Gene Francis Alan Pitney (February 17, 1940 – April 5, 2006) was an American singer-songwriter, musician, and sound engineer.
Through the mid-1960s, he enjoyed success as a recording artist on both sides of the Atlantic and was among the group of early 1960s American acts who continued to enjoy hits after the British Invasion.
Pitney was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in Rockville, now part of Vernon, Connecticut.
His early influences were Clyde McPhatter, country-blues singer Moon Mullican and doo-wop groups like the Crows.
He attended Rockville High School, at which he was named “the Rockville Rocket”, and where he formed his first band, Gene and the Genial’s.
Pitney was an avid doo wop singer and sang with a group called The Embers.
In 1965, Pitney recorded two successful albums with country singer George Jones.
They were voted the most promising country-and-western duo of the year.
Pitney also recorded songs in Italian, Spanish and German, and twice finished second in Italy’s annual Sanremo Music Festival, where his strong vibrato reminded older listeners of the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso.
He had a regional hit with “Nessuno Mi Può Giudicare”.
Pitney maintained a successful career in Britain and the rest of Europe into the 1970s, appearing regularly on UK charts as late as 1974.
In Australia, after a fallow period in the early 1970s, Pitney returned to Top 40 in 1974, as both Blue Angel (No. 2) and Trans-Canada Highway (No. 14; production by David Mackay) were substantial hits.
Pitney continued to place records in the Australian charts through 1976, including the hit “Down This Road”, written and produced by distant relation Edward Pitney.
Overall, Gene had 16 top 40 hits in the US and an amazing 40 top 40 songs in the UK.
Gene’s profile was very good outside of the US and UK as well.
Especially in Italy where he came second in the San Remo song contest with the song “Nessuno Mi Puo Giudicare”.
He also recorded a number of his hits in Italian.
In addition to this Pitney began to make forays into other areas of music once again demonstrating his vocal range.
He recorded albums with country greats like George Jones and Melba Montgomery and was quite successful.
He also recorded an album of folk songs.
At one point he had hits in Europe, the UK, and the US pop and country charts with four different songs simultaneously.
Although disappearing in the late seventies he made a successful touring comeback in 1983 with a sellout North American tour.
And finally in 1989 achieved what had eluded him at the peak of his popularity, a number 1 single in the UK.
His tour manager found Gene Pitney dead on 5 April 2006 in a Hilton Hotel room in Cardiff, during a UK tour. Pitney was 66. His final show at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall had earned him a standing ovation; he ended with “Town without Pity”.
An autopsy revealed that he had died of a heart attack and had severely constricted coronary arteries.
He was survived by his wife Lynne and their three sons Todd, Chris, and David.