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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
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Very Best Of Gene Pitney - I'm Gonna Be Strong

1. 24 Hours From Tulsa

2. I'm Gonna Be Strong

3. Only Love Can Break A Heart

4. That Girl Belongs To Yesterday

5. True Love Never Runs Smooth

6. (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance

7. It Hurts To Be In Love

8. Mecca

9. Half Heaven, Half Heartache

10. Somethings Gotten Hold Of My Heart

12. I Must Be Seeing Things

13. Backstage (I'm Lonely)

14. Nobody Needs Your Love More Than I Do

15. Looking Through The Eyes Of Love

17. If I Didn't Have A Dime

18. Somewhere In The Country

19. Town Without Pity

20. Princess In Rags

21. Yesterday's Hero

22. Just One Smile

23. Maria Elena

24. Shady Lady

x

Track List: I'm Gonna Be Strong - The Hits And More

Disc 1

1. (I Wanna Love) My Life Away

2. Town Without Pity

3. Only Love Can Break A Heart

4. If I Didn't Have A Dime

5. Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa

6. That Girl Belongs To Yesterday

7. I'm Gonna Be Strong

8. I Must Be Seeing Things

10. Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart

11. Hello Mary Lou

12. Somewhere In The Country

14. Unchained Melody

Disc 2

1. Every Breath I Take

2. (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance

3. Half Heaven, Half Heartache

4. Mecca

5. It Hurts To Be In Love

6. Last Chance To Turn Around

7. Looking Through The Eyes Of Love

8. Princess In Rags

9. Backstage (I'm Lonely)

10. Just One Smile

11. She's A Heartbreaker

12. Nobody Needs Your Love (More Than I Do)

13. Maria Elena

14. Shady Lady

Disc 3

1. True Love Never Runs Smooth

2. Yesterday's Hero

3. Billy You're My Friend

4. Yours Until Tomorrow

5. She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)

6. A Street Called Hope

9. Donna Means Heartbreak

10. The Fool Killer

11. Little Betty Falling Star

14. Louisiana Mama

x

Track List: 25 All-Time Greatest Hits

1. (I Wanna) Love My Life Away

2. Every Breath I Take

3. Town Without Pity

4. Hello Mary Lou

5. (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance

6. Only Love Can Break A Heart

7. If I Didn't Have A Dime (To Play The Jukebox)

8. Half Heaven - Half Heartache

9. Mecca

10. True Love Never Runs Smooth

11. Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa

12. That Girl Belongs To Yesterday

13. It Hurts To Be In Love

15. I'm Gonna Be Strong

16. I Must Be Seeing Things

17. Last Chance To Turn Around

18. Looking Through The Eyes Of Love

19. Princess In Rags

20. Backstage (I'm Lonely)

21. Nobody Needs Your Love

22. Just One Smile

23. Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart

24. She's A Heartbreaker

25. Yours Until Tomorrow

x

Track List: Young And Warm And Wonderful

1. Young, Warm And Wonderful

2. Golden Earrings

4. Where Is Your Heart

5. Silver Bracelets

6. On A Slow Boat To China

7. Far Away Places

8. Hey There

9. South Of The Border

10. Till The End Of Time

11. I'll Be Seeing You

12. Two Sleepy People

13. Just One Smile

14. Where Did The Magic Go?

15. Leave My Laurie Alone

16. Losing Control

17. (In The) Cold Light Of Day

18. Lonely Drifter

19. The Comedian

20. The Rising Tide Of Love

22. Another Page

23. In Love Again

24. She Believes In Me

25. Ask Me How Much I Love You

26. The Boss's Daughter

27. Flower Girl

Comments

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Nothing brings me back like Just One Smile--a real heartbreaker
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One of the best
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First class talent.
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I have always love Gene Pitney music.
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Refreshing
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alnavarijo
Oooh yes ! Pandora has allowed us old geezers to reach the end of the line in a happy state , singers like Pitney , Orbison & literally hundreds of others made the late 50s & early 60s some of the best times to be a pimple face teen . Ha ! Eat your hearts out you other generations that missed out on the best times for great music .
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I can't get enough of Gene Pitney's voice and songs!
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My Veteran mother played one of five albums every night and this is one of them. I know the songs by heart and the clicks of each album dropping. It was his songs and Orbison that got me to play a guitar and write which I have done in many years. Thank you Panadora and the families of great artists.
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four seasons, frankie valli
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under rated, but still a class act.
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mike3345mike
Just made Gene Pitney radio!!
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mike3345mike
I would listen to WLS and WOKY years ago..are they still kicking the hits out?
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Still listening MOM!!!!!
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Nice
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I discovered him in 1985 and became a big fan. Then two years later I had the pleasure of seeing perform live.
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" The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence ", is a perfect ballad & I have looked everywhere to find that song! Mr Pitney you did a superior job! RIP Mr Pitney...
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Gene Pitney...sin g e r w/ class, sang songs w/ class; from my teenage years to now, and forever. FHS 68
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Remember, my MOM listening to This.
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The greatest Gene Pitney song!Absolut e l y have loved this song my entire life. It is also a true gunfighter ballad. Mr Pitney should have pursued country music on an exclusive basis. He had not only a wonderful voice but he too had the knack for storytelling !
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What a great but unique voice.
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This time we're really breaking up, Only love can break a heart, and Crying....So m e of my best days!
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dshapera
Gene Pitney was a great singer and song writer. He was well known for being a regular guy. RIP, Gene
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GENE PITNEY he was a clean-cut guy
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He's been my favorite since I was a little kid. Saw him in concert twice and it was fabulous! He even sang to me. Sigh...
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Man, this guy had such a voice!! I love him !!
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R.I.P. Gene
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chargary, the rink I believe was known as the Blue Lantern, correct me if I'm wrong. FHS 64
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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.
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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...
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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.
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What a powerful voice. Don't hear Gene much on the radio at all these days. That's a shame, what a talent!
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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
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How about my favorite " Green green grass of home - best regards to wife and son
From roger canaan maine now la ca
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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.
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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!
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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...
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Watched the movie for this, with James Stewart.
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I loved him, thought he was an awesome vocalist. Town without pity was favorite.
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Listening to Looking thru the Eyes of Love...my favorite Pitney song.
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was kid back in the early 60's when i first heard Pitney, liked him then, like him now more than ever.
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lorifingerpo p p i n
One of my very favorites . Carry him with me in my heart
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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 :(
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kpccox
I don't think his music grows outdated. Good music lasts a long time.
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He brings back so many memories, a great artist.
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shgheen
Gene Pitney was the first album that I ever bought back in 1966.
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have enjoyed this man for 5 generations and i never get tired of listening to him. a true genious!
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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.
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What a great singer, what a beautiful voice! He will be missed.
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What a great singer from Rockville, Ct. my hometown to
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cnmjam
some times we forget just enjoy the music.....th a t ' s what we did with his songs...
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