by Micah Smith
Fans of singer Deborah Silver’s 2016 album, “The Gold Standards,” a chart-topping tribute to the Great American Songbook, might be surprised to learn that the soulful vocalist wasn’t raised in the Hollywood hills, as some would guess from the album’s classic style. Instead, she spent her youth in Mississippi, first in the Delta, then Jackson.
Silver was born Deborah Berman in Greenwood and lived in Indianola before her parents, Robert and Sondra Berman, moved the family to the capital city while she was still a toddler.
“It was the best childhood anyone could ever have because I was in Mississippi,” Silver says. “I mean, what’s better than growing up in Mississippi? It’s the hospitality state, the people are all wonderful, and it was extremely happy days, happy times.”
Some of her best memories are from her time at Murrah High School, where she was a cheerleader and sang in choir, she says. However, while she wasn’t afraid to get onstage for public speaking, dancing, acting or classical piano recitals, Silver was too shy to sing for others.
“I was so quiet and shy to sing in front of people that I have a running joke; I say, ‘I sang solo—’so low’ that no one could hear me,'” the songstress says.
That changed when she graduated from Murrah in 1980 and moved to St. Louis, Mo., to attend Washington University. While in college, she began landing roles in musical-theater productions, which required her to get over her shyness quickly.
After graduating from Washington University in the mid-1980s with a bachelor’s degree in business and public relations, Silver came back to Mississippi and began taking music classes at William Carey College in Hattiesburg. During that time, she also won the Miss William Carey College pageant, which led to her competing for the Miss Mississippi crown. After hearing her sing, some of the judges and audience members encouraged her to move to Los Angeles for a career in entertainment.
“It was right after the Miss Mississippi pageant that I packed up my bags and said, ‘OK, I’m going to go,'” Silver says.
“And it led to my career today.”
For about 10 years, Silver pursued acting in L.A., booking small roles in movies, sitcoms and soap operas; worked as a spokesmodel; and ran her own business, Berman Entertainment, booking other spokespersons for companies, as well. She also created a cabaret-style show that made use of her vocal talents.
Silver first began focusing more on a music career after she and her husband Larry D. Silver, married in 1994 and moved near Washington, D.C., which made it traveling across the country for auditions and acting jobs difficult.
“I think what really did it, it’s funny, is that I was pregnant with my first child when I had a part in a movie,” Silver says. “I flew back into L.A. to do it and had to be on set probably at 4 in the morning. It would be long hours, I’d leave at night and then have to be up again, still having to deal with traffic at any crazy time in L.A. All of the sudden, I said to myself, ‘This is not making me happy as much as just singing and performing.'”
With music, she could do shows in Los Angeles, New York City or anywhere while still based at home with her family. It also allowed her to use her voice to help other people’s lives through performing for charity events. After that trip to L.A., she decided to focus solely on her cabaret show and, over time, developed into the Deborah Silver fans know today.
Although Silver, now based in south Florida, has performed at events across the country ever since, “The Gold Standards” is her first commercial release. All proceeds from her 2010 debut, “Pure Silver,” went to research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease from which her sister Marjie Block suffers. Silver and her daughter Madison also created a campaign called slam ALS to bring awareness to the disease.
Fans won’t have to wait too long for a follow-up to “The Gold Standards,” as Silver says she’s already planning her next recording project and expects to release it later this year.
In the meantime, the album is performing well across the board, having debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and the Traditional Jazz Album chart, and No. 2 on the Billboard Jazz Album chart, among others. It’s an accomplishment that Silver says she owes in part to her Mississippi roots.
“I feel like I have so much soul in my body from growing up with the style of music we listened to,” Silver says. “Mississippi is really the home of the blues, and I’ve taken this standard music and put a touch of Mississippi in it, really. I call it my own ‘Silver spin,’ but it’s really a touch of Mississippi.”