by Robert Wilkinson
Today is the birthday of two of the greatest performers of all time! Frankie Valli was the frontman for the Four Seasons, and James Brown, besides being known as “the Godfather of Soul,” was also known as “the hardest working man in show business.” Since it’s Saturday, I figured I’d make James our Saturday Night Attitude Dance Man! That one will post later. This one’s for Frankie!!
So we begin our birthday celebrations with the amazing Frankie Valli (born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio, May 3, 1934). He has one of the most distinctive voices in pop music, and with his 3 1/2 octave voice he belted out hits like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry, "Dawn (Go Away)," "Rag Doll," and "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You," (to name a few of their dozens of hits).
Along with fellow “Jersey Boy” Bob Gaudio, musical genius who performed at a Carnegie Hall recital at 7 years old and originally made his mark as founder, songwriter, and star of the Royal Teens ("Short Shorts"), Frankie and Bob were introduced by Joe Pesci (yes, THAT Joe Pesci of "My Cousin Vinnie" fame), and the rest is history. They started their run in 1962 with their #1 hits “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and by the time they were done they’d sold literally 100 million records and cranked out 40 top 40 hits, 19 in the top 10, with Frankie racking up a total of seven #1 chart toppers with the 4 Seasons and two #1s as a solo artist. Frankie’s last #1? “Grease is the word is the word....”
The music of the Four Seasons affected literally tens of millions of people for about a decade. Bob Gaudio’s collaborator in the remarkable string of multi-million selling singles and albums throughout the 60s was fellow Scorpio Bob Crewe, who co-wrote most of the hits and co-produced and arranged the "sound" of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
These two Scorpios, with Taurus Frankie Valli taking them to the top with his amazing voice, created songs that rivaled the best ever written. The 4 Seasons’ music topped the charts every few months in an era when most of the top spots were owned by the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Supremes, Kinks, Animals, Four Tops, Temptations, Ray Charles, Mamas and the Papas, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, Young Rascals, Lovin' Spoonful, all the way to the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi, Janis, the Who, and other major competition. Remember - this was an awesome era in music.
So for your enjoyment, here are a few video clips of the band at their best. And yes, Frankie really IS hitting those unbelievable high notes!
Here's Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons on the Popendipity tv program in 1967 performing a medley of their hits ”Sherry,” “Big Girls Don't Cry,” “I've Got You Under My Skin,” and “Bye Bye Baby.”
A 1965 Four Seasons medley on Hullabaloo of ”Dawn,” “Rag Doll,” “Toy Soldier,” and “Bye Bye Baby Goodbye” The medley may have had other instruments hidden from the cameras and whatever primitive tricks and backing tracks they used in teevee music shows back then, but his phrasing clearly shows he wasn't lip synching!
From 1965, a television clip of Frankie and the 4 Seasons with a backing track in a short version of their #3 hit from that year, “Let’s Hang On”
A 1966 medley by the Four Seasons, including ”You're Going to Hurt Yourself” and their #9 hit, “Working My Way Back to You”
This one has real harmonies! It’s Frankie and the 4 Seasons in a live videotaped performance from 1964 at their peak! “Big Girls Don’t Cry”
Here’s another video clip of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons performing ”Big Girls Don't Cry” live, even though the sound's a bit distorted. Still, Frankie’s vocals are not lip-synched! You can listen to the original studio version of "Big Girls Don't Cry" at the link.
This year I found it again! Here’s a video of the 4 Seasons lip synching their 1963 #1 hit, "Walk Like A Man" For the original studio version as we first heard it over 50 years ago, here's "Walk Like A Man."
By 1964, they were at the top, matching the Beatles and Beach Boys hit for hit! Here's a quintet of studio versions of their biggest, three of them with a theme around boys and girls of different social classes falling in love! First, their huge 1964 #3 smash hit, “Dawn (Go Away)” followed by their 1964 #6 hit "Ronnie." We move into the backstretch with their 1964 #1 hit “Rag Doll,” follow it with the late 1964 #10 hit “Save It For Me,” and we’ll close with a song that made it to #20 on the charts that year, “Big Man In Town.” This is a truly remarkable run of hits by any standard, since they wound up with 6 tunes in the Top 20 that year!
In an interesting short clip from the movie “Beach Ball” in 1964, here Frankie and the boys are lipsynching to “Dawn (Go Away)”
A strange staged "music video" of the Four Seasons not exactly performing ”Rag Doll,” lip synched all the way.
From 1966, the 4 Seasons in a lip-synched performance of their 1966 hit that went to #9 on the charts, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
Frankie's first big solo hit that went to #2 on the charts in 1967! From the Popendipity television show, here's a live performance of ”Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You” in 1967. Here’s another live performance by Frankie of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" here, and a solo performance by Frankie at this link.
From the television show “Where the Action Is,” here's the band “performing” – lip synching – their 1966 #13 hit “Opus 17 (Don't You Worry About Me)" Here’s Frankie live belting out “Opus 17 (Don't You Worry About Me)"
From 1967, the studio version of their #9 hit, "C'mon Marianne"
”Dawn (Go Away)” - from the early 80s.
An interesting video remix of their 1967 hit that went to #16 on the charts, ”Beggin”
The Four Seasons doing their #1 hit from 1975, the infinitely danceable ”December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” Written by Gaudio, performed with a different lineup than the original Four Seasons, and the first time anyone but Frankie sang at least part of the lead.
A great mini-documentary from VOA news, Singer Frankie Valli Going Strong at 74
These pieces from the Bob Gaudio birthday celebration seem like good things to post here, since he and Frankie were joined at the hip as hitmakers!
From “Undercover,” a three part interview with Bob Gaudio about “Jersey Boys,” the story of the Four Seasons.
(On a final note, lest you think Bob Gaudio was a mere 30 hit wonder, he also went on to work with Peabo Bryson, Roberta Flack, Eric Carmen, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and of course, with Frankie Valli wrote the Tony and Grammy award winning Broadway musical, "Jersey Boys," based on their life story with the Four Seasons.)
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson