Lou Christie

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Lou Christie
Lou Christie.png
Lou Christie in 1966
Background information
Birth name Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco[1]
Born (1943-02-19) February 19, 1943 (age 71)
Origin Glenwillard, Pennsylvania
United States[1]
Genres Pop
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals (falsetto)
Years active 1962–present
Associated acts The Tammys

Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco (born February 19, 1943), known professionally as Lou Christie, is an American singer-songwriter best known for three separate strings of pop hits in the 1960s, including his 1966 hit, "Lightnin' Strikes", and his three-octave vocal range.

Biography[edit]

Sacco was born in Glenwillard, Pennsylvania[1] and raised in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He traveled to New York after graduating from Moon Area High School and found work as a session vocalist.

Robbee and Roulette: 1961-1963[edit]

Christie recorded a few unsuccessful discs of his own for various record labels in both New York and Pittsburgh, including "The Jury" (as "Lugee & The Lions") on the Pittsburgh-based Robbee label, which achieved local success. "The Gypsy Cried" features the vocal style that would characterize all of Christie's biggest hits: verses sung in his normal register, and then a dramatic shift to his falsetto on the choruses. That song was released in 1962 on the C & C (sometimes listed as Co & Ce) label and unexpectedly credited to "Lou Christie" without his permission. He had been working on a list of potential stage names, and he has stated that he hated the name for years afterwards: "I was pissed off about it for 20 years. I wanted to keep my name and be a one-named performer, just 'Lugee'."[2]

Christie was frequently written off by critics as an imitator of Frankie Valli, as both men possessed similar falsetto vocals and the ability to change almost effortlessly between their falsetto and normal registers. Later reviewers have been less harsh, noting that Christie was one of the first singer-songwriters of the era, a status later noted by John Lennon, who referred to Christie as "A truly creative person".[citation needed]

After the C & C release became a Pittsburgh hit, "The Gypsy Cried" was picked up by Roulette Records and charted nationwide, peaking at #24,[1] selling over one million copies, and receiving a gold disc.[3] "The Gypsy Cried" was the first of numerous songs Christie co-wrote with his songwriting partner Twyla Herbert, a self-described eccentric and mystic, who was over twenty years older than Christie but shared his love of classical music.[1] The two struck up a working relationship after Christie auditioned for her at the age of 15 and began a lifelong friendship which ended only with her death in 2009. "The Gypsy Cried" was covered in 1963 by Jan & Dean on their album, Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin'.

Christie's follow-up single, "Two Faces Have I" in March 1963, was an even bigger hit, peaking at #6 and also selling over a million copies.[3] He joined Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars Tour and performed his early hits on Clark's American Bandstand and Where the Action Is. He also appeared on local and regional TV in performance during the 1960s. A local Philadelphia based R&B band called Johnny Wilson's Debonaires provided the instrumentation on "Two Faces Have I" and Twyla Herbert can be heard playing the piano against the chugging organ.

A third Roulette release, "How Many Teardrops" (written by Milan), stalled at #46 as Christie's career was temporarily derailed by his induction into the US Army. Christie would not have another charting single for two and a half years.

Re-establishment and "Rhapsody In The Rain": 1965-1966[edit]

Christie's career was quickly re-established after his discharge from the military, when he signed with the MGM label. MGM reportedly disliked Christie's first single for the label, with MGM's president reportedly throwing the tape into a wastepaper basket. But Christie's new management promoted the record in California, and when it gained some traction (eventually reaching #2 on KHJ the last two weeks of 1965), MGM released it. "Lightnin' Strikes" reached #1 in the U.S. on Christie's 23rd birthday on February 19, 1966; entered the UK Top 20, becoming his first hit in that country; and peaked at #1 in Canada. The song featured his signature falsetto and included a female chorus (Bernadette Carroll, Denise Ferri, and Peggy Santiglia) shouting "Stop!" in counterpoint to the lead vocal:

When I see lips begging to be kissed (Stop!)
I can't stop, (Stop!) no I can't stop myself! (Stop! Stop!)

Christie's next release ignited a firestorm of controversy and censorship. Released in the spring of 1966, "Rhapsody In The Rain" featured a haunting melody inspired by Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet", telling of a teenager's memory of his sexual experience in the back seat of a car during a rainstorm as the windshield wipers made a rhythmic sound of "together, together".[4] Later after the romance ends, the wipers seem to say "never, never".[4] Many radio stations banned the song after hearing the opening lyrics:

Baby, the raindrops play for me/
A lonely rhapsody 'cause on our first date/
We were makin' out in the rain/
And in this car our love went much too far/
It was exciting as thunder/
Tonight I wonder, where you are?

MGM insisted on a re-recorded version that toned down the lyrical content. The re-dubbed lyrics for the "clean" version of the song were changed to:

Baby, the raindrops play for me/
A lonely rhapsody 'cause on our first date/
We fell in love in the rain/
And in this car our love came like a falling star/
It was exciting as thunder/
Tonight I wonder, where you are?

