For someone who could do an Elvis and a Sinatra with equal ease, singer Gary Lawyer had many followers in the 80s. He talks about his childhood, making every song a prayer and his new album
In the Bombay of the 80s, in auditoriums, clubs and hotels, he served up sumptuous versions of Frank Sinatra, Freddie Mercury and The Doors in his rich baritone. Gary Lawyer, “the man with a golden voice”, was comfortable with a slew of western genres, a rarity for an Indian those days. These numbers were mostly followed by his original English songs. The remixwallahs and the bands putting out music on the internet were yet to arrive. Those memorable songs still echo, but the face was forgotten. So when the announcement of Lawyer doing a public performance in Delhi came after almost a decade (he performed at a corporate gig almost three years ago), we decided to hit the much-needed rewind button.
“A lot of problems start with the budget. It is not worth the effort if the infrastructure does not make sense. I am not a college band who needs to get those initial gigs and prove himself. But I am here finally and hopefully, will visit again soon,” said Lawyer in an interview, a day before his gig.
Growing up in Mumbai in a house stacked with vinyl discs of legends ranging from Bob Dylan and Ray Charles to Sinatra, a young Lawyer was drawn to a slew of western singers. “My mother passed away when I was five. Every Wednesday, my father would take me to Rhythm House located in Kala Ghoda to pick up new releases. We even picked up old compilations and that built up a sizeable collection. This music was always playing,” says Lawyer, who eventually began singing these songs.
But one word Lawyer was always averse to, was “covers”. He still gets uncomfortable at the mention of it. “I have never looked at a song as a cover. I have treated every song like a prayer and have done it all my way. There is so much joy in doing justice to a great song. Great music is not covered, it’s played,” says Lawyer, who began his career as a nightclub singer in New York. His voice was noticed by an EMI representative and Lawyer became the first Indian to be signed for a western album outside India. And soon after