Debby Holiday Makes Her Provincetown Debut
by Steve Desroches
Good friends Debby Holiday and Del Shores just finished lunch in Los Angeles. They met years ago via an introduction from singer Levi Kreis, who encouraged Shores to stay a bit longer at a benefit concert to hear Holiday sing. The playwright, screenwriter, and producer was just about to cast his new play The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, and after being blown away by Holiday’s performance offered her a role on the spot. She resisted saying she wasn’t an actress. His response was, “Yes, you are!” She eventually joined the cast with fellow actors Beth Grant and future Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer and then Shores and Holiday bonded as buddies. Thus the two laugh and playfully tease as they settle in front of an iPhone to FaceTime about their upcoming shows in Provincetown at the Post Office Cabaret. She may be making her Provincetown debut, but she wants to share the spotlight.
Spreading joy, generosity, and love is in Holiday’s DNA, in a way quite literally. Her father Jimmy Holiday wrote the 1969 mega hit “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” first sung by Jackie DeShannon, and covered numerous times in a variety of musical genres since. Growing up in a musical family put Holiday on a path to finding her own voice as a singer and writer. Ray Charles, who she called Uncle Ray, was over all the time as her father co-wrote his hit songs “Understanding” and “All I Ever Need Is You,” the latter being a hit for Sonny and Cher, too. So, too were other singers, songwriters, and session musicians. It was a great musical education. But Holiday gets emotional as her father was “a troubled man” and worked through “his demons” with songwriting.
She remembers playing New Orleans Pride shortly after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. It was unclear how many people would come, as organizers thought people would be too scared to go. But it was the biggest Pride celebration to date in New Orleans, bringing in a diverse crowd. And when Holiday sang her dad’s song, the crowd joined in immediately.
“Here I go again,” chuckles Holiday holding back tears. “But it was so beautiful. I realized then that was my father’s legacy that he left the world. All the pain and difficulties wasn’t what was left, but this beautiful song with a beautiful message was.”
She stops to wipe tears away.
“And those royalties aren’t bad either,” says Shores with his signature Texas twang as they both burst out laughing. “I called her the other day and said, ‘Hey, your Daddy’s song is in a Gap commercial.’ Cha-ching!”
“I bought a car,” laughs Holiday. “I bought house!”
Laughter and song are healing for sure. That’s in part the soul behind the show Holiday is bringing to the Post Office Cabaret in which she’ll sing the music of rock and roll legend Tina Turner. Holiday identifies with Turner’s “strength and fierceness” overcoming adversity, and in her shows she’ll be paying tribute to the icon with her own big sound and soulful voice. Versatile as a performer, Holiday may be best known for her dance hits “Joyful Sound,” Waiting for a Lifetime,” and her biggest “Dive” that kept people dancing in clubs all over the world. She pulls from so many styles and influences that make her work compelling. In addition to the music being made in her home as a child, Holiday also loved the work of Barbra Streisand, Aerosmith, and perhaps most of all, David Bowie.
“I love, love, love David Bowie,” says Holiday. “I always said he married the wrong Black woman. But then again, it was Iman. When it comes to Tina Turner though, it resonates with me how she reaches down to her toes to grab a note.”
Like every other performer, the pandemic had Holiday performing virtually for over a year. While it kept her busy and her work out in the public, it’s no substitute for a live performance and connecting with an audience. She’d slay “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” Turner’s monster hit from the 1985 movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and there’d be no applause. Just a ring light and an iPhone on a stand. That’s why she’s so excited to come to Provincetown to perform for a live audience. And she convinced Shores to come with her and do his comedic storytelling show Sh*t Stirrer, which she’ll be the opening act for as well, and he vice versa. It marks his return to town since 2017.
“She whored me out,” says Shores. “She was telling me about how she was going to Provincetown and did I want to go. I have to have my shoulder replaced just when I get back so it’s kind of like a last hurrah before I have to do that.”
“It’s always better doing things with friends,” says Holiday. “And I cannot wait to get to Provincetown!”
A Tina Turner Tribute with Debby Holiday is at the Post Office Cabaret, 303 Commercial St., Thursday, July 1 at 8:30 p.m., Saturday, July 3 at 6 p.m. and Monday, July 5 and Tuesday, July 6 at 10 p.m. Del Shores presents Sh*t Stirrer Thursday, July 1 at 7 p.m., Friday, July 2 at 6 p.m., Monday, July 5 and Tuesday, July 6 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets to both shows ($39) are available at the box office and online at postofficecafe.net. For more information call 508.487.0006.