Ever since she could walk, Debbie Gibson had music in her blood and theater in her heart. As a young child she played both roles of Baby June and Baby Louise in a 1982 Long Island production of Gypsy. She also performed with the Metropolitan Opera. Yet all the while she kept singing and composing her original pop songs on the side. Dilligently writing her songs and recording them for her own personal enjoyment and those of her neighborhood friends, she knewthat it was only a matter of time before she could make this secret dream a reality. Asateenager, she convinced her parents to help convert the family garage into a high-tech recording studio. What followed was some serious music making. At age 16, she cut “Only In My Dreams” on a 12 inch disc in her own little production shack and sent the demo to Atlantic Records. Atlantic was surprised at her genius and gave her a recording contract. The single “Only In My Dreams” skyrocketed onto the top 40 charts and introduced Debbie Gibson’s talent to the world.
After another more months of preparation, she released her debut album, Out of the Blue, in 1987. The songs “Foolish Beat” from Out of the Blue, and “Lost in Your Eyes” from the double platinum Electric Youth, catapulted into number one hits, earning her the 1989 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Award. An award she shared with Bruce Springsteen in a tie. But it gave the teenage Gibson the distinction of being the youngest artist in entertainment history to write, produce and perform such a feat. “Being versatile bridges the gap between the recording studio and the theater,” she told Bill-board’s Chuck Taylor. “It’s really the perfect match. “Her most rabid fans call themselves “Debheads.”
A series of award winning albums followed in lightning succession. In 1990, she went gold with Anything Is Possible. At the same time, she continued in theater, entertaining Broadway audiences with her portrayal of the tragic Eponine in Les Miserables, the rock and roll tart Rizzo in Grease, the romantic lovelorn Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. During this time, she even made guest appearances on television in such shows as Beverly Hills 90210 and Street Justice. However, Gibson was not one to neglect her original musicand she hit the pop charts again with Body Mind Soul η 1993, and Think With Your Heart in 1995. Grown into a mature young woman, Gibson decided to make some changes, dropping the name Debbie for the more adult Deborah. And in a surprising musical lark, audiences were stunned to hear Deborah singing back up on a Circle Jerks album. Doing the accompanying vocals to “I Want To Destroy You,” she excited the Circle Jerks and their producer so much that they wanted her to go touring with them and work on the entire album. “People were shocked,” she told Detour Magazine’s Dennis Hensley. “I loved putting myself to that extreme. I can let my hair down and rock with the best of them. I have a gutsy side, and I have a sensual side, everyone has.” She declined the Jerk’s invitation but appeared with them one night in New York’s punk mecca CBGB’s. The moshers became wilder as Deborah egged them on. She climaxed the performance by diving headfirst into the mosh-pit. “I stage dove into the crowd,” she told Detour’s Hensley, “You’re floating on a sea of hands, on a lot of Mohawks and piercings.”
After all this, she decided it was finally time she started her own recording label. Many successful musicians have attempted to do so in the past but with mixed results. She chose to think positive thoughts and started Espíritu Records. The company’s first releace was the self-titled Deborahin 1997. A track from this effort, “Only Words,” is a hard, powerful dance remix which recently made Billboards Hot Dance-Music/Club Play’s Top 40. But most critics panned this latest album as they have her previous three efforts. Even so, a small number of critics were surprised to hear the depth and maturity of this new production but were hesitant to endorse it for fear of being labeled a Debhead. Gibson feels that many critics as well as audience members still can’t get that perky teenage Electric Youth image out of their heads. “I don’t know how to be put into a little box or category,” she told Dance Music Authority’s Jeffrey L. Newman.
Born April 31, 1970, Brooklyn, NY, Religious denomination:daughter of Joe and Diane Gibson, mother is manager of the career.
Singer, composer, Broadway and television actress; made acting debut as a child actor on the Long Island stage playing both the roles of Baby Jane and Baby Louise in the musical Gypsy; as a child she also performed with the Metropolitan Opera; released debut album, Out of the Blue, 1997; released second album, Electric Youth, 1989; appeared in Beverly Hills 90210, 1991; appeared in Street Justice, 1992; starred as Eponine in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, 1992; starred as Sandy in the London West End production of Grease, 1993-94; starred as Rizzo in the U.S. National tour of Grease; appeared in episode Step By Step, 1995; played the title role of the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy at the Paper Mill Theater, Milburn, NJ, 1998.
Awards: Double platinum status for Out of Blue, 1997 New York Music Award for Debut Artist of the Year, 1989; New York Music Award for Debut Album of the Year, 1989; double platinum status for Electric Youth, 1989; ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Award-(tied with Bruce Springsteen) 1989; New York Music Award for Song of the Year, “Lost in Your Eyes,” 1990; American Music Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocalist, 1990; American Songwriter Award for Rock Producer of the Year, 1990; People’s Choice Award nomination for Favorite Female Music Performer, 1992; St. Mary’s Children & Family Services Humanitarian Award Recipient, 1998.
