(This interview was originally published March 16, 2011 on the now-retired Kickin' it Old School blog. It is one installment in an incredible series of interviews we are republishing on Rediscover the '80s for posterity and your enjoyment. These are more than just interviews in a way; they are more like '80s timelines or oral histories on their respective subject matters. Please keep in mind the original date because some content could be specific to the time of the interview, though the majority should be timeless and totally rad.)
When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the '80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.
This time that awesomeness is Gloria Loring. She is a singer and actress probably best remembered by '80s fans for her duet “Friends and Lovers” with Carl Anderson. Loring portrayed the character “Liz Chandler” on Days of Our Lives from 1980 to 1986 and first introduced the world to her hit song on that show in 1985. She also is the voice you hear singing the popular theme song to the '80s sitcom The Facts of Life which she co-wrote. She released her first album in 1968 and her impressive career which also includes stage and screen has now spanned across six decades. The focus here will mostly be on the '80s and her big hit single as we get on to some selections from my interview with Gloria Loring… Q: When did you first know you wanted to be a singer? When was your amazing voice discovered? Please tell us a little about how you began your career as a professional singer.
Gloria: I have always sung. My mother told me that when I was three I would stand in front of the television and mimic the singers we watched. I began singing in school and church choir. (Actually, I’d sing for anyone who would listen.) When I was 14, I joined a group of three folk singers; it was me and three young men with a stand-up bass and two guitars – sort of Peter, Paul and Mary plus one. When I turned 18, I moved on to local clubs with my partner Richard on guitar and then by myself at the Miami Playboy Club in their Penthouse Room.
Q: With your then husband Alan Thicke, you co-composed the theme songs for Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. How did the opportunity to compose those songs come to you both?
Gloria: Alan had written some theme songs and producer Al Burton asked him to write one for a new show, 'The Facts of Life.' Alan asked me to work on it with him.
“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…” Yep, that song was co-written by Alan Thicke and Gloria Loring. In the first season of the series, the cast performed the theme, but for the remainder of the show’s run (1980-1988) it featured Loring singing it herself. She sang two versions of the song; one used from seasons 2-6 and a second used for seasons 7-9. It is one of the most popular and remembered TV theme songs of the entire decade. Here is The Facts of Life intro featuring the theme song co-written and sung by Gloria Loring…
Q: The version of The Facts of Life theme song with you singing is such an iconic part of '80s pop culture. It seems almost no effort goes into TV Theme songs today. What are your feelings regarding TV Theme songs in the '80s (and before) compared to what they are today?
Gloria: The theme songs we grew up with were (and are) an indelible aspect of American childhood. So much so that my creative partner, Cheri Ingram, and I have created a stage show called TV Tunez, a celebration of the most memorable TV theme songs. A major announcement is imminent regarding TV Tunez having its own theatre in Las Vegas and becoming a major attraction of an unprecedented hotel and casino complex.
With the current pressure to keep a television audience tuned in, one show now segues directly into another with hardly any musical interlude. So in the years ahead, we may not have many new themes to enjoy, which will make the older seem more like treasures.
Q: In 1980, you joined the cast of Days of Our Lives as “Liz Chandler” and played that role until 1986. How did the opportunity to take on that role come your way? Did you enjoy getting to sing on the show? What memories do you have from your time on Days of Our Lives?
Gloria: My agent sent me on an audition. Then I screen-tested and won the role, my first acting job after studying for ten years. I was hired to act, and the producer didn’t even know me as a singer. After I’d been on the show several months, they had me sing a little and it was well received. What I most recall about Days was the excitement (or disappointment) of getting your script and seeing what your character was up to. And I loved the camaraderie of working week after week with the same people and developing a sense of flow and belonging.
Q: That brings us to “Friends and Lovers” which you originally performed on the show in 1985. Who wrote the song and how was it chosen for your character to perform? Was it written specifically intended for you to sing on the show? Did you have a feeling that this song was going to be special the first time you rehearsed/performed it? Please tell us a little about Carl Anderson and how he was chosen to sing the duet with you?
Gloria: The full story of “Friends and Lovers” is in my new book, but basically my associate producer Beth brought me the song after I complained that I would never have a hit record because now I was identified in the industry as a soap opera actress. She played the song for me, which had been sent to the show by its writers, Jay Gruska and Paul Gordon. I stopped the tape after the first chorus and told her that it was undoubtedly a hit song. I sang it for the first time that following week. It was a month later that I heard Carl Anderson sing and decided to do it as a duet with him. Carl and I decided to record the song and try to get it released by a record company. He was such fabulous singer. It was an honor to sing with him.
It is reported that her performance of “Friends and Lovers” on Days of Our Lives generated the largest mail response of any song in NBC daytime history. Later, the song became the theme music for Shane and Kimberly, one of the show’s popular super-couples in the mid-80s. When ultimately released as a single in the summer of 1986, it would quickly climb the charts reaching #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart by September. The single would remain in the Top 40 for 14 weeks.
Prior to his duet with Loring, Carl Anderson was best known for his portrayal of “Judas” in both the film and stage versions of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. He passed away in 2004 due to leukemia complications. A country version titled “Both to Each Other” by Eddie Rabbitt and Juice Newton reached #1 on the Country chart in the same year. Here is a video from of “Friends and Lovers” performed by Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson…
Q: The commercial release of the song was delayed almost a year due reportedly to legal hassles. What can you tell us about these delays, what caused them and how they were resolved? It ended up allowing a country version of the song to be released before yours.
