(San Diego, CA) — Frankie Laine, who was one of the most popular entertainers of the 1950s, died Tuesday. He was 93. Laine died at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego after suffering complications from hip replacement surgery.
Mr. Laine was a regular on the Top Ten, in the years before the days of rock ‘n’ roll, with such hits as “Mule Train,” “That’s My Desire,” and “That Lucky Old Sun. His booming voice was long identified with the theme song of the television western “Rawhide.” He is also known for singing the theme for several movies including the 1974 film “Blazing Saddles,” as well as “Man Without a Star” starring Kirk Douglas and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” with Burt Lancaster.
Born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio on March 30, 1913 in Chicago’s Little Italy, Laine starred in several musicals beginning in the early 1950s, which included “Sunny Side of the Street” and “Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder.” He also made commercials for Campbell’s Soup, and other products.
According to his official biography, Laine became a marathon dancer at age 17 during the Depression. Life was especially brutal for an undiscovered musician during the Depression. He reportedly often had to sleep on a bench in Central Park and use his last few pennies to buy candy bars for dinner. Before he hit it big in his mid-30s, he also was a machinist, a car salesman and a bar bouncer, and appeared on New York radio station WINS for $5 a week, singing on a live half-hour show.
He found his way to Los Angeles. In 1946, Hoagy Carmichael heard the young unknown singer performing at Billy Berg’s jazz club on Vine Street in Hollywood. The chance encounter eventually led to a recording contract with Mercury records. Laine recorded a forgotten 1931 ballad titled “That’s My Desire” on his first session and his career took off.
Laine charted over 70 records, sold more than 100 million recordings over his six-decade singing career, and earned more than 20 gold records. He was enormously popular in Britain and Australia, as well as the United States. “He will be forever remembered for the beautiful music he brought into this world, his wit and sense of humor, along with the love he shared with so many,” Laine’s family said in a statement.
He is survived by his wife Marcia; brother Phillip LoVecchio of Chicago, Illinois; daughter Pamela Donner, grandsons Joshua and David Donner of Sherman Oaks, California; and daughter and son-in-law Dr. and Mrs. Irwin Steiger of Couer D’Alene, Idaho.