Connie Francis

  • Singer born Concetta Franconero in 1937 in Newark New Jersey.
  • Her parents encouraged her to perform in talent contests and pageants – she first performed at the age of four, singing and playing the accordian. She continued to enter contests during her years in high school, sometimes performing as Connie Franconero. At 13 years old, she appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts television program, and Godfrey advised her to change her last name to Francis, as her given name was difficult to pronounce. He also suggested that she abondon the accordian, which she was happy to do.
  • She appeared on an NBC variety television show called Startime Kids between 1953 and 1955. When the show went off the air, she recorded a four song demo and her father contacted the major record labels, hoping to secure a contract for her. Eventually, she signed with a label because one of the songs, titled Freddy, was the name of the son of one of the executives with the label. Freddy was her first single, and it failed along with her next eight singles. Despite her lack of success, she was hired to record the singing scenes in two films, where the actress lip-synced the Francis’ vocals.
  • In 1957, Francis sang a duet with Marvin Rainwater. The single The Majesty of Love was her first single to chart, reaching #93 on the Hot 100. Soon after, her record label told her that she would be dropped after she recorded one more single. Ready to enroll into college, she recorded a cover of the 1923 song Who’s Sorry Now? in October 1957. For two months, it remained obscure. Then, on January 1, 1958, Dick Clark on American Bandstand announced that he had a song by a new girl singer that was headed for the #1 spot on the charts – Francis’ Who’s Sorry Now?. Six weeks later, she performed it on another show hosted by Clark, The Saturday Night Beechnut Show. Within four months, the song topped the UK Singles chart and it peaked at #4 on the Hot 100. An album of the same name was released in 1958, her debut album.
  • With her hit single, Francis was re-signed to the record label. Looking for her next hit, two singles were released in 1958 that flopped. She went to songwriters Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, hoping to find a song that suited her. After several hours of futility, they played a song they had written that they felt would insult her. Instead, she loved it, and Stupid Cupid was released later in 1958. It peaked at #14 on the Hot 100 chart. For the balance of the 50s decade, she had eight more top 40 hits, including My Happiness (peaking at #2) and Lipstick On Your Collar (#5).
  • Between 1959 and 1970, Francis released over 50 albums, with music across multiple genres – Country & Western, Rock & Roll, Swing, Christmas music, children’s music and show tunes. She also recorded eight albums of popular songs in foreign countries, helping to establish her popularity abroad. Many were recorded with Francis singing in foreign languages, including Italian, Spanish, German and Yiddish.
  • In 1960, her single Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool became the first single by a woman ever to reach #1 on the Hot 100 chart. She had two more #1 singles on that chart – My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own in 1960 and Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You in 1962. Another single, Together, reached #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening Chart and #6 on the Hot 100 chart. These were some of the 21 singles that reached the top 40 of the chart between 1960 and 1964. Her 1961 hit Where the Boys Are was the title track of the 1960 film of the same name, her first of four films in which she had a starring role.
  • She regularly recorded cover versions of her songs in foreign languages, releasing music in 15 different languages. Her music was beloved throughout the world – in 1960, she was named the most popular artist in Europe, the first non-European ever to receive that honor.
  • While she continued to record throughout the 60s, the British invasion was her downfall, as it was for dozens of other popular artists of that time. Despite her reduced success on the singles chart, she remained a top draw for concerts, and she was still placing singles on the top 40 of the Easy Listening chart in 1969.
  • She continued performing and recording in the early 70s, but in 1974 she was raped, and after the incident she went into depression. She remained secluded at home. In 1977, she underwent nasal surgery and lost her voice. She endured three surgeries to regain her singing voice – it took four years for her to recover. She returned to the studio in 1981 and also resumed performing in concerts. She continued to struggle with depression, preventing her from maintaining a comeback. By 1989, she was well enough to record and perform again, and she periodically performed over the next twenty years.
  • Francis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 26 times, more than any other pop singer (opera singer Roberta Peters appeared 41 times). She arguably was the most popular female singer of the late 50s and early 60s – certainly in the top ten. Here is Francis performing Where the Boys Are on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963, during one of Sullivan’s road shows for the military stationed overseas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *