Gene Pitney

Infobox actor
bgcolour = red
name = Gene Pitney

imagesize = 200px
caption = Gene Pitney's Greatest Hits
birthname = Gene Francis Alan Pitney
birthdate = birth date|1940|2|17
location = Hartford, Connecticut, USA
deathdate = death date and age|2006|4|5|1940|2|17
deathplace = Cardiff, Wales, UK
height =
othername = Gene Pitney
yearsactive = 1960s – 2006

Gene Francis Alan Pitney (February 17 1940 – April 5 2006) was an American singer and songwriter. He was also an accomplished guitarist, pianist, drummer, and skilled sound engineer. In 2002, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Through the mid-1960s, he enjoyed considerable success as a recording artist on both sides of the Atlantic. As a performer, he charted 16 Top 40 hit singles in the US, 4 of which reached the top ten. In the UK, the figures were even more impressive: 22 top 40 hits, and 11 top tens. As a songwriter, he also penned the big early 1960s hits "He's A Rebel" by The Crystals, and "Hello Mary Lou" by Rick Nelson.

Pitney was among a small group of early 1960s American artists and acts such as Roy Orbison, Bobby Vinton,The Four Seasons, Jan and Dean, Jay and the Americans, The Beach Boys, and The Supremes that continued to enjoy big radio hits after the British Invasion arrived in the United States in 1964.


Early years

Pitney was born in Hartford, Connecticut. He grew up in Rockville, now a part of the town of Vernon. His early musical influences were Clyde McPhatter and Doo Wop groups like The Crows. He attended Rockville High School from which he earned the name "The Rockville Rocket," and where he formed his first band called "Gene & the Genials." He also made a couple of records as part of a duo called "Jamie and Jane" with Ginny Arnell (who later had a solo hit of her own, "DumbHead"), and then released a single in 1959 under the name Billy Bryan.

Rise to fame (1961-1964)

In 1961, Gene Pitney released his first chart single, "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away", on which he played several instruments and multi-tracked the vocals. This was followed by his first big hit, "Town Without Pity", that same year. This song, from the film of the same name starring Kirk Douglas, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Song in a Motion Picture and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. Pitney was the first pop singer to perform at the Oscars, singing "Town Without Pity" at the 34th Annual Academy Awards on April 9 1962. The song lost the Academy Award to "Moon River" although "Town Without Pity" was awarded The Golden Globe Award.

Pitney helped his musical career by writing hit songs for others. Notable songs include "He's a Rebel" for The Crystals, Vikki Carr and Elkie Brooks, "Today's Teardrops" for Roy Orbison, "Rubber Ball" for Bobby Vee and "Hello Mary Lou" for Ricky Nelson. The Crystals' "He's A Rebel" kept Pitney's highest peaking Hot 100 record "Only Love Can Break a Heart" from being atop that chart on November 3, 1962.

Pitney is also well remembered for "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", which was associated with the 1962 John Ford film of the same name, starring Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin. Pitney gave a strong and distinctive vocal performance of the song, penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Although it was a certified Top 10 hit for Pitney, peaking at #4 on the Billboard pop charts, it was never used in the movie due to a publishing squabble between Famous Music and Paramount Pictures. A theatrical trailer included with a DVD release mentions a forthcoming title track, but not by name.

His 1963 hit "Mecca" is considered by some to be a precursor to psychedelia in its use of Indian musical influences, at least three years before The Beatles began incorporating these influences. The use of exotic musical instruments became something of a Pitney trademark, judging by the Mariachi trumpets employed in "Lonely Drifters", the ukuleles in "Hawaii", and the gypsy fiddle in "Golden Earrings".

His ongoing popularity in the UK market was ensured by the chart success of "Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa" at the end of 1963/beginning of 1964, when in January the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song peaked at #4. "Tulsa" was also a big hit in the US and would become the song that opened up Pitney's career to the international markets.

Involvement with The Rolling Stones (1964)

Along with Phil Spector, Pitney was present at some of the Rolling Stones' early recording sessions in London, including one for "Little by Little" (the b-side of their first top-10 single) and other tracks for their debut album;cite web |last =Zentgraf |first=Nico |title=The Complete Works of the Rolling Stones 1962-2008 |url=|accessdate=2008-02-23 | ] he apparently played piano, though the extent to which his contributions were used -- if at all -- is uncertain.

