World Without Pitney


The darkly brilliant and too neglected singer Gene Pitney is dead at age 65. His "Greatest Hits of All Times" compilation on Musicor (MS-3102) is one of the few albums I became obsessed with enough to listen to three times and more a day. No one ought be without regular doses of "24 Hours from Tulsa" or "Town Without Pity" or "Only Love Can Break A Heart" or "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." His voice was eerie, impassioned, maniacal, deep, shimmering, a river of feeling undammed. He will be missed; luckily, his voice is still with us.

NEXT: "She's On Her Own Now"

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  1. My two favorites were It Hurts To Be In Love, featuring beautifully textured multi-tracked vocals (along with some Hal Blaine-ish kickass drumming), and the Phil Spector-produced Every Breath I Take, with its raw soulfullness. Pitney was a master.

  2. Jim–You are right on on both tracks you mention; those are also on the Musicor comp I mentioned, so you see just how irresistably great that record is….

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Brian identifies him simply as a “singer”, but of course he was also a great and prolific songwriter, and like several other greats, started out as such before becoming known for his own voice.

    But (if you dare) please parse this for me, such that it doesn’t bizarrely say the opposite of what it intends to:

    “Tonight that girl of mine will be yearning for not learning to see things my way”

    Sleep well, Gene.

  4. BTW, who *did* shoot Liberty Valance? The song doesn’t actually tell you other than that the shooter was the bravest of them all.

  5. He died? He was my favorite too.

    Jack: Watch the movie, it’s a great movie. (Also, the song is wrong about who shoots him, at least in my opinion).

  6. J. Goard –

    I always read it, “Tonight that girl of mine will be yearning (for me) for not learning (i.e., because she didn’t learn) to see things my way.”

    But yeah.

  7. Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart: Goosebumps.

    I’m Gonna Be Strong: Never again will they play pop music on the radio this brilliantly overwrought and operatic. So fuck pop music and fuck pop radio.

    I think my favorite Pitney song is “Maria Elena”, though. Love the chorus, with its blaring horns and funky meter. Plus the song is a near-perfect example of what I love most about Gene Pitney: the man could tell a story and tell the hell out of it.

  8. And who can forget one of the high points of post-1956 Hungarian cinema: “You Are My Desitiny” echoing down school hallways at night in Peter Gothar’s 1982 movie Time Stands Still (Meg?ll az id?)? Damn song burned into my head and never left. Big, schmaltzy orchestration and that voice. Jesus.

  9. Oh, shit. That was Paul friggin’ Anka, wasn’t it.

  10. The New York Times, for all its faults, usually does great obituaries. I was very surprised and disappointed that the one on Gene Pitney includes not even a mention of “It Hurts To Be In Love”.

  11. The exclamation point horns in “Heartbreaker” were a decade ahead of their time.

  12. BTW, who *did* shoot Liberty Valance?

    James Taylor?

  13. John Wayne, off to the side, making it look like Jimmy Stewart did it.

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