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Popular Pop Songstress of the 1950s Was 91 – The Hollywood Reporter

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Joni James, the soul-bearing pop songstress who had hits in the 1950s with “Why Don’t You Believe Me?,” “How Important Can It Be?” and a canopy of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” has died. She was 91.

James died Sunday of pure causes in a hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, her household introduced.

Signed by MGM Records, the waiflike Chicago native got here out of the gate with “Why Don’t You Believe Me?,” which reached No. 1 on the three Billboard charts in late 1952 and stayed there for weeks.

Her recordings of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in 1953 and “How Important Can It Be?” in 1955 every made it to No. 2, and “Have You Heard?” climbed to No. 4 in 1953.

She had different high 10 hits with “You Are My Love” (No. 6 in 1955), “My Love, My Love” (No. 8 in 1953) and “Almost Always” (No. 9 in 1953).

Nicknamed the “Queen of Hearts,” the down-to-earth James recorded greater than 40 albums and offered greater than 100 million information throughout her profession. She had a longing sound and magnificence that reviewers described as tender, confidential and pressing, and Barbra Streisand was an admirer who usually carried out “Have You Heard?” at auditions.

“I always sang from the heart,” she advised the New York Daily News in 1966. “I always sang about life and how it affected me. I’m Italian. Italians are passionate people.”

Edward R. Murrow interviewed her in 1954 for CBS’ Person to Person, and in May 1959, she turned the first pop singer to have a solo live performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, the place she was backed by a 100-piece orchestra and 30 different voices.

At the Pantages at the 1960 Academy Awards, she carried out the Oscar-nominated tune “The Five Pennies,” sung by Danny Kaye in the Paramount movie. She was the first American to file at London’s Abbey Road Studios, making 5 albums there.

Her title additionally appeared in two Peanuts cartoons — Charles Schulz was an enormous fan, too — and she or he acquired a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1969.

Joni James circa 1960
Everett Collection

One of six youngsters, Giovanna Carmella Babbo was born in Chicago on Sept. 22, 1930. Her father died when she was 5. She studied ballet and was set to bounce in Bloomer Girl, a Broadway musical that had come to her city, however these plans had been scuttled by an emergency appendectomy.

Still planning on changing into a dancer, she picked up cash singing at a beer backyard in Indiana and in Chicago lodges and golf equipment. She carried out “Let There Be Love” on WGN-TV accompanied by pianist Johnny Ray and was signed by Lew Douglas of MGM Records.

“Why Don’t You Believe Me” was initially titled “You Should Believe Me,” however James tweaked the lyrics, and, with the assist of a 23-piece orchestra, she discovered quick success and gross sales of greater than 2 million information.

James headlined the Paramount Theatre in New York and sang on applications together with The Ed (*91*) Show, American Bandstand, The Jimmy Dean Show and Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall. She additionally carried out the title tune for The Maverick Queen (1956), a Western starring Barbara Stanwyck and Barry (*91*).

She put her profession on maintain for almost 20 years to care of Tony Acquaviva, her husband, conductor, arranger and supervisor who had taken in poor health with diabetes. The two MGM recording artists had married in 1956 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

“I became the nurse and the Italian mother,” James advised the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “I wanted to be near my family. Besides, I couldn’t possibly turn away from Tony. He was in a wheelchair for years. They were going to amputate his leg at one point because of gangrene, but we saved it. I used to bathe the leg six times a day.”

A number of years after Acquaviva’s loss of life in 1986, James returned to touring — she made it again to Carnegie Hall in 1998 — and supervised the rerelease of her MGM recordings.

Her second husband was Bernard Schriever, a retired Air Force basic who shepherded the growth of the intercontinental ballistic missile program and established a framework for the Air Force’s house program. They had been married from 1997 till his loss of life in 2005 at age 94.

Survivors embrace her youngsters, Michael (and his spouse, Michelle) and Angela, each adopted from Italy; brothers Angelo and Jimmy; sisters Clara and Rosalie; and grandchildren Jacqueline and Connor.





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