By Susan Reynolds | Based on an interview with Anthony Gourdine by Barbara Beach | Anthony Gourdine, of Little Anthony and the Imperials, credits the blessings of music, faith, and family for the joy in his heart |
Jerome Anthony Gourdine — the falsetto-voiced front man for the hit-making vocal group Little Anthony and the Imperials — feels like the luckiest man alive. During the 1950s and 60s, skyrocketed to fame for such pop and R&B classics as “Tears On My Pillow,” “Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop,” “Goin’ Out of My Head,” and “Hurt So Bad.” These days, the 73-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer still tours worldwide, plays golf, and has several exciting projects in the works.
But what makes him truly happy is being a grandfather.
Anthony says he’s “very blessed” with 9 children (one son passed 11 years ago), 13 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren, and his partner of nearly 40 years, Linda. Most of the grandkids call him “Poppy” and his wife “Nani.”
Like most families, some members live far away. “We stay in touch with all of them. . . . They put up pictures and say to their children and grandchildren, ‘That’s your grandfather, and here’s what you need to know about him.’ So, when they see me, they know who I am and immediately clamor to sit on my lap.”
Laughing, he adds, “My son is always telling me to stop spoiling his daughter [Auriela]. . . . I say, ‘I can spoil her because she’s your kid.’ When you’re the grandparent, you can do the things you weren’t allowed to do as a parent.”
Anthony laughs often. Of course, he’s also had his share of tears on his pillow and pain in his heart. But in 1974 he became a born-again Christian, an event that he says turned his life around. He also believes that God “sets everything up, allows some bad things to happen for a reason.”
He also believes grandparents exist to stand in the breach. “We’re the in-betweeners. Somehow, children know they can tell their grandparents anything, and we’ll be cool with it.”
He notes that being a grandparent carries responsibility, too. “I hope I am imparting the wisdom I have to them.”
One granddaughter, “Little Casey” (his daughter Casey’s child), lives with Anthony and Linda. He admits that some of the other grandkids feel a little jealous. “It’s hard, because you don’t want to pick a favorite, and I try to be fair, but this little girl is my buddy. . . . When I’m not performing, I’m at home taking care of this child. At 73, you’re supposed to be retired, but here I am changing poopy diapers all over again.”
He’s quick to add, “I love all my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.” And the affection is mutual, in part because their Papa is so playful.
“I love roller coasters. When I ride them with my grandchildren, they see me as a really fun grandfather.” He has “spent a lot of time” at Disney Land and Disney World and knows the words to all the Disney songs.
Anthony credits his tight family bonds to his upbringing. “I grew up in the Brooklyn projects, but I had a mother and a father and aunts I loved dearly, a close family. It’s really what saved me from making too many mistakes.”
“Because I was nurtured, I know how to nurture. It’s probably why all my grandchildren try to knock the door down to spend time with their grandparents. We provide them with a garden, a place of safety, of laughter, of talking . . . a sanctuary.”
Collaboration with Paul McCartney
Little Anthony contributed a recording to the new EP, Music for Linda, that accompanies the 18-month calendar, The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes, featuring Alan Aldridge’s “lyrics art” of Beatles hits. The EP features 5 songs written or co-written by Sir Paul McCartney, including Anthony’s cover of “A World Without Love.” The calendar-EP package commemorates the 65th anniversary of 45 rpm singles, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Women and Cancer Fund, in honor of Linda McCartney.
Click here to watch Little Anthony and the Imperials: Hit Medley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLkd7sD9dzo
Coming Soon: Little Anthony’s Memoir
“When a publisher approached me about writing a book, I didn’t want it to be one of those me, me, me books. I wanted it to be about my journey through life . . . something that would make other people say, ‘Well, I’ll be darned, he went through this and he went through that, and he came out okay. I wanted readers to see that you can look at your life and see you’ve survived and you’ve flourished, even when you thought you weren’t going to make it.”
My Journey, My Redemption, by Anthony Gourdine, will be released later this year.