Gene Pitney was born in February 1940 of Polish origin and grew up in the Connecticut town of Rockville. While at school there he formed a beat group, and then went to college to study electronics.
He began writing songs, and by the beginning of the 60s was having so much success with them that he left college to concentrate on music.
He penned tunes such as his breakthrough for Bobby Vee, Rubber Ball (written under the pseudonym, Ann Orlowski).
Hello, Mary Lou followed for Ricky Nelson and, shortly after, Pitney hit the charts himself with (I Wanna) Love My Life Away, followed by the US Top 10 hit Town Without Pity.
Further hits included The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Bacharach and David’s Only Love Can Break A Heart (a US #2) and Goffin & King’s Every Breath I Take.
Pitney wrote The Crystals‘ #1 He’s A Rebel and, in December 1963, he hit in the UK with Hal David’s 24 Hours From Tulsa.
Gene toured Britain, linked up with The Rolling Stones and re-wrote their That Girl Belongs To Yesterday – recording it as an operatic ballad – as well as playing piano on their Little By Little.
Over the next five years, he was seldom absent from the charts, either in America or Britain, where he had ten Top 10 hits. Other Pitney hits included It Hurts To Be In Love, I Must Be Seeing Things, Looking Through The Eyes Of Love (a later hit for David Cassidy), Backstage and I’m Gonna Be Strong.
He recorded country tracks with George Jones, Melba Montgomery and Randy Newman, had his songs recorded by Roy Orbison and Marty Wilde, and flirted with 70s disco on She’s A Heartbreaker.
His voice was so unique and distinctive that he only needed to sing one note to be identified. He was also a talented multi-instrumentalist.
In 1989 he had his first UK #1 with a Marc Almond duet on his 1967 classic, Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart.
He was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002 and toured every year.
Pitney died at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff (Wales) of heart disease on 5 April 2006, mid-way through a UK tour.