He released an astonishing 54 albums, with total sales of over 80 million units. He hosted talk shows and game shows. He performed thousands of musical theater performances, wowing audiences with his skillful range. And he never made headlines for doing anything bawdy, inappropriate or illegal. Not many entertainers who grew up from childhood in the public eye could lay claim to that feat.Donald Clark Osmond came into the world on Dec. 9, 1957, in Ogden, UT. The future teen heartthrob was the seventh of eight sons born...
Entertainment superstar Donny Osmond came of age in the mid-1970s - an era of long-haired rock stars and sexual liberation. But Osmond and the rest of his performing siblings, with their traditional Mormon upbringing, had more in common with the previous generation. They favored the style of gracious song and dance men with canned stage patter, over the increasingly popular style of youthful rebellion. Fortunately, even the rebellious, hedonistic decade of the seventies needed perky entertainers who said "yes, sir" as much as it needed angry delinquents, and Osmond was able to parlay being an affable man of faith and family into more than four decades of solid work on stage and screen. He released an astonishing 54 albums, with total sales of over 80 million units. He hosted talk shows and game shows. He performed thousands of musical theater performances, wowing audiences with his skillful range. And he never made headlines for doing anything bawdy, inappropriate or illegal. Not many entertainers who grew up from childhood in the public eye could lay claim to that feat.
Donald Clark Osmond came into the world on Dec. 9, 1957, in Ogden, UT. The future teen heartthrob was the seventh of eight sons born to prolific reproducers George and Olive Osmond - both devoted Mormons. Osmond's ideal co-host would arrive two years later in the form of a younger sister named Marie. The elder Osmond brothers - Wayne, Alan, Merrill, and Jay - had already begun singing locally by 1962, when an impromptu performance during a visit to Disneyland caught Walt's attention. Walt pulled some strings, and The Osmonds found themselves performing on the "The Andy Williams Show" (NBC, 1962-67), in a guest slot they would enjoy regularly for five years. Young Donny joined the act in 1963, one day after his sixth birthday. With his cute puppy-dog looks and brilliant smile - all the Osmonds were gloriously toothy - to say nothing of his charming, youthful falsetto - it was obvious that a star had been born.
While The Osmonds were regular fixtures on Williams' show and "The Jerry Lewis Show" (NBC, 1965-67) throughout the 1960s, they were also building a sizable fan base in Sweden by latching onto popular Swedish singer, Lars Lönndahl. In 1970, legendary R&B producer Rick Hall handed the fresh-faced kids a song to record, a Jackson Five sound-alike called "One Bad Apple." The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 6 on the R&B chart in the spring of 1971. They had finally found a break-through formula for The Osmonds - a take on the popular bubblegum soul brothers. Much like the Jackson Five whom they were modeled after, the youngest and cutest brother quickly spun off into a solo act and a teen heartthrob. He was only 14 when he released The Donny Osmond Album, and scored his first top ten hit with the aptly titled "Sweet & Innocent." Osmond was capable of near-Beatles hysteria in the States and Great Britain during the early '70s, following his string of million-selling singles like "Go Away Little Girl," "Too Young," and the song that would haunt him forever - "Puppy Love."
Meanwhile, the overworked teen was still active with his hit-making brothers, who churned out a trio of gold records in quick succession - Homemade, Phase III and Live between 1971-72. Osmond's face was all over the covers of Tiger Beat and 16 magazines. Before long, he was joined by the similarly toothy grin of his sister Marie. In 1973, with her first single "Paper Roses," Marie had become the youngest singer ever to hit No. 1 on the Billboard country music charts. Her brother joined her in the studio and the two churned out the albums I'm Leaving It All Up to You and Make the World Go Away in 1974 and 1975. They had smash hits with "Deep Purple" and "Make the World Go Away," popular standards from their parents' day, which cemented their image as squeaky-clean teen entertainment.
