Maureen McGovern, celebrated as "The Stradivarius Voice," marks the 40th anniversary of the release of her #1 Oscar-winning International Gold Record, "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure, which garnered her a Grammy Award nomination in 1973 for "Best New Artist." Maureen received her second Grammy Award nomination in 1998 for "Best Traditional Pop Vocal" for her solo piano/voice album, The Pleasure of His Company, with Emmy-winning, Grammy-nominated jazz pianist, Mike Renzi. She was also a featured guest artist on the Grammy Award-winning Songs from the Neighborhood: The Music of Mister Rogers. Her hits include "Can You Read My Mind" from Superman, the Oscar-winning "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno and "Different Worlds" from the TV series Angie. Other critically acclaimed recordings include tributes to George Gershwin, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Harold Arlen and Richard Rodgers. Her current PS Classics CD, A Long and Winding Road has been praised by The New York Times as "A captivating musical scrapbook from the 1960's to the early 70's. Ms. McGovern's vocal technique is second to none."
In 2005, Maureen was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her role as 'Marmee' in Little Women, The Musical on Broadway. In 1981, she made her Broadway debut as 'Mabel' in The Pirates of Penzance, then went on to star as 'Luisa' in Nine with Raul Julia and as 'Polly Peachum' in Three Penny Opera with Sting. Maureen reprised her role as 'Marmee' in the 1st National Tour of Little Women, The Musical and starred as 'Mrs. Anna' in the Broadway revival National Tour of The King & I. Regionally, she has starred in Elegies, Dear World, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Lion in Winter, Letters from 'Nam and Of Thee I Sing-Let 'Em Eat Cake, among others. She is currently performing her IRNE Award-winning "Best Solo Performance" one-woman musical memoir Carry It On (co-written and created with director, Philip Himberg). Her feature films include the role of "Sister Angelina" the guitar-strumming nun in the classic comedy Airplane and Airplane II, The Sequel. Maureen also played the nightclub singer in The Towering Inferno and the role of 'Rachel' in Dreamworks' animated video/DVD Joseph: King of Dreams with Ben Affleck.
For 33 years, Maureen served the Muscular Dystrophy Association as volunteer, performer, Board Member, Shamrocks Against Dystrophy Chairperson and NYC Telethon Co-Host for 6 years. Maureen supports music therapy and has been an Artist Spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association since 2001.
Now the two-time Grammy Award nominated vocalist and actress will perform her acclaimed show "Home For The Holidays" in New York with an exclusive engagement at 54 Below from December 18 to 23. McGovern will present an evening featuring songs of the season, some unexpected, and some traditional "chestnuts." She will be joined by her longtime Musical Director Jeffrey Harris on piano and Jay Leonhart on bass. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Good question. I grew up singing folk music and I thought I wanted to be either a pop singer or folk singer. I was inspired by all those great singers I watched and listened to from Dusty Springfield to Dionne Warwick to Barbra Streisand. Barbra was an idol of mine and I just devoured her early albums. I also loved the Beatles and Joni Mitchell, who's a goddess, as well as Judy Collins. All the big band musicians also influenced me since my dad listened to them, from Mel Torme to Jo Stafford to Ella Fitzgerald. My dad sang in a barbershop quartet and rehearsed around our dining room table every Tuesday night and music was always in my heart. It was in the 3rd grade that I knew I wanted to sing. I knew that was my life's mission.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I've been fortunate to work with so many people. I've worked with Mel Torme. We did several PBS specials and toured together, but we never got to record together. I would have liked to have done that. I've recorded with Placido Domingo, sang with Sting on stage in Three Penny Opera, and just got to sing at the Boston Pops with Brian Stokes Mitchell, which was wonderful. I would love to record with James Taylor and would have liked to have had the chance to record with Kenny Rankin.
3. You have a show coming up at 54 Below from December 18-23. What made you want to perform there? 54 Below actually asked me early on to do a show, but I was not available then, so they asked me if I would join them for their first holiday season and I was thrilled to do that. I have a holiday show that I do around the country, so I've taken that show and adapted it for NY. I have had many friends perform at 54 Below who absolutely loved it, so I'm very excited to make my debut there.
4. What excites you about this upcoming engagement? Anytime I work in NY I love it, but especially during the holidays in NYC. It's such a beautiful time. I lived in NY for 18 years and miss it, so I need to get my NY fix, at least once a year.
5. What do you get from performing your own concerts as opposed to starring in a Broadway show? They each kind of inform each other. My concerting informs the actor in me and the actor in me informs what I do on stage in concert. I think my cabaret work is the most intimate kind of performance I do, I also translate that to my concerts. The audience always feels as if I'm speaking to them one on one. Everything informs the other.
I love the extended family feeling of being in a theatrical show. As a solo performer, I was on the road for six years early on in my career without any break, just living on the road. To be in one place in a theatrical show and have this extended family was a joy. One thing I loved about touring with Little Women was the real sense of family. I had that on Broadway too with the show, but at the end of the day, everyone went home to their lives, where as on tour, we bonded together more as a family because we all were in one place.
