Son of poor Russian immigrants, Eddie Fisher began singing professionally at age 12. His first hit was 1950's "Thinking of You." After a stint in the army, Fisher returned with "Wish You Were Here" and "Oh My Pa-Pa." In 1955 Fisher married actress Debbie Reynolds, but left her to become Elizabeth Taylor's fourth husband. Fisher and Reynolds were the parents of actress Carrie Fisher.
Singer and entertainer. One the most famous singers of the 1950s, Eddie Fisher was born on August 10, 1928, the fourth of seven children growing up in a poor immigrant neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fisher's parents, Kate and Joe Fisher, were both Russian-born Jewish immigrants, and his father worked first in a leather factory and later peddling fruits and vegetables from the back of his car. Fisher's family was extremely poor, moving frequently to avoid eviction and subsisting for a time on welfare payments. Nevertheless, despite his impoverished childhood, Fisher always believed that he was destined for stardom. He recalls, "Somehow, though, somehow I knew I was going to get out of that world, and I knew that my voice was going to take me out of it."
Nicknamed "Sonny Boy," Fisher discovered his natural vocal talent at a very young age. He remembers, "When I was a small child-I couldn't have been more than three or four years old-I opened my mouth and this beautiful sound came out and, for me, the world was changed forever." Fisher's was a natural talent that required little training or polish. He never once took a voice lesson; "I didn't have to work at it," he says, "I didn't even have to practice." Fisher claims that this vocal gift was responsible for shaping the entire course of his life: "Everything that has happened in my life, the fame I've enjoyed, the fortunes I've earned, the marriages, the affairs, the scandals, even my drug addictions, everything I owe to the fact that when I opened my mouth this sound, this music, came out."
Eddie Fisher entered his first children's talent show at the age of 4 and won first prize-a large cake. After that, he says, "my mother entered me in every amateur contest she heard about and I usually won." Fisher began singing professionally as a 12-year-old in 1940, debuting on local Philadelphia radio station WFIL's program When I Grow Up. For the next several years, Fisher performed on local radio shows such as Magic Lady, Junior Music Hall and Teen Time, earning about $25 per week. As a teenager, he tied for first place on the popular radio talent competition, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts.
Already a local star, Fisher dropped out of high school during his senior year to pursue a full-time music career. Fisher says his parents accepted his decision because the money he earned through his singing helped lift the family out of poverty. "It was not at all unusual for children of poor immigrants to quit school to help support their families," he recalls.
However, Fisher's remarkable early success as a singer and performer has been largely overshadowed by his turbulent personal life. Fisher married singer and actress Debbie Reynolds in 1955, and they had two children, Carrie Fisher (who famously portrayed Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy) and Todd Fisher. Fisher then became embroiled in one of the greatest Hollywood love scandals of the era when, after the death of his close friend Michael Todd, Fisher began an affair with Todd's widow, the movie star Elizabeth Taylor. Fisher divorced Reynolds and married Taylor in 1959, with the pair staying married for five years until Taylor left Fisher for actor Richard Burton. Fisher has since been married to Connie Stevens (1967-1969), Terry Richard (1975-1976) and Betty Lin (1993-2001). He has two children with Stevens, daughters Tricia and Joely.
While Fisher's love life spiraled out of control during the 1960s, he also began heavily abusing drugs. The drugs and women, combined with the ascendancy of rock and roll, marked the end of this crooner's time atop the popular music charts. Since then, Fisher spent most of his career performing live shows in Las Vegas and New York and releasing the occasional new single to modest sales. He also wrote two autobiographies, Eddie: My Life, My Loves (1984) and Been There, Done That: An Autobiography (2000); the latter spawned controversy over its graphic personal details and its scathing attacks on past lovers Debbie Reynolds and Connie Stevens.
Nevertheless, despite his precipitous fall from fame, for a brief time during the early 1950s Eddie Fisher was the unquestioned king of American popular music. "I was bigger than the Beatles," he remembers fondly. "Bigger than Elvis. Hotter than Sinatra." Decades later, Fisher still marvels that the man who reached such heights was only, "Me, 'Sonny Boy,' the skinny Jewish kid from the streets of Philadelphia, and all because I had this gift, an incredible, powerful sound."
Eddie Fisher, well known for his 1950s singing career, as well as his tumultuous romantic life, died on September 22, 2010 at the age of 82. He passed away at his home in Berkeley, California, after health complications from hip surgery. He is survived by children Carrie, Todd, Joely, and Tricia Leigh, as well as six grandchildren.
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