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Pop crooner Jerry Vale dies at 83

Artist known for classic love songs


Singer Jerry Vale in 1978.


Jerry Vale, the pop crooner known for his velvety voice and the classic love songs he recorded in the 1950s and early 1960s, died Sunday at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 83.

Vale rose to stardom performing in supper clubs as a teenager, and hit the charts for the first time in 1953 with You Can Never Give Me Back My Heart. He was a fixture at Columbia Records, where he recorded more than 50 albums and churned out hits like Two Purple Shadows and Al Di La. His biggest hit, You Don’t Know Me, peaked at No. 14 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list in 1956.

An Italian-American, he popularized Italian romantic songs with renditions of Innamorata (Sweetheart) in 1956 and I Have But One Heart in 1962.

His long career took him to Carnegie Hall as well as the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, where he met and worked with the stars of his time, among them Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Nat King Cole.

His autobiography, Jerry Vale: A Singer’s Life, written with Richard Grudens, was published in 2000. In it, he recalled meeting his longtime idol, Frank Sinatra, in the early 1950s at Lindy’s Restaurant in New York City, a magnet for show business talent. When they were introduced, Sinatra stood up, an unusual gesture for big stars at the time. It stunned Vale.

“A few years ago I had heard so many negative stories about Frank that I was somewhat apprehensive to approach him,” he said. “To my absolute surprise, he wound up being quite amiable, and the most caring individual that I have ever known.”

The two became fast friends. Sinatra, who was a partner in the Sands Hotel, helped Vale secure his first gig there, a two-week engagement that lasted 22 weeks after an owner, Jack Enratter, heard Vale’s voice.

After Vale and his wife, Rita, moved to California, the two became a constant presence at Sinatra’s Rancho Mirage ranch. He played at the annual Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament for several years and once performed at the event in 1996.

In 1963 he hired a 40-piece band and eight background singers to record the national anthem. The recording became a fixture at sporting events for years and was the first song inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Vale made cameo appearances as himself in the films Goodfellas in 1990 and Casino in 1995, both directed by Martin Scorsese, and in the television series The Sopranos.

He was born Genaro Louis Vitaliano on July 8, 1930, in the Bronx, N.Y.

In 1959, he married Rita Vale, an actress who appeared on the television dramas Studio One in Hollywood on CBS and The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse on NBC. She also acted in the 1952 film The Thief. She survives him, as do their son, a daughter and three grandchildren.

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