6. Your latest CD is "A Long and Winding Road." How did you decide which songs you wanted to put on the CD and what have you enjoyed most about the road you've traveled in your career? One of my agents said to me, "Why don't you do a boomer album?" I thought, "I've been there done that. I did an album years ago called Baby I'm Yours, which was more of the over pop versions of songs by Burt Bacharach which I love, but I thought if I could find a hook/reason to do it, I would. My musical director Jeff Harris and I spent a summer where we went through about 400 songs from his youth and my youth and in listening to all this material, I was taken back to my folk singing youth. I was such a shy performer and I would quickly go from one song to the next without talking much in between (but now you can't shut me up) and these iconic singers/songwriters were such an influence on me. The music and what the music had to say was a real form of expression for me because it went along with what I had believed. So we just picked songs I loved by Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Laura Nyro, Jimmy Webb, James Taylor, and Randy Newman. I didn't want to make a museum record, I wanted to find what was relevant about these songs today and put my own take on them and show that the second half of The Great American Songbook is as equally as rich as the first. Making this album gave me a greater respect for the things that I loved as a kid because it's looking back on them as an adult and seeing the real craft of the songwriting rather than just loving what I was hearing.
My career life has always been highs and lows, there has never seem to have been a comfortable middle, which I guess keeps the artistic juices flowing. They say "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," so there are lessons and assertiveness I had to learn along the way and own what has happened, whether good or bad. That was my journey. The business end of show biz often times doesn't interest me, it's the actual stepping out on that stage and letting go of what has gone on in your life that day and that beautiful release on stage and conversation with the audience makes this all worth while. It's "The Air That I Breathe." I've always felt it not those with the most talent, but it's those that don't give up. You have to find it within yourself to believe in you more than anyone else ever will. None of us get through this life alone, I've always had mentors and people who were the glue that kept me together, so I'm very grateful to all them and what keeps me going. It propels me to give me the freedom to find my path.
7. What does the recognition and accolade of receiving two Grammy nominations and a gold record mean to you? The Grammy nominations were incredibly exciting, especially the second one. I'm grateful to "The Morning After" (for which I received my first Grammy nomination) until the day I die, but the album that went with it had nothing to do with me.
I come from doing folk music and highly personalized music and my first manager had me do mindless Top 40 and the lounge circuit. When the producer in Cleveland who produced "The Morning After," put the album together either picked the songs or had me pick from six terrible ones and I had to pick the best of the worst...hahaha. He would even try to appease me by putting some songs on there that I wrote, but by the time they got to vinyl they had absolutely no resemblance to what I wrote and by the time we got to the end of the album, which was way overproduced, I was the singer lost in the song. While I am very grateful for the opportunity I had with "The Morning After," it just wasn't me and it was somebody else's concept of what I should be. I was told, "I know you want to do that stuff, but you have to do this to get to that other stuff." My career just seemed to be getting farther and father away from what I wanted, so when we got to the end of this overproduced album, the producer wanted me to sing "Until It's Time For You To Go," which is a lovely song and I used to play it on just guitar, so I said let's get a guitarist and we'll do it on just vocal and guitar. He said, "Oh no, we couldn't do that, it would like we ran out of money." That was 1972.
I came off the road in 1975 and had no label for several years and then I had "Can You Read My Mind" from Superman and "Different Worlds" from TV's Angie and also did Airplane and then did Pirates of Penzance, which was a second wind of my career, but I decided to stop recording until I could do it on my own terms, however long that would take, and in 1986, Mike Renzi (a brilliant jazz pianist) and I went into a tiny little studio owned by Jerry Ragovoy, who gave it to us on the "if come," if a studio buys it fine and if not then just pay the engineer. So we paid the engineer and we went in there and did absolutely nothing but what we loved. We took the album to CBS Masterworks, who wanted to sign me, and I asked them to listen to the album at home over the weekend, away from the office, and it was strictly a piano/voice album, and on Monday I got a call that they loved it. We released "Another Woman In Love," which was just piano and vocal, and that's the album I feel was my first album. It was the album my heart was revealed on. It was me to the core of my soul. Reviewers and public alike really took to it. They wanted to know who this singer was; it certainly wasn't the same woman who sang "The Morning After."
So twelve years later, I was being asked, when are you going to do a follow up to "Another Woman In Love," so Mike Renzi and I went back into the studio again and recorded just what we loved. The album was "The Pleasure of His Company" and the joy for me/sweet revenge was this second album was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Traditional Pop Vocal," and again it was just piano and voice, nothing else. The label at the time initially balked at it, but I said, "Trust Me," and they did. I got my second Grammy nomination.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? You always have more strength, power, and determination than you think you have. You only lose that when you start to doubt. Life is always a learning curve.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? To really do what's from your heart. It will either work or it won't, but when it works, it really works.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I've lost both my parents, my mother in 1981 and my dad in 2004. The older I get the more dreams I have about them, but they are good dreams. I had a dream about my mother right before Pirates of Penzance started. It was within in the first year after her death and I had a dream that I saw her one night at the foot of my bed in a rocking chair, just rocking comfortably. It was a turning point in my grief because I felt as though she was okay.
11. Favorite way to spend your day off? One thing artists never get is enough sleep. One thing that is great is a pajama jammy day. I live on a river with the state park behind it, which is my little sanctuary. It's nice to just stay at home with my puppies reading or watching old movies. I just like to chill out. I go at such a fast pace and if I push my body too much, it will stop me. I always know when I've gone too far.
12. Favorite skin care products? I love Aveeno products, Lancome, Mac, and Clinique.
13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I think passion is a super power. I think everyone should cultivate that. Me: I like that. That's very different than what I normally get. Maureen: What do most people say? Me: Most people say to fly or the power to heal. Maureen: I think there's a difference between power and force and I go for power, not force.