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Gene Pitney

One of the most interesting and difficult-to-categorize singers in '60s pop, Gene Pitney had a long run of hits distinguished by his pained, one-of-a-kind melodramatic wail. Pitney is sometimes characterized (or dismissed) as a shallow teen idol-type prone to operatic ballads. It's true that some of his biggest hits -- "Town Without Pity," "Only Love Can Break a Heart," "I'm Gonna Be Strong," "It Hurts to Be in Love," and "Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa" -- are archetypes of adolescent or just-post-adolescent agony, characterized by longing and not a little self-pity.

But Pitney was not just an archetype of his style -- he was one of the best at his style, and indeed one of the few (along with Roy Orbison) that could pull it off convincingly. Also (like Orbison), he had more range than he's generally given credit for, making forays into tough pop/rock, country, and even borderline rockabilly. Other than Dionne Warwick, he was the best interpreter of Bacharach-David's early compositions. Although he didn't pen much of his material, he was a composer of note, writing "He's a Rebel" for the Crystals, and "Hello Mary Lou" for Rick Nelson. He was also something of a closet hipster -- he was the first American artist to cover a Jagger-Richards song ("That Girl Belongs to Yesterday," which was a British hit before the Rolling Stones had ever entered the U.S. Top 100), contributed to an actual Rolling Stones session in early 1964 (during which they recorded "Not Fade Away"), had a brief fling with a teenage Marianne Faithfull, and recorded songs by Randy Newman and Al Kooper long before those musicians became famous.

Pitney broke into the music as a songwriter in his late teens, getting his first taste of success when Rick Nelson had a hit with "Hello Mary Lou" in 1961. That same year, Pitney had a small hit with his first single, "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away," a self-penned demo on which he sang and played every instrument -- an extraordinary feat for 1961. Another 1961 single, Goffin-King's "Every Breath I Take," was produced by Phil Spector, and is one of the very first examples of his pull-out-the-stops Wall of Sound productions. Pitney didn't really find his metier, however, until late-1961's "Town Without Pity," which became his first Top 20 entry.

For the next four years, Pitney was one of the most successful solo male vocalists in America, reeling off over a dozen more Top 40 hits. While lovelorn angst was his stock-in-trade, some of the singles were fairly innovative -- "Half Heaven, Half Heartache" and "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" were crossover country-pop before that term existed, "Mecca" was one of the few big pop/rock hits to bear the influence of Middle Eastern music (albeit in a superficial fashion), and "Last Chance to Turn Around" was a hard-boiled tough-luck tale worthy of a top-notch B-movie thriller.

Pitney withstood the initial onslaught of the British Invasion fairly well, scoring Top Ten hits in 1964 with "It Hurts to Be in Love" and "I'm Gonna Be Strong." By 1966, though, he was in serious trouble stateside. Ironically, by this time he was a much bigger star in Britain, making the U.K. Top Ten six times in 1965-1966. He could also depend on a faithful international audience throughout Europe, and frequently recorded in Italian and Spanish for overseas markets. In 1966, he became one of the first artists to reach success with Randy Newman compositions, taking "Nobody Needs Your Love" and "Just One Smile" into the British Top Ten.

Pitney entered the U.S. Top 20 one last time in 1968 with "She's a Heartbreaker," a rather forced updating of his trademark sound, and reached the Top 40 in Britain for the last time in 1974. Still, he remained a big concert draw on the overseas nostalgia circuit. In 1989, he made number one in the U.K. again by duetting with Marc Almond on a remake of one of his '60s singles, "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart." He died in April 2006, the night after a show in Cardiff, Wales. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
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Selected Discography

