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Bourne supremacy lies in his talent, versatility

Citizen Staff Writer



For a while there, it looked as if rock ‘n’ roll singers were going to shout everyone into submission. When the boomers were young, noise was king.

But the appeal of grace and elegance never quite went away. On special occasions, even the boomers liked to dress up a little and listen to more civilized sounds.

When they did, Joe Bourne was ready. He knew all the songs. He had a very smooth voice. He could croon. He could swing. There were classy clothes in his closet.

A favorite Joe Bourne story is that he was playing the lounge of the Playboy Club in Boston in the late 1960s and doing great. So great, in fact, management asked him to leave because all those groovy Playboy customers were hanging out in the lounge listening to Bourne instead of going upstairs to hear the expensive acts.

Bourne’s own act will be showcased in concert Thursday at the clubhouse ballroom in Heritage Highlands. Then, this weekend, he will be at the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Festival produced by the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council on the northwest campus of Pima Community College. He’s on the bill with Mr. Boogie Woogie (Eric-Jan Overbeek), jazz guitarist Dan Griffin and a long string of musicians doing bluegrass, Irish, Latin, folk and flamenco styles.

“My style is sort of an easy-listening style,” Bourne says with a smile, a bit shyly. “But I can adapt it, to swing or soul or jazz. I had a disco band for several years, too.

“Really, what I enjoy singing most is ballads. That’s all I wanted to do, but people said I couldn’t just do ballads.”

Never one to pass up good advice, Bourne also dipped into the rock ‘n’ roll songbook. He mentions “Rockin’ Robin” and “Proud Mary.” He even admits to singing a few country songs.

“On the cruise ships, I had to include something for everyone,” he adds. But no explanation is necessary.

He and his wife, Flory, moved to Oro Valley in 2000, after enjoying Bourne’s 25-year career performing gala concerts in Europe’s capitols and occasionally getting away on one of those five-star luxury cruises to exotic ports.

Meanwhile, here in the USA, the popularity of rock ‘n’ roll and the undertow of racism were limiting the show business career of this young man from Cambridge, Mass. It was Flory, a native of Holland, who convinced Bourne that European audiences would be more receptive to his talents. That was 1985, when punk rock had eaten up all the juke boxes and rap was devouring the boom boxes. Flory and Joe never looked back.

Whenever famous American singers toured Europe, Bourne often appeared on the bill. His résumé includes shows with Dionne Warwick, the Supremes, Natalie Cole, Ray Charles and the Pointer Sisters.

A new chapter in Joe’s career opened during the late 1990s when Flory’s arthritis demanded they live in a hotter, drier climate. They first thought of Spain, where the rain falls mainly on the plain.

But Flory’s daughter lived in Tucson, so here they are. There may not be many local restaurants serving wine in cut-crystal goblets, but Joe has been particularly resilient. He has created a Tucson image just as today’s young audiences are coming back to crooners.

With more aging boomers moving into the city’s retirement communities, there is new appreciation for those ballads Joe Bourne loves, as well. Out here on America’s sunny frontier, life is good.

Bourne supremacy lies in crooner’s talent, versatility


What: Joe Bourne and the SPS Trio, with special guest Stevie Woods, presenting “Jazz, Blues and Modern Grooves”

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Heritage Highlands Clubhouse Ballroom at Dove Mountain, 4949 W. Heritage Club Blvd.

Price: $17, open to the public

Info: 877-8446, joebourne.com

What: Joe Bourne, solo entertainer

When: 12:15 p.m. Saturday

Where: Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Festival, Pima Community College North Campus, 7600 N. Shannon Road

Price: free admission

Info: 877-8446, joebourne.com

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