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  • Italian-American Crooners Speak the Language of Love
    Part 2 of 5: Perry Como & Mario Lanza

    Continued from page 1
    Italian Memories

    by Cookie Curci

    Perry Como, like most of his Italian-American singing peers, was born to immigrant parents. Como was the seventh son of a seventh son. (The sign of good fortune) The first of his parents 13 kids to become an American citizen by birth, he began his career as a barber who liked to sing. But one day, when bandleader Freddie Calone offered him a job, Como gave up his lucrative $120.00 a week barbershop income to take $28.00 a week as the band singer. He married his childhood sweetheart Roselle Belline and through the years, became one of America's most endearing and beloved performers. When interviewed after their 65th wedding anniversary, wife Roselle was asked how they managed to stay so happily married all these years? "It's not difficult", said Roselle, "when a man and woman commit themselves to God and to their marriage, everything else just naturally falls into place." Perry Como had 148 top 40 hits during his career, among them: "Prisoner of Love", "Wanted" and "It's impossible".

    While Dean and Frank were busy forming the "rat pack", and Perry Como was starring on a new medium called television, the more serious minded music lover was listening to a new Italian-American voice. It was only natural that Mario Lanza, (1921- 1958) become a singer, his mother had a beautiful soprano voice and his childhood hero was the great Caruso, who, ironically, died the year Lanza was born. He was christened, Alfredo Arnold Cocozza, but later took the male version of his mother's maiden name, Maria Lanza. During his career he thrilled millions with his magnificent voice and good looks. Lanza was one of the rare, gifted tenors who could sing "D" flat and high "C". With the same ease Lanza sold over 50 million records, an impressive feat when you consider his short life. His death from a heart attack, at age 38, left an unfulfilled void.

    Through his films and recordings, Lanza introduced the masses to opera, who otherwise may never have experienced it. To his legend of fans, his glorious renditions of "Ave Maria" and "Pagliacci" remain incomparable. Renowned conductor Arturo Toscanini said of Lanza: "He is the greatest voice of the century". His faithful followers will agree. Although Mario Lanza has been gone for some 42 years, his recordings remain popular with his loyal fans, who continue to revere him as the one and only Italian tenor.

    Part 1: Colombo, Sinatra and Martin
    Part 3: Martino, Bennett & Vale
    Part 4: Other Popular Italian-American Singers
    Part 5: The Italian-American Singer

    Article Updated 10/20/10


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