Addresses: Record company —Atlantic Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104; Espíritu Records, 666 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 302, New York, NY 10103;Website— The Official Deborah Gibson Web Site: http://www.deborah-gibson.com/.
Now, atthe age of 28, having sold over 16 million albums worldwide, with enough gold records, and musical awards to fill half a dozen livingroom mantlepieces, Gibson reflects on her whirlwind career. “My perspective has changed quite a lot over the years,” she told Taylor. “I try to hold on as much as possible to that raw enthusiasm. That’s what makes it enjoyable. I ‘ve learned a lot about people, some good, some bad. But the most important thing I know is it’s most satisfying to be yourself, accepted or not. I’m doing this the way I want to do it.”
Gibson still maintains her mother Diane as manager. Also, she regularly includes her sisters in various production aspects of her career. Family has always been an important part of Deborah’s life. The Gibson family shares a very loving, atmosphere together. That is why Deborah is able to maintain such a caring, positive family-oriented personality.
She also believes in supporting charities. Along with her musical and theatrical careers, there is another side to Deborah Gibson, one of concern for the less fortunate. She also understands the tragedies which hardships can bring. Her own father, Joe Gibson, had a hard life as a young man and even spent some time in an orphanage. She has done work and continues to do work for the Pediatrie Aids Foundation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and St. Mary’s Children & Family Foundation. The St. Mary’s Children Foundation is a special concern for Gibson, since her father spent several years there as a child. It involves providing a caring home for abused, orphaned, and otherwise neglected children. At present, she is still single, but wishes to eventually marry and have her own children, as well as adopting several others.
While waiting for that one special romance to happen, Gibson occupies herself by more work. Ever the energetic, she finished a six-week run of Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn, New Jersey during the 1998 fall season. Also, she recently wrapped up several acting roles starring in two as of yet unreleased movies, Wedding Party, and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. In addition, she has completed some songs for the soundtrack of Ethan J. Todd Anderson’s film Naked Man, is recording a concept album for Z, The Masked Musical. Presently she is working on an original musical called Skirts that will hopefully premiere on Broadway.
Anything Is Possible, Atlantic Records, 1990.
Body Mind Soul, Atlantic Records, 1993.
Deborah, Espiritu Records, 1996.
Electric Youth, Atlantic Records, 1989.
Greatest Hits, Atlantic Records, 1995.
Out of the Blue, Atlantic Records, 1987
Think With Your Heart, Atlantic Records, 1995.
Billboard, August 16, 1997.
Cosmopolitan, September 1998.
Dance Music Authority, August 1997.
Detour Magazine, April, 1996.
In Style Magazine, October 1998.
National Enquirer, August 18, 1998.
People Magazine, August 17, 1998.
Additional information provided by Espiritu Records publicity materials, 1998, and from Deborah Gibson sites on the World Wide Web.
—Timothy Kevin Perry
"Gibson, Deborah." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gibson-deborah
"Gibson, Deborah." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved February 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gibson-deborah
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At first glance, Debbie Gibson’s career looks like a case of Cinderella-like overnight success. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Gibson possesses persistence, native talent, and a love of music that began in her infancy. The pop music phenomenon of 1987-88, Gibson writes, scores, and sings her own material—tunes that Los Angeles Times contributor Dennis Hunt described as “mostly bubbly confections, much like the ones Connie Francis used to sing.”
Gibson is not the first teenager to become a pop star, but she is unique in her degree of involvement with the business and creative sides of her output. As Richard Harrington explained in the Washington Post, even seasoned professionals have been taken aback by Gibson’s level of engineering and songwriting expertise. The result, writes Harrington, is that Gibson has become “not just a singer—the classic role offered women in music—or writer, but also a musician and producer, a total pop package.” Amazingly, this “total pop package” has not become sophisticated beyond her years. Gibson’s producer Doug Brietbart described her in Newsday as “a hundred percent quintessential all-American teenager.”
Debbie Gibson was born and raised on Long Island, in the community of Merrick. According to her parents, she was fascinated by music from the time she could walk and talk. She asked for a guitar at age two, but had to settle for a ukelele because it fit into her hands. She was able to pick out tunes on the piano before she went to kindergarten, and she wrote her first song, “Make Sure You Know Your Classroom,” about her first experience in school. She was five. Gibson’s parents enrolled her in acting, dancing, and piano lessons, all of which she relished.
