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Charitable New Orleans heartthrob Harry Connick, Jr. is popularly known as both a jazz musician and an actor.
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Raised in New Orleans, heartthrob Harry Connick, Jr. became a successful jazz musician at an early age and later moved into acting. His big musical break came from the soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally. He has acted in several major films, including Memphis Belle (1990) and Independence Day (1996). In 2013, it was revealed that Connick would be a judge on the 13th season of American Idol,
"Everything I do is part of my passion. I do the things I like to do. It's sort of a bigger version of having more than one hobby. I love to play piano, sing, and act. I love to do all those things."
"There was a period when I was asked in every single interview how I liked being the new Frank Sinatra ... I think people will soon realize that I do a lot more than interpret old songs."
Musician Harry Connick, Jr. was born Joseph Harry Fowler Connick, Jr. on September 11, 1967. Connick's parents Harry and Anita were prominent New Orleans lawyers who encouraged their son's early interest in music. At age 5, Harry Connick Jr. gave his first concert—a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the campaign headquarters of his father, who was running for district attorney. By age 9, the young performer had recorded his first few albums at home and joined the musicians' union. When Harry was 13, his mother died after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer, a painful time for the family.
While still in school, Connick began taking classes at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts with pianist Ellis Marsalis, father of famous jazz musicians Wynton and Branford. He also got tips from prominent pianist James Booker, a family friend who often stopped by the Connick home. After graduating from high school, Connick spent a semester at Loyola University in New Orleans before moving to New York in January 1986. He took a few college courses and immersed himself in the music scene, playing gigs wherever he could find them.
In 1989, Connick got his big break: a month-long engagement at the Algonquin Hotel. The show attracted a great deal of press attention, particularly after legendary singer Tony Bennett saw a performance and proclaimed, "Connick could be the next Frank Sinatra." Connick was then approached by director Rob Reiner to record an album of bluesy standards for the soundtrack to his 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally. The movie, starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, became a smash hit, fueling double-platinum album sales for Connick's soundtrack, which also garnered Connick his first Grammy Award. By 1990, Connick had three albums on Billboard's pop chart.
As he continued to release bestselling album after bestselling album, Connick developed a persona in the media as something of a throwback, a modern-day heartthrob to match the romantic crooners of a bygone era. Connick's thick drawl, Southern manners (he doesn't smoke or drink) and slicked-back hair became his calling cards. Some critics insisted that his music was an inferior imitation of other, better artists. "I've learned that people latch onto labels and stereotypes," Connick later said. "There was a period when I was asked in every single interview how I liked being the new Frank Sinatra ... I think people will soon realize that I do a lot more than interpret old songs."
Among those other talents that Connick possessed was acting.
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Jazz vocalists have made immeasurable contributions to the American songbook. Not only was Louis Armstrong renowned for his innovations as a trumpet soloist, but he also had a distinctive, gravelly voice that incorporated swing and humor. A host of other jazz singers enjoyed great popularity in the mid-20th century, including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Nina Simone. Several established careers in film and television as well. Contemporary artists like Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall continue to carry the musical baton.
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