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Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

Although they were one of the very biggest rock & roll groups of the 1960s, the Four Seasons -- unlike, say, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, or the Byrds -- don't excite virtually automatic respect from listeners and critics. A big factor is their most distinguishing trademark, the high falsetto vocals of their lead singer, Frankie Valli. Many also found their material -- romantic tunes with tightly arranged group harmonies that updated doo wop ethos into the '60s -- a little too clean-cut.

Whatever your feelings about the group, though, there's no denying their considerable importance. No other white American group of the time save the Beach Boys boasted such intricate harmonies, though the Four Seasons were much more firmly in the Italian-American doo wop tradition. Their uptown production values were contemporary and, in certain respects, innovative. The R&B influence in their music was large, and some of their early singles enjoyed success with the R&B audience; in fact, some listeners thought that the Four Seasons were black when the group landed their first hits. And they were immensely successful, making the Top Ten thirteen times between 1962 and 1967 with hits like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Dawn," "Rag Doll," and "Let's Hang On."

The Four Seasons had been around for a long time before they got their first hit in 1962. Frankie Valli had made his first record way back in 1953, and in 1956 made a little noise with the Four Lovers' "Apple of My Eye." The Newark, New Jersey group also included future Four Season Tommy DeVito on guitar and Nick Massi on bass, and in subsequent years Valli would record flops for RCA, Decca, Cindy, and Gone, sometimes as a soloist, sometimes with groups. In the early '60s, the group, now known as the Four Seasons, were doing backup vocals for other artists.

Philadelphia producer Bob Crewe started working with the Seasons in 1962, and his contributions would be inestimable in the following years. Not only did he produce all of their big '60s hits, but he would write much of their material in collaboration with group member Bob Gaudio. It was Valli's near-soprano, though, that dominated their number one hit "Sherry," as it would on the rest of their hits. "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," and "Candy Girl" all followed within the next year -- big smashes all, the first two (like "Sherry") featuring stomping, almost martial handclaps. "Candy Girl" offered evidence of versatility, with its samba-like rhythms and glissando flourishes.

The British Invasion did little to diminish the Seasons' fortunes, at least initially. In 1964, they moved from Vee-Jay (which also, for a brief time, had rights to the Beatles) to Philips. Their production became more sophisticated and dramatic while remaining unabashedly pop, and in 1964 they had several of their biggest hits: "Dawn," "Ronnie," "Rag Doll," "Save It for Me," and "Big Man in Town" (as well as a gem-like B-side, "Silence Is Golden," which would be a hit in 1967 for the Tremeloes). The Four Seasons' influence, oddly, was also felt on a couple of tracks by the biggest British Invasion bands: the Beatles' "Tell Me Why" and the Rolling Stones' "The Singer Not the Song" both launched into ear-straining falsettos at points, whether as a satire, tribute, or both.

The winning streak basically continued through 1967, although they would never again be as huge. "Let's Hang On," "Working My Way Back to You," "Opus 17," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Beggin'," and "Marianne" were all big hits from the time, though, working in some mild soul influences. They also, just for kicks, released a couple of silly singles under a pseudonym, the Wonder Who?, that even pre-teens quickly identified as the Seasons under disguise. The Wonder Who?'s 1965 Top 20 hit, "Don't Think Twice," easily qualifies as the most incongruous Dylan cover ever to hit the Top 40.

Guitar-oriented, more socially conscious rock and soul had been making inroads into the Four Seasons' audience for a while, but the times really caught up with them by the end of 1967. The group would only make the Top 40 one more time before their mid-'70s comeback. In the late '60s, Valli, while maintaining his position in the Seasons, had kicked off a solo career that went straight for the heart of showbizzy pop on his biggest single, the number two hit "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." The Four Seasons did attempt to address social concerns of the day on the late-'60s album Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, but it was not generally well received.