Gloria: It wasn’t legal hassles that held it up. We just couldn’t find a company that would take the song. It was turned down by every major record label. My producer Beth got her cousin to play it for his new boss at a small French label named Carrere Records that had just opened an American office. His boss loved it and then altered the recording a bit, adding more effects, but then we had to wait a long time for him to get around to releasing it to radio. There were legal hassles after the record was released, but it didn’t stop it from soaring to the #1 and #2 positions on the charts within 8 weeks.
Q: Your version was finally released in the summer of 1986 and it became a huge pop hit. How did it feel to have a legitimate pop sensation? Did things change at all for you personally after this song’s incredible success?
Gloria: Nothing changed personally, but it did add to my career stature, of course. It was a time of great joy for me, especially since it took so long to happen!
Q: When you have a mega hit song like that, do you (or did you) ever get sick of performing it?
Gloria: The point of performance is to entertain people, and when I sing “Friends and Lovers” and see people singing along, I know I am accomplishing that. So, no, I don’t get tired of singing it, because first of all, it’s a lovely song, and secondly, the audience loves it, so what’s not to like?
Q: Surprisingly, “Friends and Lovers” would end up being your only pop hit to date. Did this surprise and/or frustrate you at the time or now?
Gloria: It doesn’t surprise or frustrate me. It is what it is. My life has followed its path and I, more than most, have no reason to complain. And frankly, I’m not done recording yet.
Q: After the tremendous success of your first duet, did you ever consider collaborating on additional duets with Carl Anderson? From your experience, what makes a duet work or not work? Is it the song, the chemistry between singers, the talent/popularity of those singers?
Gloria: It’s the song, the voices, the timing, the promotion – the whole package. Carl and I did record “First Time on a Ferris Wheel” for his follow-up album, but it didn’t get much notice.
From 1970 to 1986, Loring was married to Alan Thicke, best known now as the Dad on Growing Pains. The marriage produced two sons. One of those sons is Robin Thicke who has achieved incredible success of his own as a Grammy-winning R&B artist, songwriter and producer.
Q: You have to be incredibly proud of the success your son, Robin Thicke, has had in the music industry. Tell us a little about what influences you have had on Robin’s career.
Gloria: I think Robin is the best one to talk about my influence, although he did tell me recently that it was seeing me onstage that prompted him to realize that he wanted to be there as I was, singing for others and making them happy. He saw the power and joy of it in me. Whenever he has a show, I tell him “Spread the joy.”
Q: Your other son, Brennan, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a young age. This seemed to inspire you to become an advocate for diabetes research. For the past 30 years, you have served as a spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Please tell us a little about this worthy cause and your involvement with it.
Gloria: JDRF is the largest non-governmental funder of diabetes research in the world. They continue to make significant progress toward their goals. For more information, go to JDRF.org. I continue to support them with my presence at fund raising events. I was very active years ago, raising $1 million for JDRF with the Days of Our Lives Cookbook and spending two years as the president of the Los Angeles Chapter.
Q: I read that you are working on a new spiritual autobiography. Please tell us about this project and your previous work as an author.
Gloria: My book proposal says: Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous, a quote by Albert Einstein, is a celebrity autobiography detailing singer-actress Gloria Loring’s spiritual transformation prompted by a series of extraordinary coincidences.
After the Days Of Our Lives Celebrity Cookbook, I had two commercially published books: Kids, Food and Diabetes and Parenting a Child with Diabetes; plus The Kids, Food and Diabetes Family Cookbook that I self-published for JDRF.
Loring has been honored with the Lifetime Commitment Award from JDRF, and received the Woman of Achievement Award from the Miss America Organization, an honor she shares with past recipients Barbara Bush, Roslyn Carter, and Hillary Clinton.
Q: You have 10 albums to your credit with the last appearing to be 2008’s A Playlist. I read that you may be working on a new album now. Is this true?
Gloria: I am currently working with master musician and producer Ted Perlman recording songs by songwriting legends such as Burt Bacharach and Desmond Child, as well as a song or two written by Robin and me. Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter Jann Arden and I are talking about writing some songs together when she comes to L.A. next month. I will love that!
Q: What else is Gloria Loring up to nowadays? Musically and otherwise?
Gloria: Well… recording, writing, being a member of a growing family, a friend, a wife, a dog owner. It’s busy. After three months of preparation, I just completed six concerts of the “Streisand Songbook” with the Palm Beach Pops symphony orchestra that earned standing ovations every night, so that was a very happy experience. And there’s still so much more to do! I’ve had a long and varied career, and I have lots more to accomplish. My life is centered in this year’s opportunities and choices.
I am so pleased that Gloria took some time to answer my questions so I could share them with you here. Special thanks go out to Karen who helped coordinate the interview. If you want to find out more about Gloria and everything she has going on, please be sure to visit her official GloriaLoring.comwebsite. I want to take this opportunity to again thank Gloria Loring especially for her contributions to '80s pop culture whether through “Friends and Lovers” or The Facts of Life theme song and, even more, for taking a moment to go back to the '80s with us here as well.