In 1976, ABC offered the duo their own prime time variety show after they received an overwhelming response to a stint guest-hosting "The Mike Douglas Show" (CBS, 1961-1982). "Donny & Marie"(ABC, 1976-79) was originally developed by psychedelic kiddie show masterminds, Sid and Marty Krofft of "HR Pufnstuf," (NBC, 1969-1971) fame, but the Osmond family eventually won creative control of the show and relocated the production away from the dangers of Hollywood to the safe confines of Orem, UT. The show's format was similar to other variety shows of the time, with light comedy skits, painfully scripted banter between acts, and for some inexplicable reason, a weekly figure skating routine by performers, The Ice Vanities. The show's most memorable feature, no matter how hard viewers would try to forget it, was a medley which invariably opened with the duet "I'm a little bit country/I'm a little bit rock and roll," before launching into songs that were actually neither. Each Friday night show ended with a flood of balloons and blessing from the siblings to their loyal audience, who at this point were buying en mass, millions of dollars worth of records, dolls, lunchboxes and other Donny & Marie branded items. Despite efforts to update the show and give it a disco injection, ratings dove in 1978, partly because Osmond had a serious girlfriend - future wife Debbie Glenn - and was "off the market." The show morphed into "The Osmonds," then simply "Marie," and by 1982 there wasn't an Osmond-oriented program anywhere on the fall lineup.
The mid-1980s were a difficult period for Osmond, who by his twenties had already endured the entire life cycle of entertainers twice his age. He took an unfortunate stab at Broadway in a remake of "Little Johnny Jones" that opened and closed on the very same night. It was not until a chance meeting with Peter Gabriel in the late 1980s, that Osmond would regain his entertainment bearings. The former Genesis frontman and solo artist, after confessing that he had always really liked Osmond's voice, took him under his production wing and helped him create the album, Soldier of Love. Osmond surprised everyone who perceived him as a fluffy AM radio relic with an album that was fresh and contemporary. The single "Soldier of Love" and the follow-up "Sacred Emotion" jettisoned to the top of the Billboard charts and Osmond was officially welcomed back to the music world - this time as an adult - when he was named "Top Pop Male Artist of the Year" in 1989. Although back in the spotlight and with a bit more street cred this time, he was still a little gun shy about Broadway when he was offered the lead in Andrew Lloyd Weber's, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Thankfully, he got over his nerves and signed a six-month contract, which eventually turned into six years of touring and a total of over 2,000 performances to great acclaim.
In 1998, he and Marie reunited for a new version of "The Donny and Marie Show" (Syndicated, 1998-2000) - a talk and entertainment format with celebrity and non-celebrity guests. For the first time, the engaging chemistry between the siblings was evident and audiences were given a chance to meet the real Donny and Marie behind the canned jokes 20 from years earlier. This was also TV in the post-Oprah world, so it was naturally revealed that Osmond suffered from Anxiety Disorder and panic attacks; Marie from eating disorders, childhood molestation, and post-partum depression.
The siblings hosted the Miss America Pageant in 1999, but despite their growing popularity and five Daytime Emmy nominations, their talk show was canceled after its second season. Osmond's career had now taken on a pattern that any entertainer would be envious of - musical theater/television show host/recording artist. Repeat. In the early part of the 2000's Osmond put on his "recording artist" hat and released a collection of Broadway tunes called, This is the Moment; the platinum selling CD and live concert DVD, "Somewhere in Time;" and the "unplugged" recording, What I Meant To Say.
Using his other skill - his pleasant, versatile speaking voice - he contributed voice-over to Disney's 1998 animated hit "Mulan," before dusting off his "host" hat for several years on the syndicated game show "Pyramid" (2002-04). In the fall of 2006, he took the Broadway stage in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," and accepted an offer to take the helm of the resuscitated game show, "Name That Tune" in early 2007. At a time when tabloid shows and VH1 retrospecials were having a field day with "Where Are They Now?" and strung-out child stars-gone-bad, it was clear that Donald Clark Osmond had steered clear of that fate and was here to stay. He even asked to return to hosting duties on the philanthropy series, "The Great American Dream Vote" (ABC, 2007).
The original "Donny & Marie" was released on DVD in August of 2006, offering over eight half-hours of highlights of the variety show's history. For a show that had never been seen in syndication since it went off the air, it was like the uncorking of a cheesy time capsule. A whole new generation could finally get a glimpse into an off-beat decade and marvel at the fact that Donny and Marie were selling records at the same time as Led Zeppelin. The retrospective only boosted their popularity. By the fall of 2008, the duo began a four-year run as the headlining act at the Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas. Osmond found time to send up his perennially perky persona in the feature film "College Road Trip" (2008), and went on to appear as a contestant on the reality series "Dancing With the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ) in 2009.
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