The Four Seasons struggled on into the '70s; by the time they signed with a Motown subsidiary in 1971, Valli and Gaudio were the only original members left. They briefly returned to the top of the charts in the mid-'70s with "Who Loves You" and the nostalgic "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)"; at the same time, Valli had a resurgence as a soloist, reaching number one with "My Eyes Adored You" and making the Top Ten with "Swearin' to God." It couldn't last, any more than the group could turn back the clock to December 1963, that last moment when they reigned as the most successful white rock group in the world, unaware of the oncoming invasion by the Beatles. Still, Valli's full-time solo career was given an enormous boost when he was chosen to sing the newly written Barry Gibb title song for the movie version of the Broadway musical Grease; the single rose to number one in August 1978.

Sporadic Four Seasons reunion tours followed in the '80s and '90s, some with Valli and some without. The group also recorded, releasing Streetfighter in 1985 and Hope + Glory in 1992, both of which contemporized the group's sounds.

During the 2000s, Valli and Gaudio were involved in developing the Four Seasons story into a Broadway musical, a stage biography based on the lives and careers of Valli, Tommy DeVito, Massi, and Gaudio. Jersey Boys became the hit of the 2005-2006 season, winning the Tony Award for best musical. The show, and its inevitable film version, released in 2014, helped revitalize the group's career. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

btw when the film comes out on dvd, imma buy dat
holy dinkles ladyrainfb do u know where hes touring next?
Mr. Valli still tours. Saw him last year in Denver. Wonderful show. Can still hit those high notes!
Well may be Roy Orbison.
Frankie Valli and the four seasons are very talented. I don't think anyone can reach the same high notes as Frankie Valli.
Recently saw the Hit Men in concert. Great show with many 4 Seasons tunes.
Supremes are no. 1
Temptations tempt me
Stevie is an ordinal
Anther Smokey
their a lengend
Great Blue Eyed Soul, Italian Style.
Love your music
Good music
HARD TO BELIEVE THAT THE GUYS (LIVING) ARE IN THEIR EIGHTIES. FANTASTIC GROUP.
This one brings back lots on memories of my party days. love it.
Cant stand the beatles
Yes very Beatles biased, and the byrds?... Totally different groups.
I hate how every artist bio writer is biased towards the beatles on Pandora. It's annoying.
What happen to the lyrics?
scottkarl8
good question
jefcarnick
anyone notice lyrics no llonger available - what happened
Very good songs and sherry its one of favorite <3
Love 'em!
I love the song Sherry
Jersey Boys wins an Oscar im calling it now...
psn25
He's a legend and his music will live on for sooo many years
kjrtowing85
show lyrics
My happy music !!!!!
legends
Don't cryyyyeyyeyy e y
angelaputney 1 1 4
Loved Jersey Boys and love Frankie Valli and the four seasons
irenesudaria
Just saw the Broadway musical last night.. GREAT music and production of really nice music from my high school days and after. now I'll listen and feel good.
I've been listening to old music since I was 8 I'm 14 now I don't care for today's music at all I listen to the rat pack the platters and my favorite the four seasons
Great band.
gloriaingram 6 3
That's my JAM,!!!!!
Sometimes I ask myself why I use my limitless, information- a g e technology to listen to 60's pop music, but then Frankie Valli's falsetto though...
dragonlady60 8 8
One of the best groups....in the 60s
Best
I luv hip hop but i certainly LOVE oldies and THE FOUR SEASONS ARe the beat
darthvader20 0 0
Frankie Valli is the best singer I've heard in my life, and I've heard some pretty good voices.
Love these guys. Beginning to learn all their songs.
The best music ever! "Like that bunny on tv with the battery, I just keep going and going and going, chasing the music, trying to get home."
Frankie was the greatest performer and singer. I love the man and his music
What a falsetto Big bill Astoria Queens
Sweg
My favorite band! Im 12 btw
We saw the four seasons last night at the Palace Theater in Albany, New York. Cool Concert.
This is the best group i ever heard.
Great song.
I love this song
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