Well this is sad news. The songwriter turned performer, with the aggreviated adenoidal voice that seems to capture perfectly the tremulousness of the border between youth and adulthood, the brink of despair or ecstacy. After writing “Hello Mary Lou,” which Ricky Nelson made famous, Pitney went on to record his own hits: “Love My Life Away”, “Town Without Pity”, the Bacharach-produced “Only Love Can Break a Heart” and “Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa,” “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart,” and on and on. It’s said of plenty of singers, especially of those who leaned toward pop in the 1950s and 60s, but Pitney really has been underappreciated. In many ways he’s like Roy Orbison, who also covered some Pitney songs—his songs encapsulate drama while eschewing masculinist cliches. Maybe some of the recognition he deserves will come his way now, belatedly, in the rubbernecking sort of attention that we reflexively give to dead celebrities.
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