Comments

He always seems in-tune with the background singers.
chargary, the rink I believe was known as the Blue Lantern, correct me if I'm wrong. FHS 64
As a teen in the early 60's no other artist created more passion and pleasure on the dance floor than Gene's music. Some of the greatest memories of my youth.
Saw him in the early 60's at a place called "the rink" on Island Lake in Brighton, Michigan. I was hooked, one if the greats...
mpbrown168
One of my very favorites ever. Listen to his music often. Can still remember seeing him singing I'm Gonna Be Strong on the Ed Sullivan show in black & white. I was blown away at his voice and the way he could hold that note at the very end. Thought he never got the recognition he deserved. Never got to see him perform. Was sorry to hear of his death. Another of our greats gone.
What a powerful voice. Don't hear Gene much on the radio at all these days. That's a shame, what a talent!
alluwant656
FORTUNATE 2 HAVE THE OPPORUNITY 2 C Gene IN CONCERT IN THE 1990'S.I am familiar with all his songs & lyrics a true musical genius
How about my favorite " Green green grass of home - best regards to wife and son
From roger canaan maine now la ca
Loved Gene Pitney from the start. I still listen to his music. I was so sad to hear of is passing. I don't think any other singer could match his voice and range.
What a GREAT singer, I saw him perform at the Red Rooster in Greensburg, Pa. when I was in my teens. It was a dance club for teenagers. He was so great, I still ave a lot of his 45's. There will never be anyone like him, just like Roy Orbison. They are all in heaven singing to everyone. Miss them all. Too bad they don't have any dance lands for teens today, that would be better than getting in trouble, if I ever hit the ottery I would build a place just for all of are teens!
hey 'Luke...are you thinking of 'Who Shot Liberty Valance' ??? and even though the song was the same, it never was actually in the movie...
Watched the movie for this, with James Stewart.
I loved him, thought he was an awesome vocalist. Town without pity was favorite.
Listening to Looking thru the Eyes of Love...my favorite Pitney song.
was kid back in the early 60's when i first heard Pitney, liked him then, like him now more than ever.
lorifingerpo p p i n
One of my very favorites . Carry him with me in my heart
torgo76
Gene Pitney had such a unique sound. No one could sing quite like him; his voice is instantly recognizable . He left us too soon :(
kpccox
I don't think his music grows outdated. Good music lasts a long time.
He brings back so many memories, a great artist.
shgheen
Gene Pitney was the first album that I ever bought back in 1966.
have enjoyed this man for 5 generations and i never get tired of listening to him. a true genious!
Gene was THE greatest artist of the 60s and I always looked forward to hearing his latest record because I knew i was going to love it. I just missed seeing him by 1 week in Vegas before he passed away and would've told him how much his songs meant to me. Glad to see other people feel the same way. I still listen to his music and never get tired of his great music and his amazing voice. Favorite song: Town Without Pity.
What a great singer, what a beautiful voice! He will be missed.
What a great singer from Rockville, Ct. my hometown to
cnmjam
some times we forget just enjoy the music.....th a t ' s what we did with his songs...
carol_goodwi n 5 2
I believe that Gene Pitney came up & introduced himself to us at Touhy Ave. Beach in Chicago in the summer of approx. 1962-1964. I was only 10-12 yrs. old but looked & acted older & more mature than I was. He was so taken with me & thought I was older than I was. He invited my Dad & I to wherever he was performing that night in Chigago but my Dad said I was too young to go! I remember him being very polite & very handsome! Sure wish I'd been able to go! His music gives me goosebumps!
Just a question that's had me wondering for years. Anyone ever notice how Pitney's "24 Hours from Tulsa" tracks an awful lot like Billy Joe Royal's "Down in the Boondocks?"
freedomreins 2
He is my all time favorite. The Rockville Rocket from Rockvill CT.
He had a voice that will never be matched and we should be thankful that we get to enjoy his music today. We sometimes forget what a great talent he was until he left us.
I agree with Nicole's opinion about Gene Pitney. I had all his records (CD's) I could find. A movie about his life would be wonderful but hardly the type of story that Hollywood is looking for today. I really miss him but his music is part of all I listen to.
Ray Heaps
technicole
I am writing this via my wife's entry. As a young man growing up in the fiftys and sixtys I love to hear and try and sing Gene Pitney's songs. Along with Elvis, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison I thought he was one of the greatest singers ever to live. I was shocked years later to find out that he never really achieved the fame that he deserved. They should do a movie about his life or something. Allen DuQuet
victoria_gid g e t
MY HUSBAND HAS PERFORMED SOME OF HIS MUSIC HIMSELF AND THAT HAS BROUGHT HIM SOME OF THE GREATEST PLEASURE IN PERFORMING THAT HE HAS EVER KNOWN
t_heath
He was so very good...what memories from my early teen years!!!
ronji50
The memories.
I can't think of a singer that can put himself into a song like Gene could during his prime. He will always be one of the very best.
I have had the pleasure of meeting this gentle giant and powerful singer. I miss him and miss seeing him perform. He left us with quite a few wonderful songs. My fav is "Half Heaven, Half Heartache". Wow.....blow s me away and gives me such a case of goosebumps!
town without pity and me have grown up together
bbb1124
Love the Music!!!
A house-hold name in my book...even to this day. I found myself this mornin hummin the tune,"Only Love Can Break a Heart". I thought...wh o sang this song??..and the name Gene Pitney came to mind, but, was not sure, so i got on good ol' Pandora to find out if my hunch was right...i was right. So, there ya go, what power, to be burned into someones pychic after so many yr's. Sorry to see that he passed away, but,at least, he was doin what he loved to do when God did decide his fate.
johndaly1390 9
PRACTICALLY ALL OF HIS SONGS ARE AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD ON YOUTUBE.
I was a great loser in love during my erly high school years, so Pitney's wailing about lost love and sad breakups really hit home with me. I could really relate with his sorrowful voice & I loved his songs.
THIS IS REAL MUSIC
I grew up listening to all of his music,especi a l l y when mom an dad sent us kids upstairs to grand,ma. while they entertained. Good times. His music brings back all good memories.
nannebubba
I love all his music and still do and I am sixty three.. I listen to a song of his and it takes me back to my youth....
marion.billi n g t o n
What a great artist/singe r ! I loved him from the first time I heard him!
I have been a Gene Pitney fan as far back as "I`m gonna love my life away" and "Every breath I take" . but my very favorate is "Half heaven- half heartache"
randerson307
I am 65 yrs old and just re-discoveri n g Gene Pitney. After watching just about all utube's clips on him, he looked to be a 100% entertainer and no funny business when it came to giving the people what they came and paid to see. I wasn't aware that he had passed away in 06. What a loss.
to listen to his songs, take me way back in time...what a great way to escape...... .
kdonnally
As a teanager Gene was my favorite singers and still is!
"It Hurts to Be In Love" was one of the best records ever. What a fantastic talent.
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