Friday, August 13, 2010

Jay Osmond on life in ‘Osland’

As drummer for The Osmonds, Jay Osmond was the beat behind some of the most famous songs of the 1970s. Yet he waits 125 pages to give readers their first insight into his musicianship in his new autobiography, Stages.

Along with brother Wayne, he was skeptical about the family’s decision to build a recording studio in the middle of Utah County. Yet in Stages: An Autobiography, Jay Osmond never backbites and never turns sour on the decision that led to the family’s financial unraveling.

He witnessed the charms and eccentricities of legions of stars, including Andy Gibb, Led Zeppelin and Cher. Yet Osmond never implies anything unsavory about one of them, or any other name gracing his autobiography.

If it’s piping hot dish about the inside travails of the Osmond family and the turbulent years of their 1970s ascension and 1980s decline you’re after, look elsewhere. In Stages, Osmond instead serves up heaping portions of golden reminiscence, sides of personal advice, and then finishes with a mirrorlike gallery of comments by those who know him.

You may not know, for example, that the Osmond family home in Ogden was situated next to a juvenile institution where Jay saw young boys run across the family lawn during escapes. You may not know that Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen counted himself an Osmond fan, or that Jay Osmond for years worked in the admissions office at Brigham Young University, fielding calls from mothers tearful over their children’s rejection letters.

The book’s overall tone is often so sincere it sometimes glosses over unintentional humor. “One of the things my family really disagreed with was the way the security at a particular hotel in England would use water hoses on the girls for crowd control,” Osmond writes in a passage about “Osmondmania.”

At the heart of Osmond’s book, though, is the perennial celebrity’s dilemma: parsing a personal life and identify apart from public persona. For Jay, sibling number six, and just older than the more famous Marie-and-Donny duo, that challenge became less pressing as the family’s popularity waned during the 1980s and on.

It pressed nonetheless, as Osmond’s book makes clear. It wasn’t until 1979, Osmond writes, when he was a student at Utah State University that he came into his own.

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