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Francis, Connie (actually, Concetta Franconero)

Francis, Connie (actually, Concetta Franconero)

Francis, Connie (actually, Concetta Franconero), America’s top-selling female recording artist of the late 1950s and early 1960s; b. Newark, N.J., Dec. 12, 1938. Connie Francis recorded popular uptempo songs and heart-rending ballads during a time dominated by male acts. Rivaled at the time by only Brenda Lee, Francis charted more than 50 singles, a record eventually broken by Aretha Franklin. Moving firmly into the pop field in the 1960s, Connie Francis proved herself a survivor, eventually returning to touring and recording in the late 1980s after years of psychological problems brought on by her rape after a performance in 1974.

Concetta Franconero began accordion lessons at age three and sang at local functions as a child. In 1950 she won first place on the national television show Talent Scouts, hosted by Arthur Godfrey, who suggested that she change her name to Connie Francis. From 1950 to 1954 she performed weekly on the TV variety program Startime. Signed to MGM Records in 1955, Francis recorded 10 unsuccessful singles for the label before breaking through with the smash hit “Who’s Sorry Now” in 1958. Originally popularized in 1923, the song was followed by the major hit “Stupid Cupid,” written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Through 1964 she scored hits with standards such as “My Happiness,” “Among My Souvenirs,” “Mama,” and “Together” and softly rocking contemporary songs such as “Lipstick on Your Collar,” “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” and “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own” (both top hits) and “Vacation.” She also achieved hits with tearful ballads such as “Many Tears Ago,” “Breakin’ in a Brand New Broken Heart,” “Don’t Break the Heart that Loves You,” and “Second Hand Love.” During the first half of the 1960s she worked in four films, including Where the Boys Are and Follow the Boys, which featured her hit title songs.

Since 1960 Connie Francis had recorded albums of Italian, Spanish, Latin, and Jewish favorites that endeared her to the easy-listening audience. She turned to those fans to sustain her career as she faded from the charts after the advent of the Beatles. Francis recorded albums throughout the 1960s (including folk and country albums, even an album with Hank Williams Jr.) and toured into the 1970s.

However, after a performance at the Westbury Music Fair in N.Y. on Nov. 8, 1974, Francis was raped. She performed sporadically thereafter, enduring psychiatric treatment and confinement, a temporarily damaged voice, and the Mafia-style slaying of her brother. She made a much-publicized return appearance at West-bury in 1981, but her father had her committed, against her will, to a psychiatric hospital in 1983. Francis published her memoirs, Who’s Sorry Now, in 1984, and eventually she regained her health. She returned to performing in 1989, adopting as her theme song the poignant “If I Never Sing Another Song.” In 1992 Connie Francis’s Tourist in Paradise was released on Liberty Records. The German label Bear Family issued a comprehensive box of her early recordings in 1993.

Discography

CONNIE FRANCIS: Who’s Sorry Now (1958); Exciting C. F. (1959); My Thanks to You (1959); Italian Favorites (1959); Christmas in My Heart (1959); Greatest Hits (1959); Rock ’n Roll Million Sellers (1959); Country and Western Golden Hits (1960); Spanish and Latin American Favorites (1960); Jewish Favorites (1960); More Italian Favorites (1960); Songs to a Swingin’ Band (1961); At the Copa (1961); More Greatest Hits (1961); Never on Sunday (1961); Folk Song Favorites (1961); Irish Favorites (1962); Do the Twist (1962); Fun Songs (1962); Award Winning Motion Picture Hits (1962); C. F. Sings (1962); Country Music Connie Style (1962); More Italian Hits (1963); Follow the Boys (1963); Greatest American Waltzes (1963); Mala Femmena (Evil Woman) (1963); Very Best (1963); German Favorites (1964); In the Summer of His Years (1964); Looking for Love (1964); A New Kind of Connie (1964); Rocksides (1957–1964) (1988); Sings for Mama (1965); All-Time International Hits (1965); C. F. (1965); Folk Favorites (1965); When the Boys Meet the Girls (1966); Jealous Heart (1966); At the Sahara in Las Vegas (1967); Love Italian Style (1967); Happiness (1967); My Heart Cries for You (1967); Incomparable (1967); Hawaii (1968); Connie and Clyde (1968); Sings Burt Bacharach/Hal David (1968); Wedding Cake (1969); Songs of Les Reed (1970); Greatest Golden Groovie Goodies (1970); Spanish and Latin American Favorites (1971); I’m Me Again (1981); Tourist in Paradise (1992). CONNIE FRANCI S AND HANK WILLIAM S JR. : Great Country Favorites (1965). ANTHOLOGIES: Very Best, Vol. II (1988); Greatest Hits (1994); De Coleccion (1995); White Sox, Pink Lip-sticks… and Stupid Cupid (1993).

—Brock Helander

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