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AL MARTINO

AMERICAN SINGER AND ACTOR

Al Maritno was an American singer and actor. He had his greatest success as a singer between the early 1950’s and mid 1970’s, having been described as “One of the Great Italian/American Pop Crooners”of his time. He was also noted for his acting ability, in particular his role as singer Johnny Fontane in “The Godfather”.

Jasper Alfred Cini was born on October 7, 1927 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were immigrants from Abruzzo, Italy.

In Martino’s earlier years, he worked hard along side his brothers and parents in the family’s construction business, but in the evenings, he used what little free time he had to perform in clubs, bars and private parties in his neighbourhood.

It was in fact Mario Lanza, a celebrity in his own right and close family friend, who encouraged young Martino to pursue a musical career, and to move to New York.

UNITED STATES NAVY

Martino served time in the United States Navy during WW2 and was wounded during the Iwo Jima invasion. It was after this, Martino began his singing career. He changed his name to Al Martino, Martino was his mothers fathers name.

In 1948, he recorded some songs on the Jubilee label, and by1950, had landed a much sought-after record deal with Capitol Records, after winning the first prize in Arthur Godfrey’s “Talent Scout Show” with his own rendition of Perry Como’s hit “If”.

When Mario Lanza was approached by Capital to sing “Here in my Heart” time constraints on his schedule made it impossible for him to do the song. At his suggestion, the doors then opened for newcomer Al Martino to step in and perform the song instead. It spent three weeks at #1 in the US and won him his first Gold Record. This success then spread to the UK with another #1 posting, but this time for a duration of 9 weeks. At the time, it put him in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the longest consecutive #1 song. From this point on, Martino occupied a place at the crowning point of international show business. His recording and concert success extended not only throughout America, but included Europe (especially Germany) and Australia.

THE MAFIA

In 1953, Martino had much continued success, but his success didn’t only attract the attention of music lovers, it attracted the attention of the Mafia. They bought out Martino’s management contract and ordered him to pay also $75,000 as a safeguard for their investment. After making the payment, Martino packed and left for Britain.

The move did nothing to dampen his career, headlining the London Palladium and more chart success. He was going great guns in the UK, but his work wasn’t receiving any exposure back in the US.

In 1958, Martino returned to the US to resume his recording career, but he faced the difficulty of re-establishing himself after such a long absence. He secured a new recording contract with Capitol Records, and released “The Exciting Voice of Al Martino” and this followed with an Italian language album “The Italian Voice of Al Martino”. With a need for more exposure, Martino made several high profile television appearances.

In 1963, Martino had his biggest chart success with his own rendition of “I love you because”. This followed with “Painted, Tainted Rose”, “I love you more and more every day”, “Tears and Roses”, and “Silver Bells”. He also scored the title song for the 1964 film “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

THE GODFATHER

One of the most successful Martino hits was “Spanish Eyes” achieving several gold and platinum records. In 1965, the song reached number 15 in the British charts. Even today the classic by the late composer Bert Kaempfert is among the most, 50 most played songs worldwide.

In the mid to late 1960’s he resided in the same street as another singing sensation, Frankie Avalon.

In the 1960’s, Martino’s run of chart success had all but come to an end. He had one more huge hit with a disco version of “Volare” and then set his sights on a transition to the big screen.   He played a very memorable role of Johnny Fontane in the 1972 film “The Godfather” as well as securing the films theme song, “Speak Softly Love”. His role was resurrected again in the Godfather Part III, and The Godfather Trilogy after which he played ageing crooner Sal Stevens in the short film “Callout”.

Martino passed away six days after his 82nd birthday on the 13th October, 2009 at his childhood home in Springfield. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. He is survived by his widow Judi, and four children.

For over five decades Martino continued to deliver songs to the public in his own unrivalled style. With many memorable hits under his belt, and 35 studio albums, Martino continued to celebrate numerous honours and awards throughout his career, and even in death. Martino was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.

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