All In Perspective
The Journal Gazette
September 2, 2011
||When you're a pop singer whose first hit single was called "Puppy Love," middle age presents some occupational challenges. In a phone interview, Donny Osmond said he cut the song out of his live act for a long time and then one night several audience members spoke as if with one voice and demanded to hear it.
So he performed a sarcastic, spoofish version of the song he'd sung in earnest at 15.
After the concert, Osmond walked out the stage door and a fan asked him why he had made fun of the song.
Osmond said he replied, "It's my song, I can do what I want with it."
And the fan came back with something that changed Osmond's outlook forever.
"She said, 'That song is a big part of my childhood memories,' " Osmond recalled. " 'You have no right to mess with my memories.' "
Osmond performs Saturday at the Honeywell Center in Wabash.
Osmond, 53, said he has come to realize that there are worse things than being pigeonholed.
For example, not being pigeonholed. Being pigeonholed means you have a career.
"It's not a career if a lot of people don't know you for certain things," he said.
So if Osmond spent a bunch of years being defensive about his cultural cachet, he is making up for it now by putting on a fearless live show every night.
This tour is unusual for Osmond in that he spends portions of every concert taking requests and answering questions in, at times, brutally honest fashion.
One night, Osmond brought a couple onstage who had indicated in a note that "The Twelfth of Never" was the theme song of their long relationship. He sat them down on a couch and serenaded them.
"It was a moment you can't rehearse," he said.
Another night, Osmond said, there wasn't a dry eye in the house when he sang with his brothers thanks to the miracle of archival footage.
"For some reason that night, it was heart-wrenching," he said. "It's amazing how these shows have turned out. Surprising stuff has happened – funny stuff and sentimental stuff."
Osmond said the show has been an enormous challenge because it's a retrospective of his career and his career path has been anything but linear.
It has encompassed barbershop music, bubblegum pop, rock, Broadway, Hollywood, the small screen, the big screen, dramas, variety shows, game shows and dance competitions.
Osmond expects that there will come a night when someone in the audience requests a song he has not rehearsed in a long time. He said he is willing to try to fake it but only once per show.
"I can't have too many train wrecks," Osmond said. "People did come to be entertained."
Speaking of train wrecks, Osmond managed not to become one like so many other child stars.
That doesn't mean that his childhood was as bright and shiny as it looked from the outside.
Osmond said he wasn't always happy with his father's plans for him and his brothers, but he hastens to add that George Virl Osmond was no Joe Jackson (referencing the infamously domineering father of the late Michael Jackson).
"Yes, he was strict," Osmond said. "He'd been an Army sergeant. But we were given every opportunity in the world to bow out of it."
Pundits started claiming that Osmond was all washed up at 20, he said, and he has waged a battle to prove them wrong ever since.
"Yeah it seems like the odds are against you," he said. "You can't ever lose perspective. The curtain comes down on all entertainers someday. Some people have tried to force it down on me. I've earned my stripes.
"I think I have proved that I deserve to be here," he said.
Asked what advice he would give to the 15-year-old version of himself if he could go back in time, Osmond said, "Don't get caught up in your own hype."
"It's a dangerous position to be in all having all the money in the world and all the fame," he said. "If you're lucky, you learn that success can't be measured by tickets sold or albums sold.
"The things that have most fulfilled me in life are my wonderful marriage – 30 years now – and our five wonderful children," Osmond said.