The Jagger/Richards-penned song "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday" was a UK hit for Pitney in 1964; it was the first tune composed by the Rolling Stones' songwriting duo to become a top-10 hit in the UK.cite book |last=Elliott |first=Martin |title= The Rolling Stones: Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002 |publisher=Cherry Red Books |date=2002 |id=ISBN 1-901447-04-9 |page=pg. 16] In the US, however, the single was a comparative flop, stalling at #49 and ending a run of 7 straight Top 40 A-sides for Pitney as a performer.

Maintaining popularity at the height of The British Invasion (1964-1966)

After another low-charting single (1964's "Yesterday's Hero"), Pitney released another unbroken string of hit singles in the mid-1960s, with the unrequited love classic "It Hurts To Be in Love" (US #7) and "I'm Gonna Be Strong" (US #9) in 1964, and "Nobody Needs Your Love" in 1966 (the first two were top 10 in the US; the last two peaked at No. 2 in the UK). "It Hurts To Be in Love" was originally planned as a vehicle for Neil Sedaka. When Sedaka decided not to record it, Pitney used the existing backing tracks and just added his lead vocal.

In 1965, Pitney recorded two successful albums with country legend George Jones. They were voted the most promising C & W Duo of that year. Pitney also recorded songs in Italian, Spanish and German, and twice finished second in the Sanremo Music Festival, where his strong vibrato may have reminded older listeners of the Italian tenor Caruso. He had a regional hit with "Nessuno Mi Puo' Giudicare".

UK, Australian and European stardom (1966-1970s)

Pitney's career in the US took a downturn after mid-1966, when "Backstage" ended another run of top 40 hits. He would return one last time to the top 40 charts with "She's a Heartbreaker" in mid-1968, and have a few other very minor hits in the lower reaches of the Hot 100 after that, but by 1970, he was no longer a hitmaker in the US.

However, Pitney maintained a successful career in Britain and the rest of Europe well into the 1970s, appearing regularly on the UK charts as late as 1974. In Australia, after a fallow period in the early 1970s, Pitney returned to the top 40 charts with a vengance in 1974, as both "Blue Angel" (#2) and "Trans-Canada Highway" (#14) were substantial hits. Pitney continued to place records in the Australian charts through 1976.

One of the few star performers to have survived the 1960s unscathed, Pitney's fitness regime built the stamina he required for his singularly dithyrambic stage act. In the early 70s, Pitney made a personal decision to cut back on his touring deciding only to spend six months of each year on the road, and the remainder with his family.

Later career

Pitney last hit the UK charts after an absence of fifteen years with 1989's duet with Marc Almond, a new version of "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart", a song by British writers Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, which had originally been a No. 5 solo hit for Pitney in 1967, and which belatedly brought him his first UK Number 1 hit, staying there for four weeks. It also went #1 in many European countries as well. Sales were boosted particularly by the two vocalists' appearance on the Terry Wogan TV show as it was climbing the charts. Pitney's US record company declined to issue the record in America on the grounds that buyers would mistake it for a vocal duet by two gay men, Almond being leather-clad as usual, and Pitney dressed in a white tuxedo.

Before that, cult band Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds had already recorded "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart" on their cover album "Kicking Against the Pricks" in 1986.Even though the album was critically acclaimed & did very well on independent charts,it never reached the commercial success of the Pitney / Almond duet.

On February 26 1993, Gene Pitney performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York coincidentally the same day of the first World Trade Center bombing. On March 18 2002 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Pitney died on April 5 2006 at the age of 66. He was found dead by his tour manager in the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff in the middle of a UK tour. [ [ Singer Gene Pitney dies in Wales after acclaimed performance] Retrieved February 23, 2008] His final show at Cardiff's St David's Hall was deemed a huge success, with a standing ovation, ending the show with his 1962 hit "Town Without Pity". An autopsy confirmed the singer died of natural causes. [ [ Pitney death from natural causes] Retrieved February 23 2008] He was laid to rest on April 13 2006 at Somers Center Cemetery in Somers, Connecticut.

Posthumous tributes

In tribute to Gene, Marc Almond has recorded "Backstage (I'm Lonely)" for his forthcoming album "Stardom Road".

