The son of Italian immigrants, a fact that was evident in his style and manner, Al Martino (born Alfred Cini) worked as bricklayer in his father's construction business before being encouraged to become a singer by his friend Mario Lanza. After singing in local clubs, and winning Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, he recorded 'Here In My Heart' for the small BBS record label. It shot to number 1 in the US chart, and reputedly sold over a million copies. This disc was also the first ever record to top the New Musical Express UK listings, inaugurated in 1952. Martino's success led to a contract with Capitol Records, and more hits in 1953 with 'Take My Heart', 'Rachel' and 'When You're Mine'. For several years after that, the US record buyers apparently tired of Martino's soulful ballads, although he remained popular in Europe for a time - particularly in the UK, where he made the Top 20 with 'Now', 'Wanted', 'The Story Of Tina' and 'The Man From Laramie'. After some telling performances on US television, he made his recording comeback in 1963 with country singer Leon Payne's 'I Love You Because', followed by 'Painted, Tainted Rose', 'Living A Lie', 'I Love You More And More Every Day', 'Tears And Roses', 'Always Together', 'Think I'll Go And Cry Myself To Sleep' and 'Mary In The Morning'.
His second million-seller, 'Spanish Eyes' (1965), was originally an instrumental piece, 'Moon Over Naples', written by the popular German orchestra leader, Bert Kaempfert. With lyrics by Charles Singleton and Eddy Snyder, Martino's version became, particularly in Europe, a dreamy dance favourite to rival Charles Aznavour's 'Dance In The Old Fashioned Way'. In 1964, Martino sang the title song for the Bette Davis/Olivia De Havilland film Hush … Hush Sweet Charlotte, and this led to his playing singer Johnny Fontane in the smash hit movie The Godfather (1972). In the film, Martino sang the Italian number 'O Marenariello' ('I Have But One Heart'). He also recorded the film's love theme, 'Speak Softly Love', and had chart success with further Italian songs, 'To The Door Of The Sun' ('Alle Porte Del Sole') and the old Dean Martin hit, Domenico Modugno's 'Volare'. In vogue once more, Martino played top nightclubs and theatres, and continued to record with Capitol who have reissued many of his early albums on CD. Martino died in October 2009 at the age of 82, and will be remembered for his smooth vocals, seeped in understatement and relaxed confidence.
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