Birthday: February 17, 1940
Died At Age: 66
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Gene Francis Alan Pitney
Born Country: United States
Born in: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Famous as: Singer-songwriter
Spouse/Ex-: Lynne Gayton (m. 1967)
father: Harold F. Pitney
mother: Anna A. (Orlowsky)
siblings: Dennis Pitney, Francis Pitney
Died on: April 5, 2006
place of death: Cardiff
U.S. State: Connecticut
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
education: Rockville High School
Gene Pitney was an American singer, songwriter, and sound engineer best known for his song ‘Town Without Pity’. Marked by his piercing, pained, and melodramatic tenor, he was often characterized (very unfairly) as a shallow “teen idol” type of singer. He loved music since his childhood and joined a band in high school. After high school, he studied electrical engineering while simultaneously focusing on music. Soon, his focus shifted to only music. He made his official debut by recording a duet with Ginny Arnell in 1959. However, initially he found more success as a songwriter rather than as a singer. His songs were performed by many famous artists. He eventually gained fame as a singer when he recorded his self-penned song, ‘I Wanna Love My Life Away’. His songs gained notable popularity in US and UK and he was inducted into ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in 2002. He married his childhood sweetheart, Lynne Gayton, in 1966, and had three children with her. On April 5, 2006, during his UK tour, he was found dead in his hotel room in Cardiff, Wales. The cause of his death was ascertained to be a heart attack. He was buried at Somers Center Cemetery in Somers, Connecticut.
Childhood & Early Life
Gene Pitney was born on 17 February 1940, in Hartford, Connecticut, to Anna A. (Orlowsky) and Harold F. Pitney, who was a lathe operator. He had two older and two younger siblings and lived with his family in Rockville, Connecticut.
He attended Rockville High School where he formed his first band, ‘Gene & the Genials’. He was an enthusiastic doo-wop singer and also sang with a group named ‘The Embers’.
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Gene Pitney’s first break in the music industry came when he formed a duo named ‘Jamie and Jane’ with Ginny Arnell. They recorded ‘Classical Rock & Roll’ in 1959 followed by a single called ‘Cradle of My Arms.’
In collaboration with songwriter Aaron Schroeder, he placed his songs with big artists. His big break came when Roy Orbison recorded ‘Today's Teardrops’ as the B-side to ‘Blue Angel.’ It was followed by ‘Rubber Ball’ for Bobby Vee and ‘Hello Mary Lou’ for Ricky Nelson.
He recorded his self-penned song ‘(I Wanna) Love My Life Away’ which was released on Schroeder’s ‘Musicor’ label in 1961. It reached the Top 40 in US and Britain. It was followed by ‘Town Without Pity’ which became his first Top 20 single.
In 1962, he recorded what would become his highest-charting song, ‘Only Love Can Break a Heart,’ that peaked at No. 2 in US. In December the same year, his ‘Half Heaven, Half Heartache’ reached No.12 on the Billboard chart.
In 1964, his song ‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa’ peaked at No.5 in Britain and at No. 17 on US Hot 100.
In 1964, he recorded the singles ‘It Hurts to Be in Love’ (No.7 in US) and ‘I'm Gonna Be Strong’ (No.9 in US and No. 2 UK). In 1965, he recorded two hit albums with singer George Jones and they became the most promising country-and-western duo of the year.
In 1966, his single ‘Nobody Needs Your Love’ peaked at No. 2 in UK. He also recorded songs in Italian, Spanish and German. In Italy, his song ‘Nessuno mi può giudicare’ became a sensational hit, and he finished second in the country’s annual ‘Sanremo Music Festival’ twice.
His US career started declining after his song ‘She's a Heartbreaker’ made it to the Top 40 in mid-1968. He still appeared regularly on UK charts till 1974.
In Australia, his songs ‘Blue Angel’ (No. 2) and ‘Trans-Canada Highway’ (No. 14) marked his comeback by featuring in the Top 40 in 1974. His streak of success continued through 1976 with songs like ‘Down This Road’, and ‘Days of Summer’.
After a long break, he made his comeback with a duet version of ‘Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart’ with singer Marc Almond; it reached and stayed at No.1 in UK for four weeks in January 1989, and gained the No.1 ranking in Germany, Switzerland, Finland, and Ireland.
In 2000, he sang the harmony vocals in Jane Olivor’s version of his own song ‘Half Heaven – Half Heartache’.
In 1961, Gene Pitney recorded his first Top 20 single, ‘Town Without Pity’ which had been penned by Tiomkin and Ned Washington. It won a ‘Golden Globe Award’ and an ‘Oscars’ nomination for the Best Song. He also performed it at Oscars’ ceremony on April 9, 1962, becoming the first pop singer to do so.
He recorded a Bacharach and David song, ‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa,’ which peaked at No. 5 in UK in 1964, marking his increasing popularity in UK.
Family & Personal Life
In 1966, Gene Pitney married his childhood sweetheart, Lynne Gayton, and the couple had three sons together, Todd, Chris, and Patrick Ewing.
On 18 March 2002, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On April 5, 2006, during his UK tour, he was found dead in his hotel room in Cardiff, Wales, by his manager after a concert. The cause of his death was ruled to be a heart attack. He was buried at Somers Center Cemetery in Somers, Connecticut.
In 1989, while performing live on ITV's ‘This Morning’ show, he missed his cue for the song ‘You're the Reason’ and couldn’t mime with the beats in time!