Gene Pitney Biography

Gene Francis Alan Pitney, 17 February 1941, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, d. 5 April 2006, Cardiff, Wales. Although Pitney began recording in 1959 (‘Classical Rock ‘N’ Roll’ was recorded with Ginny Mazarro as Jamie And Jane), his initial success came as a songwriter, providing the Kalin Twins with ‘Loneliness’, Roy Orbison with ‘Today’s Teardrops’ and Bobby Vee with ‘Rubber Ball’. His solo recording career took off in 1961 with the multi-tracked ‘I Wanna Love My Life Away’ and the dramatic film themes ‘Town Without Pity’ and ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’. Throughout this period, he was still writing for other artists, creating big hits for Ricky Nelson (‘Hello Mary Lou’) and the Crystals (‘He’s A Rebel’). In 1963, Pitney toured Britain where his ‘Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa’ reached the Top 10. After meeting the Rolling Stones, he recorded Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ ‘That Girl Belongs To Yesterday’.

Despite the onslaught of the beat groups, Pitney’s extraordinarily impassioned big ballads remained popular in the USA and especially in the UK. Among his hits from this era were Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ (1964), ‘I Must Be Seeing Things’ (1965), ‘Looking Through The Eyes Of Love’ (1965), ‘Princess In Rags’ (1965), ‘Backstage’ (1966), Randy Newman’s ‘Nobody Needs Your Love’ (1966), ‘Just One Smile’ (1966) and ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ (1967). The controversial ‘Somewhere In The Country’ (about an unmarried mother) was less successful. In addition, Pitney recorded albums in Italian and Spanish, with one of his songs, ‘Nessuno Mi Puo Guidicare’ coming second in the 1966 San Remo Song Festival. There were also country music albums with George Jones and Melba Montgomery.

By the late 60s, Pitney’s popularity in America had waned but he continued to tour in Europe, having the occasional hit like ‘Maria Elena’ (1969), ‘Shady Lady’ (1970) and ‘Blue Angel’ (1974). In late 1989, he had unexpected success when he sang on a revival of ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ with Marc Almond, which topped the UK charts. He continued to tour regularly, and was especially popular in the UK and Italy. In 2002, he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He died in April 2006 of natural causes, the night after completing a show in Cardiff, Wales.

Pitney will be remembered for his impassioned vocals and his almost faultless choice of material throughout the 60s. It is hoped that his considerable track record as a songwriter, particularly in the eraly 60s, will not be forgotten.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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