Deborah Silver has much to be thankful for. Upon the release of her new album, The Gold Standards, on September 16th, she rocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard Traditional and Heatseekers Charts, No. 10 on the Independent Album Chart, and No. 2 on the Billboard Jazz Album Chart.
But the demure star, who very much sees the big picture, attributes her current success to the journey that has brought her to this point — her family, humanitarian efforts, and the inextricably personal link between the two.
Even though she didn’t begin singing until college, Silver’s ascent has more or less been a natural one – a destiny conferred to her since she grew up playing the piano and having an opera singer for a mother. Her success didn’t transpire overnight, though, as she took much time to build her character first, casting aside much of the glitz and garishness of fame in order to help and be there for others. It is an important piece of advice taught to her by her parents and, in turn, a philosophy that she has passed down to her own young-adult children, Madison and Spencer.
This positivity in paying it forward has contributed greatly to Silver’s life where she has seemingly been equipped to handle adversities that others may not have been able to. When her sister Marjie was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), the bond in her family strengthened, prompting her son to participate in a “battle of the bands” to raise money for the disease, and her daughter to assist in earning $115,000 thus far toward eradicating the terrible ailment. Suffice it to say, any breakthrough requires above-and-beyond altruism, which Silver is well-aware of and tirelessly passionate about, having teamed up with her daughter to establish SlamALS.org, a leading entity in the fight against the neurodegenerative condition.
As Silver states, “We started it for my sister Marjie as we hope that people on social media will continue to get involved (like Larry King and Vanilla Ice have, to name a few) and ‘slam’ the disease. It’s a grassroots movement, as we need to do everything we can to get ALS cured to help the 450,000 people (worldwide) affected by it.”
Yet, always doing the right thing is a drive that further extends beyond the South Florida resident’s immediate family, underscoring a creed and worldview that is ever-giving and unable to tolerate injustices in the world. If she can help, she will, and the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe stands out as proof-positive of that. For instance, without making a big deal of it to her friends and family, she arranged for a group of 18-wheelers in 2005 to distribute supplies, even going so far as to correspond with the governor’s office of Louisiana to ensure their delivery.
Still, Silver’s outlook on life doesn’t entirely become clear until one realizes that those who truly care do so because they know exactly what it’s like to be on the other side of good fortune, where sometimes the only recourse is to trudge determinedly through life’s obstacles. And for Silver, such an insight into the human condition, specifically hers, is not only precise, but poignantly true. For example, following the birth of her daughter, she was resigned to a wheel chair for nearly a year, having contracted a rare bone disease during her pregnancy. The same will that refused to bend despite the fact that people stared at her and treated her as inferior, ultimately urged her to “walk again before [her] baby walked.” Not only did she succeed, but she also arrived at the epiphany that she was “one of the lucky ones.”
Perhaps Silver is modest in her usage of the word “luck” to describe her resilience, when it has actually been her perseverance. Nevertheless, it is an invaluable trait that she has successfully applied to another lifelong endeavor — the soulful realm of jazz music, where she has benefited from a steely resolve, basking in the deserved fruits of her good nature and grit.
Certainly, it was never too easy, but she has honored and taken hold of many of the opportunities afforded to her. One of these included the pageant system as a teen to show off her talents, particularly singing – a skill which she admittedly developed a little later than most, and has excelled at since.
“When I entered the Miss America program, classical piano was my talent, and the initial year I competed, I was first runner-up. In the second year – keeping in mind I had only sung in musical theater – I met someone who taught me a song called “Johnny One Note,” a Judy Garland tune. After I sang it, I was fortunate enough to win Miss St. Louis,” reflects Silver.
When the up-and-coming Silver became serious about a possible singing career, she moved to Los Angeles, and found herself taking lessons with the “vocal coach to the stars,” Seth Riggs, scheduled right after the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson had just finished his tutorials. The lessons were crucial and non-negotiable for the driven Silver, who couldn’t afford to relinquish any of her pencilled-in time to even Jackson. Needless to say, Silver’s dedication was not lost on Riggs.
“He would often relay to me,” Silver winsomely recalls of Riggs, “how he’d tell Michael that he can’t take my hour because he’s got a Southern girl who will be upset if she loses it.”
Gradually, as she consistently plied her vocal craft, Silver’s soprano style ineluctably took shape and form, in conjunction with a swirling of influences ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Luther Vandross, which began to inspire the way she processed music. Her mind’s ear interestingly learned to develop an affinity for R&B, or bluesy melodies, resulting in a dependable jazz-singing career that recently saw its big break when jazz luminaries Steve Tyrell and Jon Allen produced her album, The Gold Standards.
With the additional inclusion and impact of Grammy winners Allen Broadbent, a venerable pianist/composer, and Jack Jones, a crooner who duets with Silver on “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” the album’s 13 jingles have acquired an unmistakable uniqueness, as they manage to pay homage to a golden era while also sounding fresh and invigorating. A chief reason for this is that Silver has respected the original composers’ dictation, but at the same time has had the wherewithal to imbue the lyrics with her versatile voice that can at times be incandescent, other times alluring, and even stirringly joyful.
Her befitting critical and commercial success notwithstanding, Silver has remained humble and gracious of the recognition, but it’s still not something she expects to get used to any time soon.
“When I got to No. 1, I thought I was reading it upside down or something,” Silver excitedly explains. “My manager had to call me and show it to me in print before I believed it. And when I charted on the Billboard 200, my son called me to say ‘you’re above Coldplay!’”
Regardless of her heights or triumphs in a business that is notoriously difficult to rise in, Silver has never lost perspective of the hitherto odyssey that has defined her now and forever more. It is a badge of honor that decisively sets her apart from her peers, many of whom have given up their dignity for a mere chance at glory. For Silver, nothing shall ever supersede her gratefulness for having been a mother and family woman before all else, let alone one who has been in a position to help those around her, setting an indelible example as a benevolent human being.
For more information about Deborah Silver, please visit deborahsilvermusic.com
To purchase her new album, The Gold Standards, on Amazon, please visit amzn.to/2eI3s0H