Harry Connick Jr. biography
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, alongside Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban.
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.
His first role was as a hard-gambling airman in the World War II bomber drama Memphis Belle (1990). Connick went on to appear in a string of successful movies, playing a serial killer in Copycat (1995), a pilot in the Will Smith blockbuster Independence Day (1996) and a romantic lead opposite Sandra Bullock in Hope Floats (1998). In 2002, Connick took on a recurring role as the boyfriend and later husband of character Grace Adler in the smash sitcom Will & Grace, a gig he held through the show's finale in 2006.
When Will & Grace stopped production, Connick starred in a Broadway revival of The Pajama Game, a 1950s-era musical about a labor dispute in a pajama factory. He also agreed to be a part of the judges panel for the 13th season of American Idol in 2013. After having already made appearances on the show as a guest mentor for the contestants, Connick said that audiences should "expect the unexpected" from his season.
Despite these successful forays onto stage and screen, Connick remained focused primarily on his music, releasing a steady stream of new albums full of jazz, funk, pop and Christmas songs. After Hurricane Katrina laid waste to his hometown in 2005, Connick returned to New Orleans and teamed up with Branford Marsalis and Habitat for Humanity to build homes and a new community center, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. Connick remains one of the most outspoken celebrity voices advocating for New Orleans' reconstruction.
Connick married Jill Goodacre, a former Victoria's Secret model, in 1994. The couple has three daughters. Over the course of his career, Connick has sold more than 25 million records and appeared in nearly two dozen films. "Everything I do is part of my passion," he said, explaining his diverse talents. "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."