Fifties teen idol Eddie Fisher dies at 82


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US singer Eddie Fisher – who sold millions of records in the 1950s and whose ex-wives included Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds and Connie Stevens – has died at the age of 82.

Fisher’s good looks and clear dramatic singing voice brought him a devoted following of teenage girls in the early 1950s, with a style that has been described as a “throw-back” to Al Jolson and Tin Pan Alley.

Edwin Jack Fisher was born in Philadelphia on August 10, 1928, one of seven children of a Jewish grocer. At 15 he was singing on Philadelphia radio.

After moving to New York, Fisher met comedian Eddie Cantor and began appearing on his highly rated radio show in 1949. Cantor adopted the young singer as a protégé and helped him become a star on radio, TV and records.

Fisher’s romantic messages resonated with young girls in the pre-Elvis Presley period, and his manager Milton Blackstone helped the publicity by hiring girls to scream and swoon at Fisher’s appearances.

His first few singles for RCA, including ‘Thinking of You’ and ‘Turn Back the Hands of Time’, achieved chart success. But it was two consecutive million-sellers in 1952 – ‘Any Time’ and ‘Tell Me Why’ – that established Fisher as a major star. He also achieved another big hit in 1952 with ‘Wish You Were Here’.

But 1953 proved to be the biggest year of his career. Both ‘I’m Walking Behind You’ and ‘Oh! My Pa-Pa’ spent many weeks at the top of the charts. Fisher then gained his own top-rated TV shows: Coke Time and The Chesterfield Supper Club. His success continued to grow in 1954 with ‘I Need You Now’, followed by more Top 40 hits such as ‘I’m Yours’, ‘Lady of Spain’ and ‘Count Your Blessings’.

Fisher’s fame was enhanced by his 1955 marriage to teen movie star Debbie Reynolds and they were dubbed “America’s favorite couple”. Their marriage produced two children, including Carrie Fisher who starred as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Fisher stunned his fans by divorcing Debbie Reynolds to marry Elizabeth Taylor after Taylor’s husband (and Fisher’s best friend) Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash in 1958. His divorce from Debbie Reynolds caused sensational headlines – followed by even bigger headlines five years later when Elizabeth Taylor divorced him to marry Richard Burton. Fisher’s career never really recovered from these scandals.

Although his singles did not reach the Top 40 again, a return to RCA in the mid-1960s resulted in a moderate hit with the LP Games That Lovers Play. After two more RCA albums – People Like You and You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet – Fisher rarely recorded again, although he continued to perform live in America.

After being discarded by Elizabeth Taylor, Fisher became the butt of comedians’ jokes. He reportedly began relying on drugs to get through performances, and his bookings dwindled. He later said he had made and spent $20 million during his heyday, and much of it went on gambling and drugs.

Eddie Fisher died on 22 September 2010 as a result of complications following hip surgery at a hospital in Berkeley, California.

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