Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, 12 December 1938, Newark, New Jersey, USA. A popular singer of tearful ballads and jaunty up-tempo numbers, Francis was one of the most successful female artists of the 50s and 60s. She began playing the accordion at the age of four, and was singing and playing professionally when she was 11. After winning an Arthur Godfrey Talent Show, she changed her name, at Godfreys suggestion. Signed for MGM Records in 1955, her first record was a German import, Freddy, which was also recorded by Eartha Kitt and Stan Kenton. Majesty Of Love, her 10th release, a duet with Marvin Rainwater, was her first US chart entry. In 1957 she was persuaded by her father, against her will, to record one of his favourites, the 1923 song Whos Sorry Now, by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar and Ted Snyder. It went to number 4 in the US charts and number 1 in the UK, and was the first of a string of hits through to 1962. These included reworkings of more oldies, such as My Happiness, Among My Souvenirs and Together.
Among her more jaunty, upbeat songs were Stupid Cupid (another UK number 1 coupled with Carolina Moon) and Where The Boys Are by the new songwriting team of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Her other US Top 10 entries included Lipstick On Your Collar, Frankie, Mama, Everybodys Somebodys Fool (her first US number 1), My Mind Has A Heart Of Its Own (another US number 1), Many Tears Ago, Breakin In A Brand New Broken Heart, When The Boy In Your Arms (Is The Boy In Your Heart), Dont Break The Heart That Loves You (US number 1), Second Hand Love and Vacation. Francis made her film debut in 1960 with Where The Boys Are, and followed it with similar frothy comedy musicals such as Follow The Boys (1963), Looking For Love (1964) and When The Boys Meet The Girls (1965). Outdated by the 60s beat boom, she worked in nightclubs in the late 60s, and did much charity work for UNICEF and similar organizations, besides entertaining US troops in Vietnam. She also extended her repertoire, and kept her options open by recording albums in several languages, including French, Spanish and Japanese, and one entitled, Connie Francis Sings Great Jewish Favorites. Late 70s issues included more country music selections.
In 1974 she was the victim of a rape in her motel room after performing at the Westbury Theatre, outside New York. She later sued the motel for negligence, and was reputedly awarded damages of over three million dollars. For several years afterwards she did not perform in public, and underwent psychiatric treatment for long periods. She returned to the Westbury in 1981, to an enthusiastic reception, and resumed performing in the USA and abroad, including appearances at the London Palladium in 1989, and in Las Vegas in the same year, where she received a standing ovation after a mature performance ranging from her opening number, Let Me Try Again, to the climactic, If I Never Sing Another Song. While at the Palladium, her speech became slurred and she was suspected of being drunk. In 1991 she had trouble speaking on a US television show, and, a year later, collapsed at a show in New Jersey. She was diagnosed as suffering from a complex illness, and of having been toxic for 18 years. After drastically reducing her daily lithium intake, in 1993 she signed a new recording contract with Sony, buoyed up by the fact that her 1959 hit, Lipstick On Your Collar, was climbing high in the UK charts, triggered by its use as the title track of playwright Dennis Potters television drama. Francis continues to perform to sell-out concerts in the new millennium.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.