Born: July 8, 1930 Died: May 18, 2014
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JERRY Vale, who has died aged 83, was a crooner known for his high-tenor voice and romantic songs in the 1950s and early 1960s. His rendition of Volare became one of the classic Italian-American songs but his biggest hit was You Don't Know Me.
He was born Genaro Louis Vitaliano in the Bronx and grew up in a relatively poor family. As a youth, he swept floors in a barber shop and did other odd jobs to make money, but he was always passionate about singing and started to earn a bit of money performing in supper clubs.
After school, he worked alongside his father, an engineer, on excavation projects including sewage plants but he got his break when he was spotted singing in a club by fellow singer Guy Mitchell who introduced him to Mitch Miller, an executive at Columbia Records. He signed with Columbia and hit the charts for the first time in 1953 with You Can Never Give Me Back My Heart and went on to have a number of big hits, including You Don't Know Me in 1956, which sold over a million copies. His recording of The Star Spangled Banner was also very popular at sporting events and was played in stadiums for many years.
Vale's music was usually romantic and sentimental and often featured some of the Italian standards inspired by his own Italian-American background.
The hits included Two Purple Shadows, Have You Looked Into Your Heart, Ciao, Ciao Bambina and Volare and at one point in the 1960s Vale was the third best-selling male singer after Tony Bennett and Andy Williams.
In all, he recorded more than 50 albums and when his albums failed to make the charts in the early 1970s, he remained a popular club act.
He also appeared many times on television, performing on the likes of The Tonight Show, but also made cameos in Goodfellas and Casino - both of which featured Vale on their soundtracks. He also appeared in the television drama series The Sopranos.
Vale was a good friend of fellow Italian-American crooner Frank Sinatra, and he was a pallbearer at Sinatra's funeral in 1998. Vale remembered that he had been concerned about his first meeting with Sinatra but they hit it off straight away.
"A few years ago I had heard so many negative stories about Frank that I was somewhat apprehensive to approach him," said Vale. "To my absolute surprise, he wound up being quite amiable, and the most caring individual I have ever known."
In 1959 Vale married Rita Grapel, an actress. She survives him, as do their son, a daughter and three grandchildren.