On September 20 2007, Gene Pitney was honored in his hometown of Rockville, Connecticut where a plaque was unveiled at the Town Hall. Members of the Pitney family were in attendance. The Gene Pitney Commemorative Committee has also established a Music Scholarship in Gene Pitney's name which is awarded annually to a student of Pitney's alma mater Rockville High School.In October of 2008, an International Fan Convention will also be held in his hometown of Rockville.



"Note that release dates refer to initial release. Pitney's early singles generally appeared one to four months later in the UK/Austraila. Many of his later releases are UK/Australia/NZ only."

"Sources include Joel Whitburn's Record Research material for the US Top 100, "Bubbling Under" and US Country charts; Tim Rice "et al"'s "Guinness Book of Hit Singles" for the UK; CHUM Chart for Canada prior to mid-1964, and the Canadian RPM charts thereafter; and The Kent Report for Australia "


External links

* [ A site created to honor Gene in his hometown of Rockville, CT]
* [ "Wild" Wayne - Ct. based nationally known Oldies Radio DJ & friend of Gene Pitney]
* [ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame]
* [ Report of Pitney's death from BBC News]
* [ BBC Obituary]
* [,,1747957,00.html Obituary] from the The Guardian
* [ Fan's Final Chat with Gene Pitney]
* [ Interview with Gene Pitney in International Songwriters Association's "Songwriter Magazine", concentrating on his songwriting career]

NAME = Pitney, Gene
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Pitney, Gene Francis Alan
SHORT DESCRIPTION = American singer and songwriter
DATE OF BIRTH = February 17 1940
PLACE OF BIRTH = Hartford, Connecticut, USA
DATE OF DEATH = April 5 2006
PLACE OF DEATH = Cardiff, Wales, UK

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gene Pitney — Chartplatzierungen Erklärung der Daten Singles I Wanna Love My Life Away   UK 26 xx.xx.1961 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gene Pitney — Gene Francis Alan Pitney (17 février 1941 à Hartford dans le Connecticut 5 avril 2006) était un chanteur et compositeur américain. Ses plus grands succès furent Town Without Pity en 1962 et 24 Hours from Tulsa en 1963. Pitney eut une grande… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • George Jones and Gene Pitney (Recorded in Nashville!) — Infobox Album Name = George Jones and Gene Pitney (Recorded in Nashville!) Type = studio Artist = George Jones and Gene Pitney Released = 1965 Recorded = in Nashville, TN Genre = Country Length = Label = Musicor Producer = Reviews = Last album =… …   Wikipedia

  • George Jones and Gene Pitney: For the First Time! Two Great Singers — Album par George Jones Gene Pitney Sortie Juin 1965 Genre Country Label Musicor Records Critique …   Wikipédia en Français

  • George Jones and Gene Pitney (Recorded in Nashville!) — Album par George Jones Gene Pitney Sortie 1965 Enregistrement À Nashville Genre Country Label …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gene Francis Alan Pitney — Gene Pitney Gene Francis Alan Pitney (17 février 1941 à Hartford dans le Connecticut 5 avril 2006) était un chanteur et compositeur américain. Ses plus grands succès furent Town Without Pity en 1962 et 24 Hours from Tulsa en 1963. Pitney eut une… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Pitney — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Gene Pitney (1940–2006), US amerikanischer Sänger und Songschreiber Mahlon Pitney (1858–1924), US amerikanischer Jurist und Politiker Pitney bezeichnet außerdem: Pitney (Somerset), ein Dorf in England …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Pitney, Gene Francis Alan — ▪ 2007  American singer and songwriter (b. Feb. 17, 1940, Hartford, Conn. d. April 5, 2006, Cardiff, Wales), was known for his dramatic pop balladry. Pitney first gained success as a songwriter with hits such as “Hello Mary Lou” (recorded by Rick …   Universalium

  • Pitney, Gene — ▪ American singer songwriter born February 17, 1941, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S. died April 5, 2006, Cardiff, Wales  American singer and songwriter known for dramatic pop balladry (pop ballad). Pitney first gained success as a songwriter with… …   Universalium

  • Pitney — /ˈpɪtni/ (say pitnee) noun Gene Francis Alan, 1941–2006, US pop singer …   Australian English dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.