Best Chanteuse

Linda Eder may be able to sing the roof off a concert hall, but she's anything but a diva. "I really want to be happy," says Eder, the kind of girl who played stickball as a kid, the Winnie Cooper to our Kevin Arnold. "I want to have time to do other things in life. I'm not driven by show business."

Eder earned national acclaim for her portrayal of Lucy in the musical Jekyll & Hyde, which premiered at the Alley Theatre in 1990. The onetime Star Search winner, a throwback to such great stand-up singers as Judy Garland, has carved her own niche by singing Broadway show tunes in the tradition of the Great American Songbook.

Yet with one of the most heavenly voices in all of pop, Eder is still down-to-earth. She recorded her 1999 album, It's No Secret Anymore, when she was seven months pregnant, and then later spent the intermission of her Carnegie Hall concert breast-feeding her baby.

Nor does Eder feel the need to bastardize song lyrics to make them fit her gender. "If I Were a Rich Man" remains "If I Were a Rich Man."

"I discovered a lot of great songs that I wanted to sing and I couldn't because the lyrics were gender-specific," Eder says. "They were great, and I decided to just do them anyway."

In August, Eder's song "Why Do People Fall In Love?" was featured in an All My Children montage, the only artist besides Mariah Carey and Celine Dion to have the honor. "I haven't actually watched soaps in the last few years," Eder confesses. "I wish I had been more familiar with the story line, because someone had told me it fit in really well with the song and the lyrics."

She doesn't watch soaps? We just might be in love.

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