Jerry Vale, Who Crooned Smoothly of Love, Is Dead at 83
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Jerry Vale, a pop crooner known for his velvety voice and the classic love songs he recorded in the 1950s and early ’60s, died on Sunday at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 83.
His family confirmed his death.
Mr. Vale rose to stardom performing in supper clubs as a teenager, hitting the charts for the first time in 1953 with “You Can Never Give Me Back My Heart.” He was a fixture at Columbia Records, where he recorded more than 50 albums and had hits with songs like “Two Purple Shadows” and “Al Di La.” His biggest hit, “You Don’t Know Me,” peaked at No. 14 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1956.
Like so many of his fellow crooners — among them Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Perry Como — Mr. Vale was Italian-American, and he helped popularize romantic Italian songs for American listeners with renditions of “Innamorata (Sweetheart)” in 1956 and “I Have but One Heart” in 1962.
As a teenager, he worked as an oiler alongside his father, an engineer, on excavations for projects like a sewage plant in Oyster Bay, on Long Island. “But then I got a break singing,” he said in a radio interview in 1984. “So, thank God, I made the right decision.”
Mr. Vale got his big break in 1950 while working at the Enchanted Room in Yonkers. There he met the singer Guy Mitchell, who arranged an audition for him with Mitch Miller, head of artists and repertoire at Columbia. He was signed to a contract and changed his name — he was born Genaro Louis Vitaliano — and his career was launched.
That career took him to Carnegie Hall as well as the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, where he met and worked with the stars of his time, among them Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat King Cole.
His autobiography, “Jerry Vale: A Singer’s Life,” written with Richard Grudens, was published in 2000. In it, he recalled meeting his longtime idol, Sinatra, in the early 1950s at Lindy’s Restaurant in New York City, a magnet for show business talent. When they were introduced, Sinatra stood up, an unusual gesture for big stars at the time. It stunned Mr. Vale.
“A few years ago I had heard so many negative stories about Frank that I was somewhat apprehensive to approach him,” he said. “To my absolute surprise, he wound up being quite amiable, and the most caring individual that I have ever known.”
The two became fast friends. Sinatra, who was a partner in the Sands Hotel, helped Mr. Vale get his first gig there, a two-week engagement that was extended to 22 weeks after an owner, Jack Entratter, heard Mr. Vale’s voice.
After Mr. Vale and his wife, Rita, moved to California, the two became a constant presence at Sinatra’s ranch in Rancho Mirage. He took part in the annual Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament for several years and once performed at the event in 1996.
In 1963 he hired a 40-piece band and eight background singers to record the national anthem. The recording became a fixture at sporting events for years and was the first song inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Mr. Vale made cameo appearances as himself in the films “Goodfellas” (1990) and “Casino” (1995), both directed by Martin Scorsese, and in the television series “The Sopranos.”
She survives him, as do their son, a daughter and three grandchildren.
Correction: May 19, 2014
An earlier version of this obituary misidentified the person who signed Mr. Vale to a recording contract. He was signed by Mitch Miller, not by Guy Mitchell.
Correction: May 21, 2014
An obituary in some late editions on Monday about the singer Jerry Vale misspelled the surname of an owner of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, where Mr. Vale performed early in his career. He was Jack Entratter, not Enratter. The obituary also misstated the maiden name of Mr. Vale’s wife. She was Rita Grapel, not Vale.
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