Tina at Kosher Adobo sent me down a YouTube/Spotify rabbithole (happily) after this quick exchange about a live cover by 80s pop star Deborah Anne “Debbie” Gibson. I had a huge teenage crush on Deb (she’s a year older than I am), and I had lost track of her career.
I attended a 1988 Electric Youth Tour show; it became one of the highlights of my teen years. I have a story from that concert too! I tossed the baseball cap I was wearing onto the stage while Deb was performing. She picked it up and put it on! I don’t even remember the song, but before it ended one of her dancers took my cap off her head and replaced it with a different cap. My cap was left on the floor, and after the show was over I successfully retrieved it. I hung onto the single strand of blonde hair that was left in the cap for a LONG time, in the case of my Out of the Blue cassette. I don’t know what eventually happened to it, but the story and memory are far better to have than that strand of hair.
Debbie Gibson was a pop princess before those were in style. She wrote, performed and produced her own stuff. She didn’t have the greatest voice but she performed with such sincerity that it didn’t matter. Her music was well-crafted pop. It wasn’t bubblegum pop, even if it sometimes sounded like it. The lyrics started as borderline teenage girl musings (1987’s Out of the Blue and 1989’s Electric Youth) and quickly morphed into more sophisticated relationship fuel (1990’s Anything is Possible and 1993’s Body, Mind & Soul). All throughout deft pop hooks and smooth-but-sincere instrumentation suffused her music. After 1995’s Think With Your Heart, Deb decided to transition herself into the next phase of her career, ditching “Debbie” and becoming Deborah Gibson professionally. Her 1997 album Deborah was the last one I owned. I wore out the first five and know most of the lyrics to most of the songs. This one I barely remember. It was ten years since Debbie became a pop star. She left the world spotlight on her own terms, and became less of a media personality and more of a true artist. I didn’t follow her as she went to Broadway and produced albums under her own label. I even barely recall seeing her 2005 Playboy photoshoot. All I remember is that it was far more art than gratuitous nudity, and the woman in the pictorial was no longer the girl that teenage me had a crush on. Deborah was a true artist, even when posing for naked photos.
It saddened me to read that Deb is battling Lyme disease. The post on her blog intimates the mature, amazing person she has become. She visited the country of my birth in 2010 on a humanitarian mission, with zero fanfare. Debbie Gibson was like a shooting star. She went nova for ten years, from 1987 through 1997. Happily, she didn’t burn out, and continues to light her own way.
“Loving you was more than I could stand.
I was scared; my heart was in your hand.
But I know now, I figured it out.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I must let go.”
– Didn’t Have The Heart, 1995