Even if you don’t know Ron Dante by name, you know his voice: a smooth, youthful, pop-friendly sound that can effortlessly blossom into a wall of candy-sweet harmony. It has been heard on some of the biggest hits of the late 1960s as well as some of the most fondly remembered advertising jingles of all time.
Though he is not always credited by name, Dante’s voice has graced everything from the bubblegum classic Sugar Sugar (the number one US single of 1969) to the classic McDonald’s jingle You Deserve A Break Today. He has also produced numerous classics for many other artists, most notably an unbelievable string of hits for soft-rock legend Barry Manilow.
Between the songs he sang and those he produced, Ron Dante played a vital role in shaping the sound of pop music from the 1960s through the 1970s.
Born Carmine John Granito on Staten Island, New York in August 1947, Dante’s lifelong relationship with music began early. After a fall from a tree at age 11, Dante was left bed-ridden for a spell and amused himself by learning to play the guitar.
A mere year later, Ron became the front man for a few local bands, and after finishing school, he landed a job as a staff songwriter for Don Kirshner’s music company. His vocal talents quickly noticed Ron began singing background for artists like Neil Diamond. He also sang on demo recordings for The Animals and others.
In 1965, Ron Dante got his first taste of pop chart success when he sang the lead vocal on Leader of the Laundromat, a parody of The Shangri-Las‘ hit Leader Of The Pack. The record company liked the demo so much that they pressed a single, crediting it to a fictional group called The Detergents.
Leader of the Laundromat became a Top-10 hit on the American pop charts. Dante toured with a quickly-assembled group for a short period but soon returned to his dual career as a songwriter and demo vocalist. He also began singing on commercial jingles for companies like Coca-Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Coppertone and Life Savers.
In 1969, Dante pulled off the nifty trick of landing two singles in the Top 10 at the same time. The first was the legendary Sugar Sugar. Although the single was credited to another fictional band, The Archies, Ron Dante provided the lead vocal and also sang the background vocals with fellow session singer Toni Wine.
The combination of sugary-sweet pop melody, catchy xylophone hook, and lush vocals resulted in a #1 hit for The Archies in 1969.
At the same time, a bouncy pop-ballad called Tracy was riding high in the charts. Although this was credited to The Cuff Links, Dante actually provided the lead vocals and all of the background harmonies. It broke the Top 10 at the same time Sugar Sugar was topping the charts.
As the 1970s began, Ron Dante finally released records under his own name, beginning with 1970s Ron Dante Brings You Up. He also began working with Barry Manilow as a producer.
Dante’s pop music expertise helped Manilow create hits in a dazzling array of styles, including everything from the gothic-sounding epic Could It Be Magic? to the effervescent toe-tapper Copacabana.
Other classic Dante-produced Manilow hits include Mandy and Weekend In New England. Dante’s tremendous success with Manilow led to production work with other artists like Cher and Irene Cara.
Meanwhile, Dante continued his side career as a “ghost vocalist” by lending his voice to fictional performers and groups like Ronnie and the Dirtriders, Bo Cooper, The Webspinners, C.G. Rose, and Dante’s Inferno.
After consolidating his status as a pop hit-maker, Ron Dante branched out to other mediums. He worked extensively as a producer for the Broadway stage, winning a Tony Award for his work on the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ and also garnering much praise for dramatic productions like Children Of A Lesser God and Whose Life Is It Anyway?
In the literary world, Dante attracted attention by publishing the prestigious journal Paris Review for several years. Dante also established a commercial production firm that has won Clio Awards with their work for clients like Volkswagen.
As the 90s came to a close, Ron Dante returned to the world of solo recording with a CD entitled Favorites. On this album, Dante reinterpreted pop classics like Never My Love and Our Day Will Come, while also including new versions of Dante classics like Tracy.
Dante’s hits with The Cuff Links and The Archies frequently appear on pop music compilations and soundtracks, and his work with Barry Manilow continues to be a staple of radio even today.
Often the man behind the bands, Ron Dante’s grand influence as one of bubblegum pop music’s pioneers continues to influence and inspire a new generation.