Local celebrities, athletes like Vanilla Ice and Jason Taylor support singer’s cause

Deborah Silver
Deborah Silver

Deborah Silver has been hanging with the in crowd lately for a cause close to her heart.

The South Florida-based jazz singer and philanthropist enlisted the likes of such local celebs as Jason Taylor, Larry King, Vanilla Ice and Udonis Haslem to make a video to raise money for SLAM ALS, a charity she founded that works to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS. Silver’s sister was diagnosed in 2009 with the progressive neurodegenerative disease.

We talked to the Mississippi native about working with the stars as well as her new album, “The Gold Standards,” which features various classic covers as well as the duet, “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” with Grammy winner Jack Jones, of “Love Boat” theme song fame.

When did you start singing?

My mother was a professional opera singer who gave voice lessons to students as I was growing up. Ironically, I was too shy to ever take advantage of this. I began singing in my high school choir, but sang “solo”— as in “so low” — that no one could hear me. It was not until college at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, that I finally found my confidence and courage to sing out loud. I began to land major parts in musical productions. When my parents came to see my first show, they were in the front row. My mother always tells the story of when she first heard me sing on stage, she quietly leaned toward my father and whispered, “Bob … Debbie can really sing!” Since then, I took voice lessons while at college, and later trained under Seth Riggs, a “vocal coach to the stars” in Los Angeles.

Can you talk about the album?

“The Gold Standards” is a collection of some of my absolute favorite songs from the Great American Songbook. These are timeless classics that I have reinvented and put my own spin on. The record was co-produced by Steve Tyrell, who worked on a few of Rod Stewart’s standards album. I am thrilled that I got to sing with the incomparable Jack Jones. I also loved having jazz great Ann Hampton Callaway join me on “The Glory of Love.” As for my favorite song, it would be a tossup between “Ain’t Misbehavin” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” In both, I was really able to have fun and add in my own personality.

What was it like making the video with all those celebrities?

All of our famous SLAMbassadors have truly slammed from their hearts. They are probably bombarded with requests all day and night from so many worthwhile causes, yet for them to participate in our campaign was a great showing of their belief in the crucial need of a cure. One great example is our Miami Heat Captain Udonis Haslem. In the video he slam dunks a basketball for the cause. Udonis is an amazing supporter of ALS patients and he recently produced “Who is Lou Gehrig?” which highlights the life of Miami ALS patient Jeff Fogel and was directed by Miami native Gil Green.