Despite the edited version, many radio stations instead played two older songs re-released by other labels Christie had once recorded for: "Outside the Gates of Heaven" (A side of "The Gypsy Cried", but in 1966 on Co & Ce Records, successor to C & C) peaked at #45, while "Big Time" (on Colpix Records) managed to hit #95. All three singles hit nationally within three weeks of one another, in March 1966, while "Lightnin' Strikes" was falling off.

Whether it was the controversial lyrics or competition from the other singles released simultaneously, "Rhapsody" stalled at #16 in the US and #37 in the UK. Christie's career seemed to be derailed once again as his followup for MGM, "Painter", which also borrowed a melody from classical music - this time from Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly - stalled at #81. Two further MGM releases (produced by Jack Nitzsche) from 1966 missed the Billboard Hot 100 entirely, even though "If My Car Could Only Talk" (peaking at #118) seemingly revisits the ill-fated lovers from "Rhapsody".[citation needed]

Resurgence and Romeo: 1969-1970[edit]

After being dropped by MGM and an unfruitful stint with Columbia Records in the late 1960s, Christie teamed up with Buddah Records (a move prompted by his business manager Stan Polley) and bubblegum music record producer Tony Romeo and had a surprise Wall of Sound constant uptempo hit "I'm Gonna Make You Mine" (which Romeo wrote) in the early autumn of 1969. Helped by backing vocalist Linda Scott and by two promotional videos distinctly different from each other, the song peaked at #10 in the US but climbed to #2 on the UK Singles Chart and thus became his biggest hit there.

A follow up, "She Sold Me Magic" charted only in the UK, peaking at #25, and was later covered by Elton John.[citation needed] Conversely, "Are You Getting Any Sunshine?" only charted in America, where it reached #73.

Recoveries and remakes: 1971 to present[edit]

Lou Christie (center) with The Earth Angels

Christie spent the early 1970s between London and New York. In 1971 he released a concept album called Paint America Love, regarded by some as his best LP,[5] and married former UK beauty queen Francesca Winfield in London. In 1974, Christie would try another new musical style, going country on his Beyond The Blue Horizon album. The title track, a remake of a hit song from 1930, written for the film Monte Carlo, featured one of Christie's strongest non-falsetto vocal performances.[citation needed] The song missed the Country charts and only made #80 on the pop chart but managed #12 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The song has been used in several film soundtracks, including 1988's Rain Man.In the spring of 1978 Christie returned home to Pittsburgh to head the upstart record Label 2001 records a branch of the 2001 and VIP nightclubs nationwide. While visiting local Friends at The Staircase Lounge, Christie heard a local group Sweet Breeze and loved the bands harmonies and music. Christie signed the band Sweet Breeze to their first recording contract and the band recorded a song written by Christie and Herbert called Summer in Malibu that was a regional hit for the band.[6]


Christie became active on the oldies circuit starting in the early 1980s, scoring a final US chart hit, credited as "Summer '81 Medley" by The Cantina Band (featuring Lou Christie), in 1981, performing a medley of Beach Boys classics.

In 1997, Christie recorded his first all-new album since the 1970s entitled Pledging My Love, produced by Alan Grossman & Jimm Mosher of Hit Music Studio in Spencer, North Carolina. Billboard labeled this new album "Most Impressive Comeback" album.[citation needed] Most of it was penned by Christie, presented in a contemporary manner, and included the songs "What Happened to the Nights", "Techno Pop" (a diatribe about the loss of communication in our lives), and "I Sure Fell in Love" and covers of the Critters' "Mr. Dieingly Sad" and Johnny Ace's title tune. Cub Koda said it was "loaded with AOR hits".[citation needed]

In 2004, Christie released his first concert album, Greatest Hits Live From The Bottom Line, which featured studio recording "Christmas In New York" as a bonus track. In addition to the occasional new release, Christie remains a concert act on the oldies circuit in the US and UK. He has also hosted a series of programs on SiriusXM radio for the 1960s channel.

Discography[edit]

Hit singles[edit]

Chart debut Title Chart Positions
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 UK Singles Chart[7]
January 1963 "The Gypsy Cried" 24 -
March 1963 "Two Faces Have I" 6 -
July 1963 "How Many Teardrops" 46 -
December 1965 "Lightnin' Strikes" 1 11
March 1966 "Outside the Gates of Heaven" 45 -
March 1966 "Big Time" 95 -
March 1966 "Rhapsody in the Rain" 16 37
June 1966 "Painter" 81 -
April 1967 "Shake Hands and Walk Away Cryin'" 95 -
August 1969 "I'm Gonna Make You Mine" 10 2
December 1969 "Are You Getting Any Sunshine?" 73 -
December 1969 "She Sold Me Magic" - 25
February 1974 "Beyond the Blue Horizon" 80 -
July 1981 "Summer '81 Medley" 81 -
April 1997 "Pledging My Love" - -

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Biography by Jason Ankeny". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  2. ^ Pore-Lee-Dunn Productions. "Lou Christie". Classicbands.com. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  3. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 143–157. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  4. ^ a b "Rhapsody In The Rain (lyrics)". Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  5. ^ "Lou Christie Sacco “Paint America Love” 1971 | Rising Storm Review". Therisingstorm.net. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  6. ^ Pgh. Post Gazette.
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 106. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]