Michael John "Jimmy" Roselli (December 26, 1925 – June 30, 2011) was one of the most significant Italian-American pop singers of his time, during an era of formidable competition from such performers as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Vic Damone and Jerry Vale.
Roselli was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. He had success with the song "Mala Femmena", which sold over three million records in 1963. It never was a hit song for him, but is considered his signature song. His only pop hit was a remake of "There Must Be A Way", a song previously recorded by Joni James. It reached number 93 in the Billboard′s pop charts. "There Must Be A Way" was an easy-listening hit, reaching #13 in Billboard and #2 in Record World. The song was recorded in 1967. It became a hit in Britain and he performed at the London Palladium and Royal Albert Hall.
He also had success with the song "All The Time" that same year. The song reached number 19 in the Billboard's easy listening charts. His third and last hit song was "Please Believe Me" in 1968. That song reached number 31 in the Billboard's easy listening charts. Those were his only U.S. hit singles, although his version of "When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New" twice appeared in the UK Singles Chart. It peaked at number 51 in 1983, and number 52 in 1987.
At the beginning of his career, with appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, with Jimmy Durante, and on the famous Copacabana, critics were calling him a 'miracle'". As the New Yorker Magazine states, "guys were trying to put a stranglehold on him. He pushed them all away. Although he was in good terms with a number of mob chieftains, he claimed that he had "never done business with organized criminals". Roselli at times was relegated to selling his music out of the trunk of his car parked in Little Italy in Manhattan (he was the founder and owner of M&R Records).
Jimmy Roselli is a favorite among Italian-Americans and his signature tune "Mala Femmina" is featured twice in Martin Scorsese's early classic Mean Streets. Roselli sang in perfect Neapolitan dialect. Other Neapolitan songs recorded by Roselli include "Core 'ngrato", "Anema e core" and "Scapricciatiello". Jerry Lewis said of him that "Roselli sings as an Italian should sing". He sang the title song "Who Can Say?" for the 1966 Italian documentary film Africa Addio. Under United Artists, he delivered roughly 35 albums and he often appeared to packed crowds at the legendary 500 Club in Atlantic City.
From 1969, however, Roselli all but disappeared. Bookings dried up. Radio stations stopped playing his songs and his records vanished from the stores. According to Roselli, the sudden reversal came about when Sinatra’s mother Dolly (the Sinatras were neighbours in Hoboken, New Jersey) sent round two sidekicks to ask him whether he would sing at a charity concert she was organising. Insulted that she did not come herself, Roselli replied: ”Tell her I’ve got to get $25,000, and she’s got to pay for the orchestra.”
Roselli’s claim that a furious Sinatra then arranged for his Mafia pals to torpedo his career was subsequently backed up by New York investigators. As a result, it was Sinatra who became the most famous Italian-American crooner from Hoboken.
In his authorised biography of the singer, Making the Wiseguys Weep, David Evanier suggested that it was Roselli’s self-destructive streak as much the Mob that held back his career. He turned down a role in The Godfather Part II, as well as appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, because they would not pay what he thought he was worth. He walked out of a seven-show stint on The Ed Sullivan Show after only three appearances .
In the 1990s it appears that Roselli settled his differences with the Mob. He returned to the performing circuit, earning up to $100,000 a time.
He retired in 2004 and died from heart complications in 2011 at his home in Clearwater, Florida. (Info edited from the Telegraph.co.uk and Wikipedia)