Jimmy Osmond is the youngest member of the famous musical family The Osmonds. Having worked in showbiz since the age of five, he’s overcome financial setbacks and a stroke—and continues to perform today. 

…growing up working non-stop

Jimmy Osmond
Image: A young Jimmy

We pushed ourselves and we fought every week to stay on TV. But the things that mattered to me were the family times, and I can remember just playing together and trying to have fun while doing all of this work.  

 

…being proud of what my brothers did and wanting to be a part of it so badly

I didn’t really know where I fitted in, even though I’d come out and do my little number, whatever it was. 

I think that attitude really helped me in later life—I didn’t want to be the star of anything, I just wanted to be a part of it. 

 

 …we had this thing called “family night”

The Osmonds family night
Image: The Osmonds

We still have it in my family—where once a week we’d just get together and work on a programme for the rest of the day. That family night started as learning how to harmonise, how to play instruments, how to develop our talents and it
just kind of fell together. 

My two older brothers were born deaf and were never really much a part of what we did because of their situation. My mum was told never to have any more kids—boy, am I glad she didn’t listen! Singing barbershop was a way to raise money to buy them hearing aids.  

 

"Walt Disney fell in love with my family."

 

…my grandpa recorded one of the barbershop performances

He sent it to a guy in California called Lawrence Welk, who granted my brothers an audition. So everybody hopped in the car and drove 20 hours to California. My mum dressed everybody alike and my brothers went into the audition, but the guy wouldn’t see them even after going that far. So my dad took everyone to Disneyland instead.

The brothers were still dressed up for the audition and they started singing on the street in Disneyland. It created such a stir that they were taken to Walt Disney himself, who fell in love with my family. 

I started working in Disneyland at five years old. It was so fun because they’d give us these booklets of tickets and no one would want the kiddie rides. So I’d always go on Dumbo. That’s all I was worried about—I wasn’t worried about performing,
I just wanted to know when I’d get a break to go on Dumbo again. 

 

…going to public school

My mum and dad wanted me to have some sense of normalcy. At the time we were on TV every week, so there was quite a bit of jealousy—as you can imagine with that much exposure. I actually had a kid come at me with a switchblade in school. I never went back. 

 

…we lost about £50m and everyone was in a bit of a frenzy 

Osmonds
Image: The Osmond brothers in some of their matching outfits

We were this little family nucleus who could do anything and now we were faced with hardship. Everyone went back to the basics, started performing and doing any jobs they could find.

I was 16 years old and went down to California to go on every audition I could. I ended up doing Love Boat, which was fun. I was offered quite a few opportunities that were against who I was as a person. We grew up Latter-Day Saints Mormons and Christians—there are certain things you just can’t do. 

 

"I looked at my cute little kids and thought, 'What’s going to happen to them?'"

 

…having a stroke in 2004

I had Jimmy Osmond’s American Jukebox Theatre and was doing six shows a week for ten months a year. I was working super hard, then all of a sudden I was on stage with the feeling of lightning bolts between my eyes. My vision just went—it was so blurry I couldn’t see anything. I thought it was a passing migraine, but it was actually a little stroke

They found a hole in my heart and ended up doing a PFO closure, which is now pretty routine, but at the time I was very lucky. I had to undergo this new surgery and it scared me.

I looked at my cute little kids and thought, 'What’s going to happen to them?'. At that point I realised it’s important for your kids to see you work, but it’s important for them to enjoy life with you too. Spend as much time with them as you can. When we play, we play hard.

 

…my mum starting a charity inspired by my brothers 


Image: Jimmy Osmond and his family 

It was called the Osmond Foundation and is now The Children’s Miracle Network. It became one of the top charities in the US and Canada, it’s raised £3bn for kids and it all started as a hearing fund.

I never really “got it” until my daughter was in an ambulance being run to the children’s hospital. In that moment, as a daddy, you’d give up anything to help them.

The very piece of equipment that was saving her life had our little logo on it and I thought, thank God. My mum started it with such a pure heart, as something that was bigger than her. That it was the organisation that ended up saving my little girl’s life… it’s one of those moments where the hairs on the back of your neck stick up.

 

Read the full article in the December issue of Reader's Digest 

 

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