Martino in 2005
|Birth name||Alfred Cini|
|Also known as||Johnny Fontane|
|Born||October 7, 1927
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||October 13, 2009 (aged 82)
|Genres||Jazz, swing, pop|
Al Martino (born Alfred Cini, October 7, 1927 – October 13, 2009) was an American singer and actor. He had his greatest success as a singer between the early 1950s and mid 1970s, being described as "one of the great Italian American pop crooners", and also became well known as an actor, particularly for his role as singer Johnny Fontane in The Godfather.
Alfred Cini was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were immigrants from Malta who ran a construction business, and while growing up he worked alongside his brothers as a bricklayer. However, he was inspired to become a singer by emulating artists such as Al Jolson and Perry Como, and by the success of a family friend, Alfredo Cocozza, who had changed his name to Mario Lanza. After serving with the United States Marines in World War II, including being a part of the Iwo Jima invasion where he was wounded, Cini began his singing career. Encouraged by Lanza, he adopted the stage name Al Martino, taken from his mother's maiden name, and began singing in local nightclubs. In 1948 he moved to New York City, and in 1952 won first place on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television program with a performance of Como's hit "If".
As a result, he won a recording contract with the Philadelphia based independent label BBS, where he recorded the song "Here in My Heart". Lanza had been asked by his label RCA Victor to record the song, but Martino called and pleaded with him not to do so in order to let Martino's version have a clear run. The song spent three weeks at #1 on the US pop charts in June 1952, earning Martino a gold disc and, later in the year, also reached the top of the UK charts. It was number one in the first UK Singles Chart, published by the New Musical Express on November 14, 1952, putting him into the Guinness Book of World Records. "Here in My Heart" remained in the top position for nine weeks in the United Kingdom, a record for the longest consecutive run at #1 which has only since been beaten by five other songs.
The record's success led to a deal with Capitol Records, and he released three more singles — "Take My Heart," "Rachel," and "When You're Mine" — through 1953, all of which hit the U.S. Top 40. However, his success also attracted the attention of the Mafia, which bought out Martino’s management contract and ordered him to pay $75,000 as a safeguard for their investment. After making a down-payment to appease them, he moved to Britain. His popularity allowed him to continue to perform and record successfully in the UK, headlining at the London Palladium and having six further British chart hits in the period up to 1955, including "Now" and "Wanted". However, his work received no exposure back in the US. In 1958, thanks to the intervention of a family friend, Martino was allowed to return to the US and resume his recording career, but he faced difficulties in re-establishing himself, especially with the arrival of rock and roll. The success of his 1962 album The Exciting Voice of Al Martino secured him a new contract with Capitol, and was followed by a mostly Italian language album, The Italian Voice of Al Martino, which featured his version of the then internationally popular song, "Al Di Là." He also made several high-profile television appearances, helping to re-establish his visibility.
In 1963, he had his biggest US chart success with "I Love You Because", a cover of Leon Payne's 1950 country music hit. Arranged by Belford Hendricks, Martino's version went to #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and #1 on the Easy Listening chart. The album of the same name went Top 10 in the Billboard 200. Martino had four other US top 10 hits in 1963 and 1964 - "Painted, Tainted Rose" (1963), "I Love You More and More Every Day", "Tears and Roses" and "Silver Bells" (all 1964). He also sang the title song for the 1964 film, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. One of his biggest hits was "Spanish Eyes", achieving several gold and platinum discs for sales. Recorded in 1965, the song reached #5 on the UK Singles Chart when re-issued in 1973. The song, with a tune by Bert Kaempfert originally titled "Moon Over Naples", is among the 50 most played songs worldwide.
Martino's run of chart success faded after the mid-1960s, although many of his records continued to reach the US Hot 100. Another later hit was a disco version of "Volare", (also known as "Nel blu, Dipinto di Blu"). In 1976, it reached number one on the Italian and Flemish charts, and was in the Top Ten in Spain, The Netherlands and France, as well as in many other European countries. In 1993, he recorded a new studio album with the German producer, Dieter Bohlen (former member of pop duo Modern Talking, producer of international artists like Chris Norman of Smokie, Bonnie Tyler, Dionne Warwick, Engelbert or Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate). The single "Spanish Ballerina" (written in Bohlen's europop sound) reached #93 position in the German single charts.
Apart from singing, Martino played the role of Johnny Fontane in the 1972 film The Godfather, as well as singing the film's theme, "Speak Softly Love". He played the same role in The Godfather Part III and The Godfather Trilogy: 1901–1980. He later returned to acting, playing aging crooner Sal Stevens in the short film Cutout, appearing in film festivals around the world in 2006.
|Year||Title||Album||U.S. Pop||U.S. AC||UK Singles Chart|
|1952||"Here in My Heart"||The Exciting Voice of Al Martino||1||1|
|"Take My Heart"||12||9|
|"The Story of Tina"||10|
|1955||"The Man from Laramie"||19|
|1959||"I Can't Get You Out of My Heart"||Al Martino||44|
|"Darling, I Love You"||63|
|1960||"Summertime"||Swing Along With Al Martino||49|
|1961||"Here in My Heart" (re-recording)||86||17|
|1963||"I Love You Because"||I Love You Because||3||1||48|
|"Painted, Tainted Rose"||Painted, Tainted Rose||15||3|
|"Living a Lie"||Love Notes||22||8|
|1964||"Silver Bells"||A Merry Christmas||6|
|"I Love You More and More Every Day"||I Love You More and More Every Day/Tears and Roses||9||3|
|"Tears and Roses"||20||7|
|"Always Together"||We Could||33||4|
|"I Can't Get You Out of My Heart" (reissue)||99|
|"We Could"||We Could||41||6|
|1965||"My Heart Would Know"||52||11|
|"Somebody Else is Taking My Place"||53||11|
|"My Cherie"||My Cherie||88||26|
|"Forgive Me"||Spanish Eyes||61||7|
|1966||"Spanish Eyes"||Spanish Eyes||15||1||5 †|
|"Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep"||30||2|
|"Wiederseh'n"||Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep||57||3|
|"Just Yesterday"||This Is Love||77||12|
|"The Wheel of Hurt"||59||12|
|1967||"Daddy's Little Girl"||Daddy's Little Girl||42||2|
|"Mary in the Morning"||Mary in the Morning||27||1|
|"More Than the Eye Can See"||54||1|
|1968||"Love Is Blue"||Love Is Blue||57||3|
|"Wake Up to Me Gentle"||21|
|1969||"I Can't Help It"||97||10|
|"I Started Loving You Again"||86||19|
|1970||"Can't Help Falling in Love"||Can't Help Falling in Love||51||5|
|"Walking in the Sand"||9|
|"True Love Is Greater Than Friendship"||33|
|1971||"Come into My Life"||30|
|"Losing My Mind"||39|
|1972||"Speak Softly Love"||Love Theme from 'The Godfather'||80||24|
|1975||"To the Door of the Sun (Alle Porte del Sole)"||To the Door of the Sun||17||7|
|"Sing My Love Song"||24|
|1977||"Kentucky Morning"||Love Is Blue||26|
|1978||"The Next Hundred Years"||Al Martino||49||6|
|"One Last Time"||44|
† "Spanish Eyes" reached #5 in the UK on re-issue in 1973.