06/02/2018

Frankie Laine

Today we remember the passing of the great Frankie Laine (March 30, 1913 – February 6, 2007), born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio, was an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spanned 75 years, from his first concerts in 1930 with a marathon dance company to his final performance of "That's My Desire" in 2005. Often billed as "America's Number One Song Stylist", his other nicknames include "Mr. Rhythm", "Old Leather Lungs", and "Mr. Steel Tonsils". His hits included "That's My Desire", "That Lucky Old Sun", "Mule Train", "Cry of the Wild Goose", "A Woman In Love", "Jezebel", "High Noon", "I Believe", "Hey Joe!", "The Kid's Last Fight", "Cool Water", "Moonlight Gambler," "Love Is a Golden Ring," "Rawhide", and "Lord, You Gave Me a Mountain."
Frankie Laine was born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio on March 30, 1913, to Giovanni and Cresenzia LoVecchio (née Salerno) [His actual Cook County, Ill, birth Certificate, No. 14436, was already Americanized at the time of his birth, with his name written as "Frank Lovecchio," his mother as "Anna Salerno," and his father as "John Lovecchio," with the "V" lower case in each instance, except in the "Reported by" section with "John Lo Vecchio <father>" written in.. His parents had emigrated from Monreale, Sicily, to Chicago's Near West Side, in "Little Italy," where his father worked at one time as the personal barber for gangster Al Capone. Laine's family appears to have had several organized crime connections, and young Francesco was living with his grandfather when the latter was killed by rival gangsters.
He sang well-known theme songs for many movie Western soundtracks, including 3:10 To Yuma, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Blazing Saddles, although he was not a country & western singer. Laine sang an eclectic variety of song styles and genres, stretching from big band crooning to pop, western-themed songs, gospel, rock, folk, jazz, and blues. He did not sing the soundtrack song for High Noon, which was sung by Tex Ritter, but his own version (with somewhat altered lyrics, omitting the name of the antagonist, Frank Miller) was the one that became a bigger hit, nor did he sing the theme to another show he is commonly associated with—Champion the Wonder Horse (sung by Mike Stewart)—but released his own, subsequently more popular, version.
Along with opening the door for many R&B performers, Laine played a significant role in the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. When Nat King Cole's television show was unable to get a sponsor, Laine crossed the color line, becoming the first white artist to appear as a guest (forgoing his usual salary of $10,000.00 as Cole's show only paid scale). Many other top white singers followed suit, including Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney, but Cole's show still could not get enough sponsors to continue.
In the following decade, Laine joined several African American artists who gave a free concert for Martin Luther King's supporters during their Selma to Montgomery marches on Washington, D.C.
Laine, who had a strong appreciation of African American music, went so far as to record at least two songs that have being black as their subject matter, "Shine" and Fats Waller's "Black and Blue". Both were recorded early in his career at Mercury, and helped to contribute to the initial confusion among fans about his race.
Laine died of heart failure on February 6, 2007, at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego. In a prepared statement, Laine's family said, "He will be forever remembered for the beautiful music he brought into this world, his wit and sense of humor, along with the love he shared with so many." A memorial mass was held February 12, at the Immaculata parish church on the campus of the University of San Diego. The following day, his ashes, along with those of his late wife, Nan Grey, were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.
Laine's enduring popularity was illustrated in June 2011, when a TV-advertised compilation called Hits reached No. 16 on the British chart. The accomplishment was achieved nearly 60 years after his debut on the UK chart, 64 years after his first major U.S. hit and four years after his death.

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