Donny Osmond: ’70s teen idol, ’80s comeback king, “Dancing with the Stars” champ and now, with little sister Marie, a Las Vegas mainstay. This is obviously a man who knows how to stay relevant and — sorry, James Brown —  works harder than almost anyone else in show biz.

REVIEW: What you missed at the Donny and Marie show in Scottsdale

Donny and Marie are taking their act on the road for a summer tour, so Osmond called to chat up the Valley gig and talk about his impressive career. He’ll turn 61 (!) this year, and is just as warm and friendly as you’d imagine.

QUESTION: Does the tour differ from what you do in Vegas?

ANSWER: It differs a little bit, because in Las Vegas you have to be on and off in 90 minutes. When we tour, we don’t have any time restraints, so what we bring is the full product.

Q: Say you and Marie disagree on the show. Who has the last word?

A: I do. (Laughing) And you’ll get a different answer if you ask her.

Q: So there is no boss?

A: Well, we’re both producers. We’ll butt heads sometimes, but when the curtain goes up, the show goes on. And we’ve got a lot of great people around us: the music director, the choreographer, the lighting director. When it comes to what we do in the show, it’s kind of like Congress. (Laughing) Wait, that’s a bad analogy, because they don’t get things done. The show would never happen!

What it was like to grow up in the Osmond family

Q: Your family hasn’t had the troubles that some show-biz families have had. 

A: I have to give credit to our parents. They were really great parents. And our belief system has really helped us out a lot. Our faith has been a good foundation. It doesn’t take away from those moments when there are disagreements or downright arguments, but communication is the best medicine.

Q: Joe Jackson died recently, and it makes some people think about your family and the differences. 

A: Mike (Michael Jackson) and I talked about it a lot on the phone, and I think he wished he would have had that kind of relationship with his siblings and his parents, although Katherine is a great lady, a sweet lady. But it was a different upbringing. 

Q: I’ve talked to people who’ve worked with your family, and they always mention a great work ethic. Is that true?

A: Absolutely, and that’s mostly my father’s influence. His thing was anything worth doing is worth doing well. Think of the antithesis, someone who just does the minimum? I just don’t appreciate the lack of a worth ethic. Everybody wins with a work ethic. I think my father worked us hard and demanded a lot from us, but he wasn’t abusive in that way. And when we got a gig, we gave 110 percent. 

Q: Because you’ve been doing this for so long, you’ve worked with so many greats. Does that boggle the mind? 

A: I edited this video we do at the end of the show, and I had to leave so many people on the cutting room floor. I mean, how many people can you put in a three-minute number? But I look at the video nightly and it’s like, “Wow, talk about an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of the best.” We started at such a young age, and I worked with, you know, Groucho Marx! I mean, people in history so long gone that they aren’t really in people’s minds anymore. It’s weird.

How he keeps proving people wrong

Q: How have you survived in the business?

A: You just have to keep focusing on the next thing. I’m a firm believer in not resting on your laurels. I mean, people want to hear the hits, and you have to do that, but you also have to take them on a journey. You can’t settle unless you want to be retired, and I’m not ready to do that. I keep looking at the next thing. 

Q: There was a period where it was really uncool to be Donny Osmond. How do you get through something like that? 

A: I remember when we first got the Vegas gig. It was supposed to be six weeks, and we’re now in our 10th year. We heard, “Vegas isn’t ready for Donny and Marie.” Well, that’s what Marie and I needed to hear. We proved them wrong. I’ve been proving them wrong all my life. 

When we left Andy Williams at the end of the ’60s, people said we were making a big mistake, we were always going to be Andy’s backup singers. And then we hit with “One Bad Apple” and I hit with “Puppy Love.” Then it was, “You’ll always be a little boy band,” and we did “Donny & Marie” on TV. Then it was you’ll always be “Donny & Marie,” and “Soldier of Love” proved them wrong. I guess I like challenges. 

Q: When you see that famous video of you as a little kid singing “You Are My Sunshine,” do you just say, “Man, I was good!” 

A: (Laughing) Well, I don’t want to say that because that sounds boastful. But I will say it this way: When my brothers and I were little trying to learn harmonies, there were months I didn’t want to sing anymore. We were so tired. I just wanted to go play, but I didn’t. We worked really hard. And when I do look back and see that little kid, the dancing and the singing we did, it was good. And there was no Auto-Tune! 

Q: What do you think of today’s music?

A: There are so many talented people. They do get a bad rap. It’s really easy to hide behind technology now. I use it as a tool. I look at an artist like Charlie Puth. It’s extremely produced. You can tell his vocals have been worked on. But he’s still a talented writer and a talented producer, and I still really like it. 

Q: A lot of artists have tattoos. What’s your take on that? 

A: It’s a cultural thing, a generational thing. A lot of people jump on the bandwagon, because they think it’s cool. I don’t think I would ever want to go there. It’d look like I was trying to be cool or current. I don’t need it.


Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Why he treats his older songs with respect

Q: You mentioned “Puppy Love.” When you were 12 or 13, did you have control over the music, or was it, “Here, sing this.” 

A: It was, “Here, sing this.” I wish I would have had a little more control over it. On some of the albums, there are some garbage songs on there. I remember showing up at the studio and I was given a a cassette to learn the song in five minutes, and I recorded it. And that was “Go Away Little Girl!” I was just cranking out music in the ’70s. In the ’80s, I took the reins and said, “Not anymore.”

Q: What’s your relationship with those old songs?

A: I learned a big lesson during my “Soldier of Love” tour. I didn’t include “Puppy Love” in the setlist, and at the Count Basie Theatre in New Jersey, there were fans in the audience saying, “Sing ‘Puppy Love!’ ” Finally, I just stopped the show and said to the band, “Let’s do a heavy-metal version of ‘Puppy Love.’ ” And I just ripped it apart, laughing about it.

Then when we were going to the bus, this woman said, “Why did you make fun of “Puppy Love?” In a coy, smug kind of way, I told her it was my song and I can do whatever I want with it. She then said something that changed my whole perspective: “It may be your song, but that song was part of my childhood, and you made fun of that.” And I learned: Those songs don’t belong to me alone. Even in Vegas at the meet-and-greets, people will tell us story after story of what the songs meant to them, and you’ve got to treat that with respect. 

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8849.

Donny and Marie Osmond

When: 8 p.m. Friday, July 20.

Where: Talking Stick Resort, 9800 E. Talking Stick Way, Salt River Reservation.

Admission: $85-$235.

Details: 480-850-7777,


Read or Share this story: