Who Is Frankie Valli?
Frankie Valli is an American singer who became renowned for his distinctive falsetto as the lead vocalist of The Four Seasons. The group had a wave of major hits during the 1960s, including “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Working My Way Back to You,” while also staging a comeback during the following decade. Valli forged a successful solo career as well with singles like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “My Eyes Adored You” and the title song to the movie-musical Grease. The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys launched in 2005, telling the story of Valli and The Four Seasons, followed almost a decade later with a movie adaptation directed by Clint Eastwood.
Background and Early Career
Francesco Stephen Castelluccio was born on May 3, 1934, in Newark, New Jersey to a working-class Italian family. His mother nurtured his love of music at a young age, and he was influenced by jazz, doo-wop and soul, along with artists like The Drifters, Rose Murphy and Frank Sinatra.
The young Castelluccio would listen to some of his favorite singers on record at home and then practice what he’d heard. Realizing he needed a stage name, he changed Castelluccio to “Valley” and eventually “Valli,” after friend and country singer Texas Jean Valli.
Major Success With The Four Seasons
Working with a variety of acts and as a solo artist from the mid-1950s to early 1960s with limited success, Valli eventually came to be with the group that, in 1961, would be known as The Four Seasons. With members who were all vocalists and instrumentalists, the group consisted of Valli, keyboardist/songwriter Bob Gaudio, who would pen an array of the Seasons’ songs, guitarist Tommy DeVito and bassist/vocal arranger Nick Massi.
The group hit it big in 1962 with their single “Sherry,” produced by Bob Crewe, which went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop and R&B charts, propelled by Valli’s very high, celebrated falsetto. Outside of a holiday song, the group’s next two singles—“Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” — hit No. 1 pop as well.
The Four Seasons became one of the biggest pop acts of the 1960s, exploring different musical styles and continuing to amass chart hits even during the British invasion. They would go on to have more than two dozen Top 40 hits during the decade, which included songs like “Candy Girl”, “Dawn (Go Away), “Rag Doll,” “Working My Way Back to You” and “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry About Me).”
In 1967, after a string of solo artist singles, Valli released “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” a silky ode to romance that joyfully swings by mid-song and which reached No. 2 on the pop charts. With Four Seasons' membership coming to shift over the years and the group switching labels, Valli also released a number of solo albums during the 1970s that included Closeup (1975), Our Day Will Come (1975) and Lady Put the Light Out (1977).
He charted with singles once again with the Top 10 uptempo ditty “Swearin’ to God” and the sentimental “My Eyes Adored You,” which reached No. 1. The Four Seasons also made a comeback with songs from the 1975 Who Loves You album, including the Top 10 title track and the No. 1 “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night).”
Later, in the summer of 1978, Valli was the voice of an iconic anthem; namely, the title song from the movie adaptation of the musical Grease. Valli once again topped the charts, with the track penned by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.
Personal Life and 'Jersey Boys'
In 1954, Valli married his first wife Mary Mandel, who had a toddler daughter Celia from a previous marriage. Valli adopted Celia and had two more daughters, Antonia and Francine, with his first wife. The couple split in 1971. Valli was married to his second wife Mary Ann Hannigan from 1974 until 1982. Two years later, he married his third wife Randy Clohessy, and they had three sons together: Francesco and twins Emilio and Brando. He was married to his third wife for 22 years until their divorce in 2004.
Valli has experienced several personal struggles over the years. In 1967, he learned that he was losing his hearing from otosclerosis, hardening of the bone in the middle ear. He suffered from the condition until a surgery in 1980 restored most of his hearing. That year, he also suffered the devastating loss of his daughter Celia in an accident, followed six months later by the death of his youngest daughter Francine from a drug overdose.
Over the years, Valli has continued to tour with different iterations of The Four Seasons and tried acting as well, including an appearance on the TV series The Sopranos.
In 2005, the story of Valli and The Four Seasons hit Broadway in the critically acclaimed musical Jersey Boys, which features music by Gaudio. The musical won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and has traveled the world in various touring productions. It was also adapted into a 2014 film directed by Clint Eastwood.
- Name: Frankie Valli
- Birth Year: 1934
- Birth date: May 3, 1934
- Birth State: New Jersey
- Birth City: Newark
- Birth Country: United States
- Gender: Male
- Best Known For: Frankie Valli is an American vocalist known for his distinctive falsetto as the lead singer of The Four Seasons, who had major hits like “Sherry,” “Working My Back to You” and “Who Loves You.”
- Astrological Sign: Taurus
- Interesting Facts
- Valli and The Four Seasons, recording under the pseudonym The Wonder Who?, had a hit with the Bob Dylan song "Don't Think Twice (It's Alright)," with Valli imitating the voice of African-American singer Rose Murphy.
- The Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
- The No. 1 Valli song "Grease," from the movie-musical of the same name, was penned by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.
- The moniker "The Four Seasons" was inspired by the name of a Union, New Jersey bowling alley.
- Cultural Associations
- Italian American
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- Article Title: Frankie Valli Biography
- Author: Biography.com Editors
- Website Name: The Biography.com website
- Url: https://www.biography.com/musicians/frankie-valli
- Access Date:
- Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
- Last Updated: April 1, 2021
- Original Published Date: June 13, 2014
- I've been up and down many times and worked my way through everything. If it all went away tomorrow, I can go live a normal life.
- I always believed a singer should be able to sing any kind of song. If I wanted to sing a Cole Porter song, I should be able to do that. Or 'Sherry,' I should be able to do that. Or a Dylan song. I didn't go to any professional school to learn how to sing. I bought people's records, listened to them, tried to do what the singer did by imitating them, as close as I could possibly get.
- I grew up in the projects, and we didn't know about giving lawyers contracts. You gave your word to somebody, and that was good enough. I still feel very strongly that way, although it's a very, very difficult thing to do nowadays.
- I don't play golf or tennis, I don't ski, I don't snowboard. If you love what you do, you never get enough of it.
- Falsetto was nothing new; rhythm and blues music was doing it for years. I just developed my falsetto to make it fuller than anyone else’s, and doing it on top, making it the lead, was what was different.
- With 'Sherry,' we were looking for a sound. We wanted to make the kind of mark that, if the radio was playing one of our songs, you knew who it was immediately. But I didn’t want to sing like that my whole life.
- My dad didn’t like me being in this business. Very early on, I was working in clubs and coming home at 3 and 4 in the morning, and he’d say, 'What kind of work is this?' But he supported me secretly. He would buy his own ticket to our performances, and people would tell me they had seen him there. And he would always buy our records, even though I gave them to him.
- Becoming successful is a relentless pursuit. It's good that it's that way: When it does come, you learn to know how to appreciate it, and know how lucky you are to be doing something that you love so much.