Friday, April 07, 2006

Gene Pitney

Celebrity deaths tend not to get me too worked up, but I am distraught over Gene Pitney's passing. I guess I just felt the man never did get the proper respect he deserved. Yes, he is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for what that's worth. But that only happened after years of lobbying on Pitney's part. It broke my heart when Pitney, during his HOF acceptance speech, thanked everyone who had petitioned his nomination.

This was an artist whose acheivements shouldn't have warranted a get-out-the-vote campaign. He wrote one of Phil Spector's greatest productions, The Crystal's "He's A Rebel." And "Hello Mary Lou," perhaps Ricky Nelson's greatest record. His own hits were all wonderfully lurid, melodramatic pop - "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Only Love Can Break A Heart," and the brilliant "Town Without Pity."

Few folks are familiar with his amazing album of duets with George Jones, but I recommend that you seek it out. Strangely enough, it was in heavy rotation in my car the last few weeks. These two voices shouldn't really work together - it's kinda like having Kobe and Iverson in the same backcourt - but they do. Bear Family released the album with a bunch of extra tracks a few years back and it's a real treasure. I interviewed Pitney about ten years ago for an article I wrote about the record, and he was a total gentleman. He had gone into the country club business in Connecticut as I recall, and he led a prosperous and contented life.

He will be missed.

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