I am so lucky to have lived through the '50s, when pop and rock'n'roll were stumbling over each other, in an amazing game of 'tag, you're it', each trying to create the Next Art Form.
In retrospect, many of the artists who came up in the '50s and veered toward the 'pop' arena would have been rockers had they started out more recently.
Case in point: Frankie Laine. Sadly, from his website today:
We are saddened to announce the passing of Frankie Laine, musician, father, husband and friend. He died at 9:15 this morning from cardiovascular disease at age 93 in San Diego, surrounded by his loved ones.
Frankie led a long, exuberant life and contributed greatly to many causes near to his heart. He donated his time and talent to many San Diego charities and homeless shelters, as well as the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul Village. He was also an emeritus member of the board of directors for the Mercy Hospital Foundation.
Born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio on March 30, 1913, he was one of the most successful American singers of the twentieth century. He charted more than 70 records – 21 of them gold – and achieved worldwide sales of more than 250 million discs. He will be forever remembered for the beautiful music he brought into this world, his wit and sense of humor, along with the love he shared with so many.
Indeed. Here is a promo about his career:
Go to this part of his website, there are Real Audio links to several of his songs.
Here is something from his wikipedia:
Laine was the first and biggest of a new breed of black-influenced singers who rose to prominence in the post-WWII era. This new, raw, emotionally charged style seemed at the time to signal the end of the previous era's singing styles; and was, indeed, a harbinger of the rock 'n' roll music that was to come. As music historian Jonny Whiteside wrote:In the Hollywood clubs, a new breed of black-influenced white performers laid down a baffling hip array of new sounds ... Most important of all these, though, was Frankie Laine, a big white lad with 'steel tonsils' who belted out torch blues while stomping his size twelve foot in joints like Billy Berg's, Club Hangover and the Bandbox. ... Laine's intense vocal style owed nothing to Crosby, Sinatra or Dick Haymes. Instead he drew from Billy Eckstine, Joe Turner, Jimmy Rushing, and with it Laine had sown the seeds from which an entire new perception and audience would grow. ... Frank Sinatra represented perhaps the highest flowering of a quarter century tradition of crooning but suddenly found himself an anachronism. First Frankie Laine, then Tony Bennett, and now Johnnie (Ray), dubbed 'the Belters' and 'the Exciters,' came along with a brash vibrance and vulgar beat that made the old bandstand routine which Frank meticulously perfected seem almost invalid.
Not sure who he is, or was? Let me refresh your memory. Anyone remember the TV show Rawhide? Or the movie Blazing Saddles? He sang the themes to both.
But here's some more interesting info from wikipedia:
Along with opening the door for many R&B performers, Laine played a significant role in the equal rights movements of the 1950s and 60s. When Nat King Cole's television show was unable to get a sponsor, Laine crossed the color line, becoming the first white artist to appear as a guest (foregoing his usual salary of $10,000.00 as Cole's show only paid scale). Many other top white singers followed suit, including Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney, but Cole's show still couldn't get enough sponsors to continue.
Laine has also been active in many charities as well, including Meals on Wheels and The Salvation Army. Among his charitable works are a series of local benefit concerts and his having organized a nationwide drive to provide "Shoes for the Homeless."
Frankie Laine, who had a strong liking to African-American music, went so far as to include recording at least two songs that have being black as their subject matter, "Shine" and Fats Waller's "Black and Blue".
The YouTube selections for Frankie are somewhat limited, but here's one that's, well, sort of lame: