A Rockapaedia Obituary
Al Martino died aged eighty-two from a heart attack on 13th October 2009, in Springfield, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California, U.S.A. He was survived by his wife Judi, daughters; Debbie, Alison, Alana, and son Alfred.
Al Martino was born Jasper "Al" Cini in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. The name Jasper was an anglicisation of his father's name, Gasparino. His parents were immigrants from Abruzzo, Italy, who ran a construction business, and while growing up, he worked alongside his brothers, Pasquale and Frank as a bricklayer. He aspired to become a singer, emulating artists such as Al Jolson and Perry Como, and by the success of a family friend, Alfredo Cocozza, who had changed his name to Mario Lanza.
After serving with the United States Navy in World War II, during which he was part of, and injured in, the Iwo Jima invasion, Al began his singing career. Encouraged by Mario Lanza, he adopted the stage name Al Martino and began singing in local nightclubs. In 1948, he moved to New York City, recorded some songs for the Jubilee label, and in 1952, won first place on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television program with a performance of Perry Como's hit "If".
As a result, he won a recording contract with the Philadelphia-based independent record label BBS, where he recorded "Here in My Heart". The song spent three weeks at number one on the US pop charts in June 1952, earning Al Martino a gold disc, and later in the year, also reached the top of the UK charts. It was number one in the first UK Singles chart, published by the New Musical Express on 14th November 1952, putting him into the Guinness Book of World Records. "Here in My Heart" remained in the top position for nine weeks in the UK, a record for the longest consecutive run at number one, that was only subsequently beaten by five more recent songs.
The record's success led to a deal with Capitol Records, and he released three more singles: "Take My Heart", "Rachel", and "When You're Mine" through 1953, all of which hit the U.S. top 40. However, his success also attracted the attention of the Mafia, which bought out his management contract and ordered him to pay seventy-five thousand dollars as a safeguard for their investment. After making a down-payment to appease them, he moved to Britain. His popularity allowed him to continue to perform and record successfully in the UK, headlining at the London Palladium and having six further British chart hits in the period up to 1955, including "Now" and "Wanted". However, this work received no exposure back in the U.S.A. In 1958, thanks to the intervention of a family friend, Al Martino was allowed to return to the U.S.A. and resume his recording career, but he faced difficulties in re-establishing himself, especially with the arrival of rock and roll. In 1959, Al Martino signed with 20th Fox Records; this deal scored him two albums, and four singles released, none of which was a major hit. The success of his 1962 album The Exciting Voice of Al Al Martino secured him a new contract with Capitol, and was followed by a mostly Italian-language album, The Italian Voice of Al Al Martino, which featured his version of the then internationally popular song "Al Di Là". He also made several high-profile television appearances, helping to re-establish his visibility.
In 1963, he had his biggest U.S. chart success with "I Love You Because", a cover of Leon Payne's 1950 country music hit. Arranged by Belford Hendricks, Al Martino's version went to number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and number one on the Easy Listening chart. The album of the same name went top 10 in the Billboard 200. Al Martino had four other U.S. top 10 hits in 1963 and 1964 - "Painted, Tainted Rose" , "I Love You More and More Every Day", "Tears and Roses", and "Silver Bells" . He also sang the title song for the 1964 film, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. One of his biggest hits was "Spanish Eyes", achieving several gold and platinum discs for sales. Recorded in 1965, the song reached number five on the UK Singles chart when reissued in 1973. The song, with a tune by Bert Kaempfert originally titled "Moon Over Naples", is among the 50 most-played songs worldwide.
Al Martino's run of chart success faded after the mid-1960s, although many of his records continued to reach the U.S. Hot 100. Another later hit was a disco version of "Volare". In 1976, it reached number one on the Italian and Flemish charts, and was in the top 10 in Spain, the Netherlands, and France, as well as in many other European countries. In 1993, Al Martino recorded a new studio album with German producer Dieter Bohlen.
Apart from singing, Al Martino played the role of Johnny Fontane in the 1972 film The Godfather, as well as singing the film's theme, "Speak Softly Love".
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