Born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco in Glenwillard, Pennsylvania, and raised in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lou Christie, is an best known for his three octave vocal range and strings of pop hits in the 1960s.
Sacco traveled to New York after graduating from Moon Area High School and found work as a session vocalist. He recorded a few unsuccessful discs of his own for various record labels in both New York and Pittsburgh, most notably "The Jury" on the Robbee label, which achieved local success.
"The Gypsy Cried" features the vocal style that would characterize all of Christie's biggest hits: verses sung in his normal singing voice then a dramatic shift to his falsetto on the choruses. The song was released in 1962 on the tiny C&C label and credited to "Lou Christie" without Sacco's knowledge or permission. Sacco had been working on a list of potential stage names, and he has stated that he hated the name for decades afterwards: "I was pissed off about it for 20 years. I wanted to keep my name and be a one-named performer; just "Lugee'."
After becoming a hit in Pittsburgh, "The Gypsy Cried" was picked up by Roulette Records and charted nationwide, peaking at #24. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
"The Gypsy Cried" was the first of numerous songs Christie co-wrote with his songwriting partner Twyla Herbert, a self-described eccentric and mystic, who was over twenty years older than Christie but also shared his love of classical music. The two struck up a working relationship after Christie auditioned for her at the age of 15 and began a lifelong friendship which ended only with her death in 2009.
Christie's follow-up single, "Two Faces Have I" in March 1963, was an even bigger hit, peaking at #6 and also sold over a million copies. Lou then joined Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars Tour.
A third Roulette release, "How Many Teardrops" only reached #46 and Christie's career was temporarily put on hold by his induction into the U.S. Army.
Christie's career was quickly re-established after his discharge from the military when he signed on with the MGM label. MGM Records reportedly disliked Christie's first single for the label, with MGM's president reportedly throwing the tape into a wastepaper basket. But Christie's new management promoted the record in California, and when it gained some traction, MGM released it.
"Lightnin' Strikes" would reach #1 in the U.S. on Christie's 23rd birthday on February 19, 1966, and also enter the UK Top 20, becoming his first hit in that country. It also reached number one in Canada.
But Christie's next release would ignite a firestorm of controversy and censorship. Released in the spring of 1966, "Rhapsody In The Rain" featured a haunting melody inspired by Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet," telling of a teenager's regret over his sexual experience in the back seat of a car during a rainstorm as the windshield wipers made a rhythmic sound of "together, together."
Later after the romance ends, the wipers seem to say "never, never." Many radio stations banned the song, and MGM insisted on a re-recorded version that toned down the lyrical content.
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Despite the edited version, many stations instead played two older songs re-released by other labels Christie had once recorded for: "Outside the Gates of Heaven" peaked at #45, while "Big Time" managed to hit #95. All three singles hit nationally within three weeks of one another, in March 1966, while "Lightnin' Strikes" was falling off.
"Rhapsody" only managed to hit #16 in the U.S. and #37 in the UK. Christie's career seemed to be derailed once again as his followup for MGM, "Painter," which also borrowed a melody from classical music - this time from Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly - stalled at #81. Two further MGM releases from 1966 missed the Billboard Hot 100 entirely.
After being dropped by MGM and an unfruitful stint with Columbia Records in the late 1960s, Christie teamed up with Buddah Records and had a surprise Wall of Sound constant uptempo hit "I'm Gonna Make You Mine" in autumn of 1969. The song peaked at #10 in the U.S. but across the Atlantic climbed to #2 on the UK Singles Chart and thus became his biggest hit there.
A follow up, "She Sold Me Magic" charted only in the UK, peaking at #25, and "Are You Getting Any Sunshine?" only charted in America, where it reached #73.
Christie spent the early 1970s in London, largely outside of the music industry and battling drug addiction. In 1971 he released a concept album called Paint America Love. In 1974, Christie would try another new musical style, going country on his Beyond The Blue Horizon album. The title track, a remake of a hit song from 1930, written for the film Monte Carlo, features one of Christie's strongest non-falsetto vocal performances.
The song missed the Country charts entirely, and only made #80 on the pop chart, but managed a respectable showing at #12 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The song has been used in several film soundtracks, most notably in the 1988 film, Rain Man.
After getting clean at a London drug rehabilitation clinic, he dropped out of the music industry, working variously as a ranch hand, offshore oil driller and carnival barker.
Christie became active on the oldies circuit starting in the early 1980s, even scoring a final U.S. chart hit, credited as "Summer '81 Medley" by The Cantina Band featuring Lou Christie, in 1981 (peaking at #81), performing a medley of Beach Boys classics.
In 1999 Christie recorded his first all-new album since the 1970s entitled Pledging My Love. In 2004 Christie released his first concert album, Greatest Hits Live From The Bottom Line, which featured studio recording "Christmas In New York" as a bonus track.
In addition to the occasional new release, Christie remains a popular concert act on the oldies circuit in the U.S. and UK.
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