Singer Maureen McGovern could easily have stayed in a comfort zone. She rose to fame singing theme songs to 1970s disaster films such as “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno.”
She came out of seemingly nowhere to sing the “Poseidon” theme, “The Morning After,” which hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. Soon she returned with “We May Never Love Like This Again” from “Inferno,” winning an Oscars Award for Best Original Song.
Not content to be just the queen of disaster movie themes, McGovern evolved to become known as “The Stradivarius Voice” by colleagues due to her versatile four-octave voice.
A Youngstown native and proclaimed “proud Buckeye,” McGovern will headline the 8 p.m. Saturday, June 11 show following the Summer Arts Festival 50th Anniversary reception, 5-7:30 p.m. in the Turner Amphitheater in Veterans Park.
“I love playing at night,” said McGovern, who previously performed at the Kuss Auditorium with 4 Girls 4 in 2015. “I try to make a big crowd intimate like I’m talking to all,” she said.
McGovern will mix songs from her new CD, “You Raise Me Up — A Spiritual Journey,” with a mix of other popular songs.
She was originally a folksinger and working as a secretary when her demo tape was discovered by record producers seeking the right voice for “The Morning After.”
With the film and song massive hits, she made her film debut singing the theme in “The Towering Inferno.” Earlier in 1974 she was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy, which Bette Midler won.
Although still scoring sporadic hits through the late 1970s, McGovern said she knew she could do more, and kickstarted the next phase of her career that went beyond her singing talent in the early 1980s, replacing Linda Ronstadt in the Broadway hit “The Pirates of Penzance.”
This opened the door for more work in theater, television, film and voiceover work, along with expanding her singing to do anything from big band to jazz to theatrical tunes.
“I was like a kid in a candy store,” McGovern said.
Another claim to pop-culture fame is her role as Sister Angelina, the singing nun in the 1980 comedy classic “Airplane”; ironic, considering the voice of disaster movies was in a film spoofing the genre.
Although partially hidden in a habit, she scored laughs doing a silly version of Aretha Franklin’s signature song, “Respect,” for the two jive dudes.
“It was great fun, that writing just leapt off the page,” McGovern said.
The new album is another showcase of her versatility, producing it herself and having a great time.
“I looked at the world and thought there’s so much noise and nastiness and just wanted to do something intimate with a small chamber group,” she said. “It’s like a warm blanket. I had such fun recording it.”
She not only makes audiences feel good, but the sick, as well. McGovern works with Ohio State University doing music therapy.
She said there’s nothing quite like seeing a patient singing and smiling.
“Singing is what I love, and that’s what music does,” McGovern said.
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