Linda Eder was perhaps the most popular new interpreter of theatrical songs to emerge during the '90s. A disciple of Barbra Streisand early on, Eder gradually forged her own vocal style, and branched out from show tunes to include pop standards, light swing, and adult contemporary balladry in her repertoire. As a stage actress, Eder worked primarily with her husband, composer Frank Wildhorn, who often designed his material specifically for her (and produced her recordings as well). It was Wildhorn's musical adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde that first catapulted Eder to stardom, and she continued to rely on his pen for a good portion of her recorded output, though her albums of the new millennium increasingly broadened her comfort zone.
Eder was born February 3, 1961, in Tucson, AZ, just two months after her parents emigrated to the United States. Her mother was Norwegian, and her father was an Austrian pastry chef who eventually settled the family in the small northern town of Brainerd, MN, where Linda spent the vast majority of her childhood. She was first inspired to try her hand at singing by Judy Garland's performance of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and at 16, she won a local beauty pageant in part by performing an original composition. Teaming with pianist Paul Todd, a high-school classmate, Eder began performing locally, making her first professional appearance at the Brainerd Holiday Inn in 1981. After graduation, the two took their nightclub act on the road, playing cabarets, cocktail lounges, and supper clubs around the country as Paul & Linda.
Todd and Eder eventually split, and she began working with pianist Jeremy Roberts in his place. In 1988, Eder caught her first big break when she successfully auditioned for the TV talent show Star Search. She went on to win the competition 12 weeks in a row, which brought her to the attention of composer Frank Wildhorn, who had recently co-written Whitney Houston's number one hit "Where Do Broken Hearts Go." Wildhorn had been working on a musical version of Robert Louis Stevenson's legendary Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde story for quite some time, and securing Eder's services gave the project a whole new life. Cast in the role of Lucy, a prostitute and nightclub singer, Eder soon developed a romantic relationship with Wildhorn as well.
The first version of Jekyll and Hyde premiered in Houston in 1990, and an album of musical highlights was released the same year in hopes of stimulating interest in the show. In the meantime, Eder recorded her self-titled debut album, which was released by RCA in 1991. The following year, Wildhorn and Eder issued an early version of another musical, The Scarlet Pimpernel, which was initially constructed as a showcase for Eder and her Streisand-style vocal dramatics. The song "You Are My Home," recorded as a duet between Eder and Peabo Bryson, was a minor hit on the adult contemporary charts. Eder's next proper solo album was 1994's And So Much More, on which Wildhorn had a hand in composing the majority of the material. During the same period, Wildhorn began work on a musical adaptation of Svengali, which naturally focused on Eder.
Jekyll and Hyde embarked on a national tour in 1994, often to negative reviews and positive box office receipts. In 1995, having become a word-of-mouth hit, Jekyll and Hyde was re-recorded in a more complete form; the following year, Eder embarked on her first national concert tour as a solo artist. In 1997, after undergoing substantial revisions, Jekyll and Hyde finally made its long-awaited Broadway premiere, by which time Eder's cult following had blossomed into full-fledged stardom. She signed to Atlantic Records that year and released It's Time, her most commercially successful album to date, which showed her coming into her own as a distinctive vocal stylist. Wildhorn wrote or co-wrote most of the material again, sprinkling in a few songs from Jekyll and Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and a new work in progress, The Civil War. After a lengthy courtship, Eder and Wildhorn finally married in 1998.
Eder's next album, It's No Secret Anymore, was released in 1999, and again concentrated mostly on Wildhorn material, with selections from the musical work-in-progress Havana (another Eder vehicle) and a lullaby for the couple's newborn child. Eder's first holiday album, Christmas Stays the Same, appeared in 2000. She returned in 2002 with Gold, a less traditional, more guitar-based set of contemporary pop that featured covers of songs by the Beatles, Dusty Springfield, Boz Scaggs, and Dobie Gray. Still, Wildhorn material dominated the record, including the well-received title track, which was to be a cornerstone of the new, unfinished musical Camille Claudel. "Gold" also appeared on Eder's follow-up album, 2003's Broadway My Way, an album of show tune standards that backed away from the more contemporary touches of its predecessor. She really changed horses for 2008's The Other Side of Me, a compelling album of rock-edged country, then swung back into familiar pop theater territory for 2009's Soundtrack. ~ Steve Huey & Steve Leggett