New Jersey Groundbreaker: Frankie Valli
Frankie Valli, born on May 3, 1934, eventually became renowned for his distinctive falsetto as the lead vocalist of The Four Seasons. The group had a wave of major hits during the 1960s, including “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Working My Way Back to You,” while also staging a comeback during the following decade. Valli forged a successful solo career as well with singles like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “My Eyes Adored You” and the title song to the movie-musical Grease. The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys launched in 2005, telling the story of Valli and The Four Seasons, followed almost a decade later with a movie adaptation directed by Clint Eastwood.
Background and Early Career
Francis Castulleccio was born on May 3, 1934 in Newark, New Jersey to a working class Italian family. His mother nurtured his love of music at a young age, and he was influenced by jazz, doo-wop and soul, along with artists like The Drifters, Rose Murphy and Frank Sinatra.
The young Castulleccio would listen to some of his favorite singers on record at home and then practice what he’d heard. He was also mentored by country singer Texas Jean Valley, and hence Castulleccio took the last name “Valley” as well, which eventually became “Valli.”
Major Success With 4 Seasons
Working with a variety of acts and as a solo artist from the mid-1950s to early ‘60s with limited success, Valli eventually came to be with the group that, in 1961, would be known as The Four Seasons. With members who were all vocalists and instrumentalists, the group consisted of Valli, keyboardist/songwriter Bob Gaudio, who would pen an array of the Seasons’ songs, guitarist Tommy DeVito and bassist/vocal arranger Nick Massi.
The group hit it big in 1962 with their single “Sherry,” produced by Bob Crewe, which went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop and R&B charts, propelled by Valli’s very high, celebrated falsetto. Outside of a holiday song, the group’s next two singles—“Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”—hit No. 1 pop as well.
The Four Seasons became one of the biggest pop acts of the 1960s, exploring different musical styles and continuing to amass chart hits even during the British invasion. They would go on to have more than two dozen Top 40 hits during the decade, which included songs like “Candy Girl”, “Dawn (Go Away), “Rag Doll,” “Working My Way Back to You” and “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry About Me).”
In 1967, after a string of solo artist singles, Valli released “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” a silky ode to romance that joyfully swings by mid-song and which reached No. 2 on the pop charts. With Four Seasons’ membership coming to shift over the years and the group switching labels, Valli also released a number of solo albums during the 1970s that included Closeup (1975), Our Day Will Come (1975) and Lady Put the Light Out (1977).
He charted with singles once again with the Top 10 uptempo ditty “Swearin’ to God” and the sentimental “My Eyes Adored You,” which reached No. 1. The Four Seasons also made a comeback with songs from the 1975 Who Loves You album, including the Top 10 title track and the No. 1 “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night).”
Later, in the summer of 1978, Valli was the voice of an iconic anthem; namely, the title song from the movie adaptation of the musical Grease. Valli once again topped the charts, with the track penned by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.
Personal Life and ‘Jersey Boys’
Valli had faced personal tumult over the years, suffering from the hearing disease otosclerosis for some time until having surgery. He also suffered major grief when he lost his stepdaughter in a car accident and his daughter from an overdose within a short time span.
Over the years, he has continued to tour with different iterations of The Four Seasons and done some acting as well, with work like the hit series The Sopranos. Valli has been married and divorced three times.
In 2005, the musical Jersey Boys launched on Broadway, becoming a mainstay which presented the story of Valli and The Four Seasons, with music by Gaudio. The production won several Tonys, including Best Musical, and has gone on to be adapted into a 2014 film directed by Clint Eastwood.
Article posted from Biography.com