Jerry Vale, the popular singer who consistently displayed equal vocal artistry with both Italian and American popular songs, died May 18 at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 83 years old.
Born Genaro Louis Vitaliano on July 8, 1930 in the Bronx, young Jerry as a high schooler earned extra money shining shoes in a New York City barbershop.
His boss was taken with Jerry's high tenor voice with which he sang while working and financed music lessons. This led to parts in high school musicals and work in local supper clubs, including a three-year engagement at a Yonkers night spot. Signed by Columbia Records, Vale would initially record with Percy Faith's orchestra. But major success finally came to Jerry Vale when in the early 1960s he convinced Columbia's creative head Mitch Miller to put out an Italian song album. This production plus two others to follow would prove major best sellers.
In February 1965 Vale's single "Have You Looked Into Your Heart" hit #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Eleven times during the 1960s Jerry Vale was a featured performer on TV's "Ed Sullivan Show" coupled with four occasions he was called on to take a bow from the audience.
In 1963 Vale recorded "The Star Spangled Banner." Eventually this version of the national anthem was used at sporting events across America for years. This was especially true at Yankee Stadium, where it competed with an arrangement done by opera star Robert Merrill. Both singers performed "The Star Spangled Banner" in person at many Yankee contests. When Vale's rendering became a gold record, he gave the plaque saluting this accomplishment to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Jerry Vale was a longtime friend of Frank Sinatra and was one of the pallbearers at Sinatra's 1998 funeral. Vale appeared as himself and was prominently featured in the soundtracks of the movies "Goodfellas" (1990) and "Casino" (1995). A 2013 episode of the HBO series "Girls" included a recording of "Al Di La," Vale's signature song.
In 1998, Columbia Legacy released two cds saluting the talents of Jerry Vale. "Greatest Hits" includes "Have You Looked Into Your Heart."