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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 11:36 GMT
Obituary: Frankie Laine
Frankie Laine
Frankie Laine's popularity spanned the globe

In a career spanning seven decades, singer Frankie Laine, who has died aged 93, sold more than 100 million records worldwide. His hits included Rawhide, I Believe and Ghost Riders in the Sky.

At the age of 17, Frankie Laine left home to try his luck as a marathon dancer, and in Atlantic City, New Jersey, he and his partner, Ruth Smith, set the all-time record.

This was just a fad of the depression years, however, but such feats of endurance were to stand Laine in good stead as he set out on the long road to professional singing stardom.

Born to immigrant parents in the heart of Chicago's Little Italy in 1913, Frankie Laine first sang in public as part of a church choir. His marathon dancing exploits soon followed, though it was to be with his voice, not his feet, that Laine would make his greatest impression.

Laine achieved his big break some years later, in 1946, when he was spotted by jazz musician Hoagy Carmichael singing in a club. This chance encounter would lead to a recording contract with Mercury Records.

Transatlantic success

The American was to become one of the most popular singers of the late 1940s and 1950s. Only Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra sold more records.

Frankie Laine album cover
Laine was third to Crosby and Sinatra in record sales
His first record was That's My Desire in 1946. Other hits soon followed, including, Jezebel, Cool, Clear Water and Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Frankie's popularity quickly spread across the Atlantic. He performed in record-breaking engagements at the London Palladium, and had four UK number ones.

His stirring rendition of I Believe topped the British charts in 1953, staying there for eighteen weeks in three separate spells, a performance that even The Beatles never matched.

Cabaret star

Frankie Laine appeared in several films in the 1950s, including When You're Smiling and Sunny Side of the Street.

He was more successful, however, in singing the theme songs to films such as Rawhide, Blowing Wild and Blazing Saddles in 1974.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Laine worked mainly on the American cabaret circuit, though he also returned to the UK on a couple of occasions.

''I continually try to keep the voice up,'' he explained. ''You know what they say. If you don't use it, you lose it.''

The popular singer did much humanitarian work in later life. He remarried in 1999, six years after the death of his wife of more than 40 years, Nan Grey.

He marked the ascendance of the popular singer over the big bands, and his amazing success set the pattern for the likes of Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley and Tom Jones.

In 1996 he was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the 27th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame awards ceremony. It was fitting reward for a man who had sold more than 100 million records worldwide.




SEE ALSO
Crooner Frankie Laine dies at 93
07 Feb 07 |  Entertainment
A fan's final farewell to Frankie
07 Feb 07 |  South of Scotland

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