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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK


'Mr Moonlight' Frankie Vaughan dies

Frankie Vaughan, Mr Moonlight, with his trademark top hat and cane

Legendary crooner Frankie Vaughan has finally lost his long fight for life, more than four months after undergoing serious heart surgery.

The BBC's Nick Higham on the life of Frankie Vaughan
The 71-year-old singer, dubbed "Mr Moonlight" after one of his hits, Give Me The Moonlight, died in the early hours at his home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Mr Vaughan, famous for his tuxedo, top hat and cane, had a history of health problems. He came out of hospital about three weeks ago, after undergoing six operations.

Terry Wogan: "He was very down to earth"
At the end of 1986 he almost died of peritonitis - an inflammation of the abdomen - after failing to seek medical help because he wanted to continue working.

In October 1992 he had emergency surgery for a ruptured artery.

But in his heyday, Mr Vaughan had musical success on both sides of the Atlantic.

[ image: Starring alongside Marilyn Monroe in Let's Make Love]
Starring alongside Marilyn Monroe in Let's Make Love
His singing was accompanied to delighted squeals from his adoring, mostly female, audience.

His flamboyant act and hits including Green Door and Garden of Eden, ensured his fame as a popular showman and entertainer for well over 30 years.

Working further afield, he also made a number of film appearances including, most notably, in 1960, Let's Make Love starring Marilyn Monroe.

And in the mid-1980s he starred, to great critical acclaim, in the Drury Lane production of 42nd Street.

[ image: The young Frankie Vaughan]
The young Frankie Vaughan
He was born Frank Abelson in Liverpool in 1928. After winning a crooning contest in Leeds, where he studied commercial art, he was given a spot in a show at Kingston-upon-Thames, and created something of a sensation.

He took the stage name Vaughan because his Russian grandmother had said he would be her "number vorn" singer.

He was Showbusiness Personality of the Year in 1957 and after that often topped the bill in the West End.

Pip Burley from the Variety Club of Great Britain: "A showbiz legend"
In later years he described himself as Pop of the Pops. When he took over the part of the Broadway producer in 42nd Street, it was his first appearance in musical comedy.

He had to give up the role in late 1986, after about a year, due to ill health.

[ image: He successfully urged Glasgow gangs to give up their weapons]
He successfully urged Glasgow gangs to give up their weapons
But he always maintained his loyalty to Boys Clubs because of the help that he was given while a refugee in Lancaster during World War II. He gave them the royalties from Green Door in 1956.

In 1964 he was appointed to a committee set up to advise on juvenile delinquency. Four years later he persuaded gangs of Glasgow youths to give up their weapons and an amnesty was granted.

Frankie Vaughan and his wife Stella married in 1951. They had three children and several grandchildren.

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Glasgow 'peacemaker' Frankie Vaughan dies