Saturday, 30 March 2013

Old Leather Lungs

We have a centenary to celebrate today - Mr Francesco Paolo LoVecchio, better known to the world at the incomparable Frankie Laine (a man whose various nicknames included "Mr. Rhythm", "Old Leather Lungs" and "Mr. Steel Tonsils").

With a career that spanned 75 years(!), Mr Laine saw them all come and go - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Johnnie Ray - and was still belting out his trademark "yippie-ay-ey" Western themes, power ballads and big jazzy numbers right up to his death at 94!

Among the highlights of his career, his was the voice behind such classics as Mule Train, Rawhide, I Believe (still today the song that has chalked up the most weeks at Number 1 in the UK - 18 in total) and Champion The Wonder Horse (although he didn't actually sing the original). Worldwide, he sold more than 100 million records - 21 of them gold discs - and even in 2011 his greatest hits album made the Top Twenty in the UK album charts. He collaborated with many of the greats including Jo Stafford and Doris Day, and mentored the early career of another long-serving singer Tony Bennett.

Here is the man himself, in an early broadcast of one of his more melodramatic (read "camp") hits, Jezebel:

A remarkable voice indeed.

Frankie Laine (30th March 1913 - 6th February 2007)

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