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Monday, 17 February 2014

Gene Pitney born 17 February 1941

Gene Francis Alan Pitney (February 17, 1940 – April 5, 2006) was an American singer and songwriter. Through the mid-1960s, he enjoyed considerable success on both sides of the Atlantic, and charted more than 20 Top 40 hit singles. He was also an accomplished songwriter,guitarist, pianist, drummer, and skilled sound engineer. In 2002, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Pitney was born in Hartford, Connecticut. In his youth, he grew up in Rockville, now a part of the town of Vernon. His early musical influences were Clyde McPhatter and Doo Wop groups like The Crows. He attended Rockville High School from which he earned the name "The Rockville Rocket," and where he formed his first band called "Gene & the Genials." He also made a couple of records as part of a duo called "Jamie and Jane" with a lady called Ginny Arnell (who later had a solo hit of her own, "Dumbhead") and then released a single in 1959 under the name of Billy Bryan.
In 1961, Gene Pitney released his first chart single, "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away," on which he played several instruments and multi-tracked the vocals. This was followed by his first big hit, "Town Without Pity", that same year. This song, from the film of the same name, won the Golden Globe Award for "Best Song in a Motion Picture" and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. Pitney was the first pop singer to perform at the Oscars, singing "Town Without Pity" at the 34th Annual Academy Awards on April 9, 1962.

Pitney helped his musical career by writing hit songs for others. Notable songs include "He's a Rebel" for The Crystals, Vikki Carr and Elkie Brooks, "Today's Teardrops" for Roy Orbison, "Rubber Ball" for Bobby Vee and "Hello Mary Lou" for Ricky Nelson (Nelson is often inaccurately credited as the songwriter). The

Crystals' "He's A Rebel" kept Pitney's highest peaking Hot 100 record "Only Love Can Break A Heart" from being atop that chart on November 3, 1962.
His 1963 hit, "Mecca," is considered by some to be a precursor to psychedelia in its use of Indian musical influences, two years before The Beatles began incorporating these influences. The use of exotic musical instruments became something of a Pitney trademark, judging by the Mariachi trumpets employed in "Lonely Drifters," the ukuleles in "Hawaii," and the gypsy fiddle in "Golden Earrings." The Mick Jagger-Keith Richards song, "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday," which became a hit for him, was the first Rolling Stones song to be a success in the United States, and it was partly Pitney's endorsement of the group which helped them to find favor in America.
He was in the studio in England with the Stones on some of their earlier recording sessions, including those which resulted in both sides of their first Top 10 single "Not Fade Away" and their debut album, apparently playing piano, though the extent to which his contributions and those of "Uncle" Phil Spector were used is uncertain. At this time he enjoyed a brief affair with Marianne Faithfull who was subsequently disparaging in her autobiography painting him as fussy and humourless. His ongoing popularity in the UK market was ensured by the chart success of "Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa" at the end of 1963/beginning of 1964, when in January the Bacharach and Davids' song peaked at #4. "Tulsa" was also a big hit in the US and would become Pitney's signature tune. Along with the great Roy Orbison before him, Gene had toured the UK on a regular basis. He was actually preparing his next UK tour at the time of his passing.
Pitney released an unbroken string of hit singles in the early 1960s, with the unrequited love classic "It Hurts To Be in Love" and "I'm Gonna Be Strong" in 1964, and "Nobody Needs Your Love" in 1966 (the first two were top 10 in the US; the last two peaked at No. 2 in the UK). "It Hurts To Be in Love" was originally planned as a vehicle for Neil Sedaka. When Sedaka decided not to record it, Pitney used the existing backing tracks and just added his lead vocal. Pitney and Orbison were practically the only American soloists to withstand the British Invasion, both displaying an astounding vocal range.
In 1965, he recorded two successful albums with country legend George Jones. They were voted the most promising C & W Duo of that year. Pitney also recorded songs in Italian and Spanish, and twice finished second in the Sanremo Music Festival, where his strong vibrato may have reminded older listeners of the Italian tenor Caruso. He had a regional hit with "Nessuno Mi Puo' Giudicare." Pitney maintained a successful career in Britain and the rest of Europe. One of the few star performers to have survived the 1960s unscathed, his fitness regime built the stamina he required for his singularly dithyrambic stage act. Pitney's last American top 40 hit was "She's a Heartbreaker" (1968).
In the early 70s, Pitney made a personal decision to cut back on his touring deciding only to spend six months of each year on the road, and the remainder with his family. Pitney last hit the UK charts after an absence of fifteen years with 1989's duet with Marc Almond, a new version of "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," a song by British writers Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, which had originally been a No. 5 solo hit for Pitney in 1967, and which belatedly brought him his first UK Number 1 hit, staying there for four weeks. It also went #1 in many European countries as well. Sales were boosted particularly by the two vocalists' appearance on the Terry Wogan TV show as it was climbing the charts. Pitney's US record company declined to issue the record in America on the grounds that buyers would mistake it for a vocal duet by two gay men, Almond being leather-clad as usual, and Pitney dressed in a white tuxedo. 
Pitney died on April 5, 2006 at the age of 66. He was found dead by his tour manager in the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff, Wales in the middle of a UK tour. His Final Show at Cardiff's St David's Hall was deemed a huge success, with a standing ovation, ending the show with his 1962 hit "Town Without Pity". An autopsy confirmed the singer died of of a heart attack and had severely constricted coronary arteries. He was laid to rest on April 13th, 2006 at Somers Center Cemetery in Somers Connecticut.
In tribute to Gene, Marc Almond recorded Backstage (I'm Lonely) for his album Stardom Road.
On September 20th, 2007, Gene Pitney was honored in his hometown of Rockville Connecticut where a Plaque was unveiled at the Town Hall. Members of the Pitney family were in attendance. (edited from Wikipedia)


1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For Gene Pitney 25 ALL-TIME GREATEST HITS go here:

01 (I Wanna) Love My Life Away
02 Every Breath I Take
03 Town Without Pity
04 Hello Mary Lou
05 (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance
06 Only Love Can Break A Heart
07 If I Didn't Have A Dime (To Play The Jukebox)
08 Half Heaven - Half Heartache
09 Mecca
10 True Love Never Runs Smooth
11 Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa
12 That Girl Belongs To Yesterday
13 It Hurts To Be In Love
14 Lips Were Redder On You
15 I'm Gonna Be Strong
16 I Must Be Seeing Things
17 Last Chance To Turn Around
18 Looking Through The Eyes Of Love
19 Princess In Rags
20 Backstage (I'm Lonely)
21 Nobody Needs Your Love
22 Just One Smile
23 Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart
24 She's A Heartbreaker
25 Yours Until Tomorrow