Gibson’s ambitions crystallized at the ripe age of seven, when she saw the Broadway production of Annie.”She was seven or eight when ‘Annie’ hit,” Gibson’s mother told the Washington Post.”That was it; that was when she decided that this was going to be her life. She was going to be Annie one way or another. And she had tremendous determination. She would go to interviews and auditions that would last 10 or 12 hours; she wouldn’t care.”
Gibson’s parents became concerned about her level of ambition, but they decided to support rather than discourage her. “I knew that one way or another, with or without us, she would wind up in the music business and be successful,” her mother said. “It was a matter of, do you want to see her stumble and make mistakes, or do you want to offer guidance and encouragement and hopefully see it go the right way?”
Born 1970 in Merrick, Long Island, N.Y.; daughter of Joseph and Diane Gibson;Education: Graduated (with honors) from Calhoun High School, Merrick, Long Island, N.Y., 1988.
Songwriter, c. 1975—; recording artist, 1987—. Has performed in television commercials for Commodore computers and Wendy’s restaurants. Former member of Metropolitian Opera Children’s Chorus.
Awards: Won $1, 000 in songwriting contest sponsored by local radio station in Long Island area for song “I Come From America,” c., 1982.
Addresses: Home —Merrick, Long Island, N.Y. Office –c/o Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10023.
Gibson’s parents offered not only encouragement, but an impressive array of musical equipment as well. In effect, they turned the Gibson garage into a miniature production studio, complete with drum machines, microphones, keyboards, mixers, and recorders—all state-of-the-art. As Gibson entered her teens, she began to write and compose songs at an almost incredible rate. She has claimed that most of her tunes take less than a half hour to write, and she rarely revises. A song she wrote at twelve, “I Come from America,” won $1, 000 in a writing contest sponsored by a local radio station. Then, at thirteen, she represented the state of New York in a national music competition sponsored by the PTA.
Gibson was only fourteen when her parents solicited the help of producer Breitbart, an entertainment lawyer who began to manage and instruct her. Breitbart told Newsday that his young protege was “a hundred percent self-motivated…. She was eating through people that were in the business fifteen to twenty years longer than she was.” Gibson had to endure the usual round of rejections from record companies, and even the television show Star Search, but eventually she signed with Atlantic. Her first single, “Only in My Dreams,” began as a regional and dance club hit, then slowly climbed the national charts. By the time her first album, Out of the Blue, hit the racks, Debbie Gibson was a known entity. The album has sold in excess of two million copies and is still doing business. It was on the charts when Gibson graduated with honors from Calhoun High School in Merrick.
Gibson’s music makes no claims to depth of meaning or universal significance. It is pop music pure and simple, with a catchy beat and predominantly cheerful lyrics. A Newsday reviewer describes the songs as “the dance-oriented, 1980s extension of the pre-Beatles female pop of the 1960s. Structurally, her songs recall the anxious anthems of the Shangri-Las and Lesley Gore, but the lyrics are bereft of self-doubt…. Gibson’s teen tunes combine optimism and self-confidence with a walloping rhythmic assault.” Hunt assessed Gibson’s voice: “While not a budding Streisand, Gibson isn’t a bad singer. Her voice has a perky, endearing, little-girl quality, but may yet ripen into one that’s full-bodied. But for now it’s full of teen-age yearning.”
When asked to comment on her music, Gibson told the Washington Post: “It’s just honest and spontaneous, simple and fun. That’s the whole idea of pop music. I don’t like to get into, like, social issues, political things…. I never want to be writing from some weird point of view.” Gibson’s many young fans seem perfectly satisfied with her buoyant perspective; their parents appreciate Gibson’s clean-cut, family-oriented lifestyle.
“There are plenty of Debbiewannabes,” notes Harrington. “Like their inspiration, they are clean, wholesome, earnest.”
Fame in pop music is notoriously fleeting, especially for teen stars. Gibson’s chance for longevity rests in the same forces that brought her to the limelight in the first place: creativity, determination, level-headed business acumen, and a healthy perspective on the pleasures and pitfalls of stardom. According to Harrington, Gibson is the “Steffi Graf of pop music: a prodigious talent identified early, nurtured by family and coaches, developed through years of practice in community theater, commercials, choruses and the like, until finally it’s time for center court at Wimbledon, or in this case, the Billboard charts and the concert arenas of the world.” Frankie Blue, one of the radio executives who did the most to promote Gibson’s “Only in My Dreams,” feels that the young star is on her way to a lengthy and lucrative career. “She’s with a good record label,” Blue told Newsday.”I don’t think she’ll get lost or fade away.”
Out of the Blue, Atlantic, 1987.
Electric Youth, Atlantic, 1989.
Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1987.
Newsday, June 29, 1987; July 7, 1988.
Washington Post, July 10, 1988.
—Anne Janette Johnson
"Gibson, Debbie." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gibson-debbie
"Gibson, Debbie." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved February 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gibson-debbie