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Johnny Mathis

One of the last and most popular in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock-dominated 1960s, Johnny Mathis concentrated on romantic readings of jazz and pop standards for the ever-shrinking adult contemporary audience of the '60s and '70s. Though he debuted with a flurry of singles chart activity, Mathis later made it big in the album market, where a dozen of his LPs hit gold or platinum and over 60 made the charts. While he originally concentrated on theme-oriented albums of show tunes and traditional favorites, from the '70s onward Mathis began incorporating more varied styles of music into his recordings, including soft rock, R&B, and country. This stylistic eclecticism, combined with ubiquitous vocal chops, helped Mathis remain a popular concert attraction well into the 21st century.

Unsurprisingly, given his emphasis on long sustained notes and heavy vibrato, Mathis studied with an opera coach prior to his teenage years, and was almost lured into the profession; his other inspirations were the smoother crossover jazz vocalists of the 1940s -- Nat "King" Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Lena Horne. Mathis was an exceptional high-school athlete in San Francisco, but was wooed away from a college track scholarship and a potential spot on the Olympic squad by the chance to sing. He was signed to a management contract by club owner Helen Noga, who introduced the singer to George Avakian, jazz producer for Columbia Records. Avakian signed him and used orchestras conducted by Teo Macero, Gil Evans, and John Lewis to record Mathis' self-titled debut album in 1957. Despite the name talent and choice of standards, it was mostly ignored upon release.

Columbia A&R executive Mitch Miller -- known for his desperately pop-slanted Sing Along albums and TV show -- decided the only recourse was switching Mathis to Miller's brand of pop balladry, and the formula worked like a charm; the LP Wonderful Wonderful didn't include but was named after a Top 20 hit later in 1957, which was followed by the number five "It's Not for Me to Say" and his first number one, "Chances Are." From that point on, Johnny Mathis concentrated strictly on lush ballads for adult contemporary listeners.

Though he charted consistently, massive hit singles were rare for Johnny Mathis during the late '50s and '60s -- half of his career Top Ten output had occurred in 1957 alone -- so he chose to focus instead on the burgeoning album market, much like Frank Sinatra, his main rival during the late '50s as the most popular traditional male vocalist. Mathis moved away from show tunes and traditional pop into soft rock during the '70s, and found his second number one single, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," in 1978. Recorded as a duet with Deniece Williams, the single prompted Mathis to begin trying duets with a variety of partners (including Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, and Nana Mouskouri), though none of the singles enjoyed the success of the original.

Mathis continued to release and sell albums throughout the '90s -- his fifth decade of recording for Columbia -- and beyond, among them 1998's Because You Loved Me: Songs of Diane Warren and 2000's Mathis on Broadway. Mathis followed the Broadway album with 2002's The Christmas Album and 2005's Isn't it Romantic: The Standards Album, both of which found the iconic vocalist in fine form. In 2008, Mathis released the Walter Afanasieff-produced and arranged A Night to Remember, his first straight-ahead adult contemporary album in over a decade. Let It Be Me: Mathis in Nashville, Mathis' first full-length album of country music, appeared in September of 2010. The album ultimately garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. ~ John Bush, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Nothing like his music today, it's awesome.
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DR28443 ONE OF THE BEST SINGERS OUT THERE
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I fell in love with Johnny Mathis when I first heard him in 1955, at the tender age of 16. He was my first love.Now at the tender of 76,I am still in love with him.
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It's Not For Me To Say
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Johnny Mathis ---- music from a different era
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I'm going total wuss tonight. Someone slap me!
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dragonlady60 8 8
Saw john at the irvine amphitheater . . h e is amazing
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dragonlady60 8 8
U got it ...coach"""" ! ! " " "
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Then again it's not for me to say
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Saw Johnny at the Carter Baron Amplthetre in Washington, D.C. I think in 1957 just because I would listen on the radio his song Wonderful Wonderful. I have seen him a number of times at Wolf Trap In Vienna, Va. I think I have every album that he put out. I even got my husband to go to one of his concerts.
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HOW ABOUT PLAYING HIS VERSION OF 'MISTY'...AL S O , HIS FIRST CHRISTMAS ALBUM IS THE BEST EVER...NOBOD Y DOES CHRISTMAS SONGS LIKE JOHNNY!
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SAW HIM A COUPLE OF TIMES IN PITTSBURGH.. . O N E OF THE GREATEST/BEA U T I F U L VOICES EVER!!!
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barbbhorton

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dragonlady60 8 8
my all time fave...saw him at the irvine amphitheater . . . . b e a u t i f u l voice and man
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Please show the lyrics..
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otnew
A thing of beauty (his voice) is a joy forever!
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And now for something completely different
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I remembered my husband when he was still alive that was 17yrs ago. It touched my heart.
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Touched.
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And now for your dining entertainmen t . . .
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Play this song for her and your chances are awfully good!
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Classic!
"An affair to remember"
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Timeless!
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Love Mr. Mathis!
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Love his music!
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mllambb
always one of my favorites
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Saw him at Chastain in Atlanta in the late eighties, very good.
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my favorite singer. best voice of all singers
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A Certain Smile....... b r i n g s back the best memories
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WOW!!!
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Beautiuful Voice!- Just Dreamy!!!
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A voice like no other ..... He brings such joy to my heartM! Thank you Johnny Mathis for bringing such joy into my life!!!
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A certain smile - Johnny Mathis (from the Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration; Beautiful and from a good movie too. Love his really early hits before song styles changed - Chances are, 12th of never, A certain smile, Wonderful, wonderful, What will my Mary say and It's not for me to say.
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always outstanding! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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Talent like this is rare
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goodtobe8
His voice was so smooth when he sang those dreamy, romantic ballads, he was the Best.
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One of One of the best singers! I met him in person at the marina Delray and had a cocktail with him and a real special Gentlemen!!! !
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jrcdesigns
Johnny Mathis stands alone He is the best I can lesson to Him over and over and never get tired of His wonderful voice
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tfkojo9
I saw Johnny Mathis at the Marin Civic Auditorium last night. He still has that clear romantic sound that drew me to his sound when I was an impressionab l e 11 years old. He'll be 79 on September 30. Amazing voice and not a gray hair in sight!
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God blessed Johnny Mathis with a voice from Heaven above.
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Johnny is the best. I have loved his music since the 50's when I was in high school. He still has that velvet voice.
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Johnny Mathis is my all time favorite male vocalist! I cannot carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it, but sing along with everything he ever made. I saw him for the first time May 2013. The man still has it! Ohhhh, those high notes! I have been listening to him since the early 50s, and he only gets better with time. He is very shy, oh but he can communicate in song!
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I saw him at theater in the round in Westbury, Long Island, NY a year ago. Part of my life - always loved him. He sang a song with New York in it. I can't remember the title or words but I loved it. It's not the obvious like New York, New York. Something else. I don't know if he ever recorded it. Does anyone know what I mean?
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My favorite tune from Johnny is one of his less well known--When Sunny gets blue. Ah, the memories. My wife and I actually met him when we were courting. Lets see now, hmm, how many years ago??
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Just went to a Johnny Mathis concert, he still has it.! He was Heavenly.
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I agree with you hornat24. Johnny Mathis is verrrry talented and I will never forget the night I attended one of his concerts in 2002.
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hornat24
saw johnny in the 60's while in the usaf stationed in porthsmith, n.h.
best voice ever and still going strong
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drh6187
I am 70. Love you forever
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drh6187
I have loved him forever!
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linray42
No one sings Maria like Johnny
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