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Long Island Music Hall of Fame inductee Debbie Gibson: LI 'an amazing breeding ground for talent'

Singer-songwriter Debbie Gibson in 2014.

Singer-songwriter Debbie Gibson in 2014. Photo Credit: Ray Garcia

Debbie Gibson doesn't dwell in the past much.

Whether it's her string of No. 1 hits in the '80s or her recent recovery from Lyme disease, the Merrick native is more interested in living in the present and looking at her future than she is in looking back.

"Any artist is lucky to have even that one profound amazing pop chapter -- and I have more ahead," she says, on location in Canada working on the TV movie "The Music in Me." "If the songs are great, whether or not they ever see the light of day, I'm happy."

Gibson does plan to take a break from looking ahead on Thursday, though, when she is inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame at The Paramount in Huntington.

"It's quite an honor," she says. "All my childhood memories are of Long Island and the arts. Long Island is an amazing breeding ground for talent and provided me with so much joy, having that outlet as a kid, so this is such an authentic acknowledgment."

Gibson was only 16 when her debut single, "Only in My Dreams," hit the pop charts, eventually reaching No. 4 in 1987 and making her one of pop's biggest stars.

Record achievements

What set her apart was that -- unlike many pop stars, both then and now -- Gibson wrote her own songs. In 1988, when she was 18, her song "Foolish Beat" hit No. 1, making her the youngest artist ever to write, produce and perform a chart-topping hit, an achievement that still stands. Given today's creation by committee for pop hits, it's a record that may stand for the foreseeable future. (Iggy Azalea's summer smash "Fancy," for example, is the work of nine co-writers and producers. Jennifer Lopez's new single, "Booty," is credited to 11 people.)

How was Gibson able to accomplish that at such a young age? "I give my mom, Diane, full credit for that," she says. "She stood up to the execs on my behalf and said, 'Listen, my daughter knows what she wants and how to communicate it to musicians.' "

Gibson says she believed she also was ready to produce at that time. "There's really no mystery to producing, in my opinion," she says. "It's about translating what you hear in your head and having it come out of the speakers. I felt like I had to know my stuff twice as much as the big boys because I was a young girl, so I made sure to arm myself with the tech lingo."

Crediting the music

While she is proud of the accomplishment, Gibson says she cares less about it now.

"The credit isn't important," she says. "It's whatever is best for the song. The song is the star -- not me!"

What Gibson is more excited about is the idea that she can be seen as a role model for other young singer-songwriters, especially those from Long Island. "It always makes something seem more achievable, if your neighbor or friend or classmate was able to do it first," she says. "If there is a kid today sitting in class thinking, 'Debbie did it, so I can,' that's amazing."

Movie work a 'blast'

Even with that kind of success, Gibson continues to seek out new challenges. "As we speak, I am in my trailer working on a movie for the UP Network called 'The Music in Me,' " she says. "I also helped with the music for the movie and love this project because it is a true vehicle, not one in which I am just a hired hand. The creative process has been a blast, and I love that this is a movie that is out to elevate consciousness as opposed to all the old cliches we've heard before."

Regaining her health also has become a challenge after being diagnosed with Lyme disease last year. Gibson says she's dealt with the disease by not letting it take over her life. "I have my moments, but I've been on an upswing," she says. "I went from resting and recovering much of the year to working superlong days on this new film. My stamina is coming back!"

Crafting new music, though, isn't a challenge for Gibson. It's something that still comes naturally. "I've been quietly living my life while performing almost every weekend for several years and channeling some of my favorite melodies and lyrics ever," she says. " are reflective both of universal themes as well as my own real-life experiences that have become much richer now that I've stepped out of the bubble I was living in for so long."

Business, music mix in the inductee list

While Debbie Gibson is clearly in charge in all parts of her career, the bulk of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame's fifth induction class shows how powerful those behind the scenes can be both artistically and business-wise in the music industry.

Here's a look at the Long Island Music Hall of Fame Class of 2014:

KURTIS BLOW

HAILS FROM Cambria Heights and Jamaica

BEST KNOWN FOR He's the first rapper signed to a major label and delivering a string of pioneering hip-hop hits, including "Christmas Rappin'," "The Breaks" and "Basketball."

 

CLIVE DAVIS

HAILS FROM Brooklyn

BEST KNOWN FOR As a record producer and music industry executive, he has launched the careers of everyone from Aerosmith to Barry Manilow to Whitney Houston, as well as legendary labels Arista Records and J Records. He is currently the chief creative officer for Sony Music, and he produced the upcoming album "Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics."

 

RON DELSENER

HAILS FROM Born in Astoria; longtime resident of East Hampton

BEST KNOWN FOR Booking and promoting some of the highest-profile concerts and tours ever, from The Beatles and Rolling Stones to Barbra Streisand and Billy Joel. He also brought popular music to Jones Beach and built the powerful Delsener/Slater Enterprises.

 

GERRY GOFFIN

HAILS FROM Brooklyn

BEST KNOWN FOR Writing more than 50 Top 40 singles, many with his songwriting partner and ex-wife Carole King, including "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman."

 

THE BILLY JOEL BAND

HAILS FROM Hicksville

BEST KNOWN FOR Being the core band that backed Joel from his early days until the sessions for his 1989 album "Storm Front." After they disbanded, multi-instrumentalist Richie Cannata, drummer Liberty DeVitto, guitarist Russell Javors and bassist Doug Stegmeyer went on to play with other musicians and work on their own material.

 

STEVE THOMPSON

HAILS FROM Born in Brooklyn; lived in East Northport and Centerport during the bulk of his career

BEST KNOWN FOR Producing a wide range of music's biggest hits, including Guns N' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction," Metallica's "And Justice for All," Aretha Franklin's "Who's Zoomin' Who?" and Madonna's "Open Your Heart."

 

WHAT The Long Island Music Hall of Fame Induction Gala

WHEN | WHERE 8:30 p.m. Thursday, The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington

INFO $75-$150; 800-745- 3000, ticketmaster.com

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