WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-02 > 1171199992
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] LOVECCHIO: Francesco Paolo Lovecchio 6/2/2006
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2007 05:19:52 -0800
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 08/02/2007
Frankie Laine, who died on Tuesday aged 93, was the most successful of the
black-influenced white singers who came to prominence in the post-war era
belting out blues in American nightclubs; he became one of the country's
biggest stars, with a string of more than 70 hits and international sales of
more than 250 million.
Laine's soulful, masculine style and highly emotional delivery dealt a blow
to the gentler crooning styles of the day and paved the way for later blues
and rock and roll artists such as Johnnie Ray and Elvis Presley. Naturally
gifted with a powerful voice (his nicknames included "Old Leather Lungs"),
Laine was known for his dramatic vocal battles with massed choirs and
pulsating strings, and he ranged into such varied genres as novelty pop,
gospel, folk, country and western and rock and roll. He had major hits with
That's My Desire (1947); Mule Train (1949); That Lucky Old Sun; Jezebel; Cry
of the Wild Goose (all 1950); On The Sunny Side Of The Street (1951); I
Believe (1953); and Moonlight Gambler (1957), among many others.
He became exceedingly popular in Britain, where he broke attendance records
at the London Palladium in 1952 and gave a command performance for the Queen
in 1954. In 1953 he set two British chart records: when I Believe remained
at No 1 for 18 weeks, and when he achieved an unprecedented 27 weeks at the
top of the charts after Hey Joe! and Answer Me also went to No 1. In spite
of the popularity of artists such as Elvis Presley and The Beatles, both of
Laine's records still stand.
His popularity in Britain mystified The Daily Telegraph's then theatre
critic WA Darlington who, having seen Laine at the Palladium, noted loftily:
"Mr Laine is a very large man with a very large and rather raucous voice
which he pours pitilessly down an amplifier. Musically, the result is
horrifying. I take it that what the screaming ladies admire so much is the
power of the performance. For myself, I spent most of his turn thinking
nostalgically of the acrobats and the Tiller Girls."
>From the 1950s Laine enjoyed a second career recording versions of the title
songs of Hollywood and television Westerns such as Gunfight At OK Corral;
3:10 To Yuma; Bullwhip; Champion the Wonder Horse and Rawhide.
His rendition of the title song for Mel Brooks's spoof Western Blazing
Saddles (1974) won an Oscar nomination for Best Song, and, on television,
his recording of Rawhide for the series starring Clint Eastwood ("Rain and
wind and weather/Hell-bent for leather/Wishin' my gal was by my side. ")
became one of the most familiar and popular theme songs of the century.
"There is no other singer in the world who can yell 'yee-hah' with such
conviction and make it sound sensible," one critic observed.
The eldest of eight children, he was born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio on March
30 1913 in Chicago, where his parents had moved from Sicily. His father
began as a waterboy for the Chicago Railroad and later worked as the
personal barber to Al Capone.
Frankie realised he wanted to be a singer after going to see Al Jolson in
The Singing Fool. At 15, while attending Lane Technical School, he sang in
front of a crowd at the Merry Garden Ballroom in Chicago and also did weekly
performances for a radio station, where the programme director suggested he
should change his name to Frankie Laine.
After leaving school he worked as a machinist, car salesman and beer parlour
bouncer and, during the Depression, joined a company which toured dance
marathons. In 1932, at Wilson's Pier in Atlantic City, he set an all-time
dance record of 3,501 hours in 145 consecutive days. Altogether he
participated in 14 marathons, winning three and coming second once and fifth
twice. During these feats he would entertain spectators with his singing
during the 15-minute breaks the dancers were given each hour.
In 1943 he moved to California, where he got odd jobs singing in the
choruses of Hollywood films and dubbed the singing voice for an actor in the
Danny Kaye comedy The Kid From Brooklyn.
Unemployed after the war, he took to dropping in to Los Angeles nightclubs
hoping the performing band would invite him to sing. In 1946 Hoagy
Carmichael happened to be in the audience at Billy Berg's club when Laine
sang Carmichael's own Rockin' Chair. The songwriter was so impressed he
suggested Berg give Laine a contract. "What for?" Berg asked. "He comes in
here every night and sings for nothing." But he agreed to pay him $75 a
week, and Laine went on to land a contract with Mercury records.
In 1946 Laine's version of That's My Desire rose to No 1 in the American
charts, winning him his first gold disc. However, he had his greatest
success after the Mercury impresario Mitch Miller began to exploit his
talent for songs with a western or folk tinge. Together they went on to
establish Mercury as one of the most successful record labels of its time,
with a string of hits including That Lucky Old Sun, Mule Train, On the Sunny
Side of the Street, Dream a Little Dream of Me, Georgia on My Mind, and many
When Miller left Mercury for Columbia in 1950 he took Laine with him, and
during the 1950s and early 1960s his tally of hits lengthened with such
favourites as High Noon ("Do not forsake me, oh my darlin"), Jealousy
(Jalousie), The Girl in the Woods, When You're in Love, Way Down Yonder in
New Orleans (with Jo Stafford), Your Cheatin' Heart, Hey Joe!, A Woman in
Love, and Moonlight Gambler. He also had hits as a duettist with Patti Page,
Doris Day, Jimmy Boyd and Johnnie Ray.
During this time Laine became involved in the civil rights movement. In the
1950s, when Nat King Cole's television show was unable to get a sponsor, he
became the first white artist to appear as a guest on the show, forgoing his
usual fee and setting an example which other white performers then followed.
In the 1960s he performed in a free concert for Martin Luther King's
supporters during their march on Washington. At the same time he was active
in social charities, including Meals on Wheels and the Salvation Army,
singing in benefit concerts and participating in fundraising drives.
Laine appeared as a guest in a number of Hollywood musicals, including Meet
Me In Las Vegas (1956), starring Cyd Charisse, in which Laine, playing
himself, can be seen performing Hell Hath No Fury. In the 1950s he hosted
variety shows on American television and appeared as a guest on other shows.
In the 1960s he took on guest-starring roles in series such as Rawhide,
Burke's Law, and Perry Mason.
In 1963 Frankie Laine left Columbia for Capitol Records, but his two years
there produced only one album and a handful of singles. After switching to
ABC Records in the late 1960s he reached the top of the charts again with
I'll Take Care of Your Cares, which was followed by several more hits. Later
he founded his own label, Score Records, with which he continued to record
into the 21st century. Despite having had open heart surgery, he toured
Britain in 1988, singing as vigorously as ever. His last record, released
shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, was dedicated to New
York City's firemen.
His autobiography, That Lucky Old Sun, was published in 1993.
Frankie Laine married first, in 1950, the actress Nan Grey, whose two
daughters he adopted. She died in 1993, and in 1999 he married Marcia Kline.
|[W-OBITS] LOVECCHIO: Francesco Paolo Lovecchio 6/2/2006 by "Peter McCrae" <>|