Joni James

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Joni James
Joni James 1962.JPG
James in 1962.
Background information
Birth name Giovanna Carmella Babbo
Born (1930-09-22) September 22, 1930 (age 84)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genres Traditional Pop
Years active 1952–1964
Labels MGM
Website Official site

Joni James (born Giovanna Carmella Babbo, September 22, 1930, Chicago, Illinois) is an American singer of traditional pop music.


James was born into an Italian family in Chicago, one of six children supported by her widowed mother.[1] As an adolescent, she studied drama and ballet, and on graduating from Bowen High School, located in the South Chicago neighborhood, went with a local dance group on a tour of Canada. She then took a job as a chorus girl in the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. After doing a fill-in in Indiana, she decided to pursue a singing career. Some executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) spotted her in a television commercial, and she was signed by MGM in 1952. Her first hit, "Why Don't You Believe Me?" sold over two million copies. She had a number of hits following that one, including "Your Cheatin' Heart" (a cover of Hank Williams' hit) and "Have You Heard?".

She was the first American to record at London's Abbey Road Studios, and recorded five albums there. She was also very popular across parts of the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Philippines where she performed at Manila's now defunct EM Club in 1957. She also scored a big hit in Manila with Filipino composer Salvador Asuncion's work entitled "In Despair."

James had seven Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Why Don't You Believe Me?" (#1 in 1952) "Have You Heard?" (#4 in 1953) "Your Cheatin' Heart" (#2 in 1953) "Almost Always" (#9 in 1953) "My Love, My Love" (#8 in 1953) "How Important Can It Be?" (#2 in 1955) and "You Are My Love" (#6 in 1955) as well as sixteen other Top 40 hits from 1952 to 1961. She has sold more than 100 million records and recorded more than 25 albums.

James married composer-conductor Tony Acquaviva at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in 1956.[2] In 1964 she retired from the music industry in part because Acquaviva was in bad health and needed her attention.[2] She cared for him until his death in 1986.

In 1986 she met, and on October 5, 1997, she married retired Air Force General Bernard Adolph Schriever, 20 years her senior, the leader of the crash program that developed U.S. ballistic missiles — both ICBMs and IRBMs in 1953-1962.[3] They honeymooned in France and the Greek Isles, then took up residence in Schriever's home in northwest Washington, D.C. Schriever died on June 20, 2005, at the age of 94.

For many years she was out of the public eye, but began touring again in the mid 1990s some years after Acquaviva's death,[4] performing memorable concerts at New York's Town Hall, Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. In October, 2001, just a few weeks after 9/11, she appeared at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, accompanied by the Count Basie orchestra. The streets of the city were still lined with armed soldiers, and she was a guest of honor at the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Tribute to Barbra Streisand.[5] With her renewed popularity, nearly her entire body of work was released on the Capitol-EMI, DRG and Taragon labels under her personal supervision[5] and in 2000 she released a brand-new recording, "Latest and Greatest".[6]

For her contributions to the entertainment industry, James has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[7]

Hit Records[edit]

Year Single Chart positions
U.S. UK[8]
1952 "Why Don't You Believe Me" 1 11
"Purple Shades" 26
1953 "Have You Heard" 4
"Wishing Ring" 17
"Your Cheatin' Heart" 2
"Almost Always" 9
"Is It Any Wonder" 16
"My Love My Love" 8
"You're Fooling Someone" 11
"I'll Never Stand In Your Way" 23
"Nina Non" 27
1954 "Maybe Next Time" 22
"Am I In Love" 22
"In a Garden of Roses" 22
"Mama Don't Cry At My Wedding" 23
"When We Come of Age" 28
1955 "How Important Can It Be?" 2
"You Are My Love" 6
"My Believing Heart" 49
1956 "Don't Tell Me Not To Love You" 83
"I Woke Up Crying" 72
"Give Us This Day" 30
"How Lucky You Are" 70
1957 "Summer Love" 97
1958 "There Goes My Heart" 19
1959 "There Must Be a Way" 33 24
"I Still Get a Thrill" 51
"I Still Get Jealous" 63
"Are You Sorry?" 102
"Little Things Mean a Lot" 35
"I Laughed At Love" 108
1960 "I Need You Now" 98
"You Belong To Me" 101
"My Last Date (With You)" 38

Various Singles[edit]


  • "Let There Be Love" MGM (1954)
  • "Joni James' "Award Winning Album"" MGM 3346 (1954)
  • "Little Girl Blue" MGM (1955)
  • "When I Fall in Love" MGM (1955)
  • "In the Still of the Night" MGM (1956)
  • "Songs by Victor Young and Songs by Frank Loesser" MGM (1956) - later reissued as "My Foolish Heart"
  • "Merry Christmas from Joni" MGM (1956)
  • "Give Us This Day" (Songs of Inspiration) MGM (1957)
  • "Sings Songs by Jerome Kern and Songs by Harry Warren" MGM (1957)
  • "Among My Souvenirs" MGM (1958)
  • "Je T'aime... I Love You" MGM (1958)
  • "Songs of Hank Williams" MGM (1959)
  • "Joni Swings Sweet" MGM (1959)
  • "Joni Sings Irish Favo(u)rites" MGM (1959)
  • "100 Strings and Joni" MGM 3755 (1959)
  • "Joni at Carnegie Hall" MGM (1960)
  • "I'm In the Mood for Love" MGM (1960)
  • "100 Strings & Joni In Hollywood" MGM (1960) - also known as "Joni Sings Hollywood"
  • "One Hundered Voices... One Hundred Strings & Joni" MGM (1960) - also stylized as "100 Voices, 100 Strings & Joni"
  • "100 Strings & Joni On Broadway" MGM (1960)
  • "The Mood is Blue" MGM (1961)
  • "The Mood is Romance" MGM (1961)
  • "The Mood is Swinging" MGM (1961)
  • "Folk Songs by Joni James" MGM (1961) - also known as "Joni Sings Folksongs"
  • "Ti Voglio Bene... I Love You" MGM (1961)
  • "Joni After Hours" MGM (1962)
  • "I'm Your Girl" MGM (1962)
  • "Country Style" MGM (1962)
  • "I Feel a Song Coming On" MGM (1962)
  • "Like 3 O'Clock in the Morning" MGM (1962)
  • "Something for the Boys" MGM (1963)
  • "Beyond The Reef" MGM (1964)
  • "Joni Sings the Gershwins" MGM (1964)
  • "My Favorite Things" MGM (1964)
  • "Put On A Happy Face" MGM (1964)
  • "Italianissima!" MGM (1964)
  • "Bossa Nova Style" MGM 4286 (1965)
  • "Why Don't You Believe Me?" Bygone Days BYD77053 (2010) - compilation


  1. ^ Wilson, Chris (June 1953). "What's Spinning?". Radio-TV Mirror 40 (1): 14. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Roura, Phil (22 September 1996). "One From Her Heart Joni James Returns To The Spotlight". New York Daily News. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  3. ^ Sheehan, Neil (2009). A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon. New York: Random House. pp. 472–75. 
  4. ^ Bell, Bill (28 October 2000). "Joni James: A Melancholy Baby Returns". New York Daily News. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Album notes, "Why Don't You Believe Me?", Joni James, BYD77053
  6. ^ "joni james cds: Music". 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  7. ^ Joni James at the Notable Names Database
  8. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 278. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]