Thursday, December 12, 2013

December 12: Connie Francis, "Stupid Cupid, "Who's Sorry Now, "Where the Boys Are," is 75-years-old today.

Born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero in 1938, is top-charting female vocalist of the 1950s and 1960s. She is best known for her downbeat ballads delivered in her trademark sobbing, emotive style.

In addition to her best-known song, "Who's Sorry Now?," her many hits include "Lipstick on Your Collar," "Where the Boys Are," and "Stupid Cupid." She topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on three occasions with "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" and "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You." She also was known for her early relationship with the singer and teen heart-throb the late Bobby Darin.

Connie was born in the Italian Down Neck, or Ironbound, neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey. She attended Newark Arts High School in 1951 and 1952. She and her family moved to Belleville, New Jersey, where she graduated 'Salutatorian' from the Belleville High School Class of 1955.

Following her appearance on the Arthur Godfrey Show  Connie was advised to change her name from Franconero to something more easily pronounceable and to drop the accordion that was part of her act. Then in her 1952 appearance on Battle of the Ages she is introduced as "13-year-old Connie Francis." There she sang "Wheel of Fortune."

Despite this early exposure, every record label turned her down. Finally,  MGM decided to give her a shot, nut only because the song she chose to record, "Freddy," was also the name of the son of a company executive. Francis' first single, "Freddy" in 1955 - and her next nine singles - were commercial failures.

Bobby Darin, Connie & Ed Sullivan

Early in her career, Francis was introduced to Bobby Darin, then an up-and-coming singer and songwriter. Darin's manager arranged for him to help write several songs for her. Despite some disagreement about material, after several weeks Darin and Francis developed a romantic relationship. Francis' strict Italian father would separate the couple whenever possible. When her father learned that Bobby Darin had suggested the two lovers elope after one of her shows, he ran Darin out of the building at gunpoint, telling Bobby to never see his daughter again.

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Francis saw Darin only two more times - once when the two were scheduled to sing together for a television show, and again when Francis was spotlighted on the TV series This Is Your Life. By then,Bobby Darin had married actress Sandra Dee.

In her autobiography Francis says she and her father were driving into the Lincoln Tunnel when the radio DJ announced Darin's and Dee's marriage. Her father made a negative comment about Bobby finally being out of their lives. Angered, Francis wrote, she hoped the Hudson River would fill the Lincoln Tunnel, killing both herself and her father; she later wrote that not marrying Darin was the biggest mistake of her life.

After the failure of her first nine demos, MGM was about to drop her. She considered a career in medicine. At what was to have been her final recording session for MGM she recorded a cover version of the 1923 song "Who's Sorry Now?" which had been written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Francis has said that she recorded it at the suggestion of her father, who convinced her it stood a chance of becoming a hit because it was a song adults already knew and that teenagers would dance to if it had a contemporary arrangement.

It turned out to be a smart choice. On January 1, 1958, the song debuted on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. By mid-year, over a million copies had been sold, and Francis was suddenly launched into worldwide stardom. In April 1958, "Who's Sorry Now" reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and number four in the US.

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For the next four years, Francis was voted the "Best Female Vocalist" by "American Bandstand" viewers. In 1959, she also appeared on ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, as did many other singers of her generation.

As Francis explains at each of her concerts, she began searching for a new hit immediately after the success of "Who's Sorry Now?" After the relative failure of follow-up single "I'm Sorry I Made You Cry."

A meeting was arranged between Connie and Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield who sang a number of ballads they had written for her. After a few hours, Francis began writing in her diary while the songwriters played the last of their ballads. Afterward, Francis told them that she considered their ballads too stuffy for young people.

Greenfield suggested that Sedaka sing a song they had written that morning for another girl group. Sedaka protested that Francis would be insulted, but Greenfield said that since she hated all the other songs they had performed, they had nothing to lose. Sedaka played "Stupid Cupid." When he finished, Francis announced that he had just played her new hit record. The song reached #14 on the Billboard chart.

As a side note, while Francis was writing in her diary, Sedaka asked her if he could read what she had written. She refused, but Sedaka was inspired to write "The Diary," his own first hit single. Through the rest of her early career, Sedaka and Greenfield wrote many of her hits, including "Fallin'" and "Where the Boys Are."

The success of "Stupid Cupid" restored momentum to Francis' chart career, and she reached the U.S. top 40 an additional seven times during the remainder of the '50s; four of her singles - "My Happiness," "Lipstick on Your Collar," "Among My Souvenirs," and "Mama" - were top-ten singles.

In 1960, Connie Francis became the youngest headliner to sing in Las Vegas where she would play 28 days a year for the next nine years. That same year she also became the first female singer to have two consecutive No. 1 singles: "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own." By 1967, Francis had had 35 U.S. Top 40 hits, three of which had reached No. 1.

Connie Francis returned to the spotlight in 1973 with "The Answer," a song written for her. She soon began performing again.

While appearing at the Westbury Music Fair in New York, on November 8, 1974, Francis was raped at a nearby hotel. She subsequently sued the motel chain for failing to provide adequate security. She reportedly won a $3 million judgment, at the time one of the largest such judgments in history.
She did not perform again for seven years, and at one point said she would never be able to perform again. Her rapist was never found.


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