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Robert Neil Speaks with...

Aug 31, 2018

(This version of the episode is presented in its entirety and runs about 37 minutes; however, for listeners who prefer shorter episodes, the program is also available in Part I and Part II editions, which each run about 20 minutes. Please check the menu for all episodes of ‘Documenting Popular Music,’ or visit or iTunes.)

In the 1970s, the most popular song of the decade was Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” which spend 10 weeks at the top of Billboard’s singles chart in 1977. While the overwhelming success of the song overshadows other aspects of Boone’s career, the eternally optimistic singer has had a varied and successful career in multiple musical genres.

In a new interview with journalist Robert Neil, Boone talks about the unusual circumstances that created the opportunity to record “You Light Up My Life,” and the odd path that followed. In her typically good-natured way, Boone jokes about how ‘green’ she was at that time and how her desire to sing in a variety of styles ultimately left her with a ‘branding’ problem.

She also talks about members of her famous family, and the conversation goes well beyond her legendary father Pat Boone. Debby is also related to two other iconic and hugely important musical performers:  country singer Red Foley and singer/actress Rosemary Clooney.

Foley, considered one of the most important figures in the history of country music, was Boone’s maternal grandfather, and Clooney, who recorded some of the most popular pop songs of the early 1950s, was Boone’s mother-in-law.

In a free-flowing, casual interview, Boone talks about her famous relations, and Neil also speaks with John Rumble, senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, who offers some insights into Foley’s career.