Jimmy Roselli

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jimmy Roselli
Jimmy Roselli.png
Roselli in 1965
Background information
Birth nameMichael John Roselli
Born(1925-12-26)December 26, 1925
Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedJune 30, 2011(2011-06-30) (aged 85)
Clearwater, Florida, U.S.
GenresTraditional pop, jazz
Occupation(s)Singer, pianist
Years active1954–2011
LabelsLenox / Ad-Lib, United Artists, M&R

Michael John "Jimmy" Roselli (December 26, 1925 – June 30, 2011)[1][2] was one of the most significant Italian-American pop singers of his time,[3] during an era of competition from such performers as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Vic Damone, Al Martino, and Jerry Vale.[4]

Early life[edit]

Roselli was born in Hoboken, New Jersey the son of Anna Bernadette Lovella, a seamstress, and Phillip Roselli, a boxer. His mother died two days after he was born and his father abandoned him, leaving him in the care of his aunts and his widowed grandfather Michael Roselli who spoke no English. He grew up five doors down from Frank Sinatra who was ten years his senior. In 1944, Roselli joined the United States Army, serving in the 66th Infantry Division. During the war he witnessed the sinking of the SS Léopoldville and served in northern France and Vienna. After the war, he returned to Hoboken where he married Angeline Giuffra and had a daughter. During this time he worked as a construction worker and a pianist. He received his first break in 1954 when Michael "Trigger Mike" Coppola arranged for him to appear with Jimmy Durante at the Boston Latin Quarter.


He had success with the song "Mala Femmena" on his first album Showcase: Jimmy Roselli. It sold over three million records in 1963.[5] It never was a hit song for him, but is considered his signature song. His only charting pop hit was a 1967 remake of "There Must Be a Way", a song previously recorded by Joni James. In addition to reaching No. 93 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, "There Must Be a Way" was an easy-listening hit, reaching No. 13 in Billboard and No. 2 in Record World. He also had success with the song "All The Time" that same year. The song reached No. 19 on the Billboard easy listening chart. His third and last hit song was "Please Believe Me" in 1968. That song was No. 31 on the Billboard easy listening chart. Those were his only U.S. hit singles, although his version of "When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New" twice appeared in the UK Singles Chart. It peaked at number 51 in 1983, and number 52 in 1987.[6]

At the beginning of his career, with appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, with Jimmy Durante, and at the Copacabana, critics were calling him a 'miracle'".[7] As New York magazine states,[5] "guys were trying to put a stranglehold on him. He pushed them all away. Although he was in good terms with a number of mob chieftains, he claimed that he had "never done business with organized criminals".[8] In 1970, Roselli refused Joseph Colombo's offer to sing at a concert that supported the Mob-controlled Italian American Anti-Defamation League. After this incident, Roselli was blackballed from singing in clubs and venues owned or controlled by Mafia associates. At times, he was relegated to selling his music out of the trunk of his car parked in Little Italy in Manhattan (he was the founder and owner of M&R Records).

Jimmy Roselli is a favorite among Italian-Americans and his signature tune "Mala Femmina" is featured twice in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. Roselli sang in perfect Neapolitan dialect.[9] Other Neapolitan songs recorded by Roselli include "Core 'ngrato", "Anema e core" and "Scapricciatiello". Jerry Lewis said of him that "Roselli sings as an Italian should sing".[10]

Later, as the influence of the Mafia waned, Roselli's career experienced a resurgence. In 1989, he found success in the United Kingdom when he played a series of concerts at the London Palladium. During the 1990s, he also headlined various shows at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.[11]

He sang the title song "Who Can Say?" for the 1966 Italian documentary film Africa Addio.

A book in the late 1990s entitled Making The Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story was published by David Evanier. A feature film about Jimmy Roselli is being developed by Merchant Ivory.

Joseph Pistone mentioned an incident he witnessed regarding Roselli during the Feast of San Gennaro in the former FBI agent's book, Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia.


Roselli died of heart failure in 2011 at his home in Clearwater, Florida.


  • Showcase: Jimmy Roselli (1963)
  • This Heart of Mine (1964)
  • Life & Love Italian Style (1965)
  • Mala Femmena (1965)
  • The Great Ones (1965)
  • Saloon Songs (1965)
  • New York: My Port of Call (1965)
  • Right from the Heart (1965)
  • The Christmas Album (1966)
  • The Italian Album (1966)
  • Saloon Songs Vol. 2 (1967)
  • Sold Out: Carnegie Hall Concert (1967)
  • There Must Be a Way (1967)
  • Rock-a-Bye Your Baby (1968)
  • 3 A.M. (1968)
  • Core Spezzato (1969)
  • Let Me Sing and I'm Happy (1969)
  • It's Been Swell (1970)
  • Jimmy Roselli (1971)
  • Saloon Songs Vol. 3 (1971)
  • Simmo 'E Napule... Paisa (1972)


Year Single Chart positions
Hot 100 CB AC
1963 "Mala Femmena" 135 101 -
1964 "Anema E Core" - 125 -
1965 "Just Say I Love Her" - 140 -
1966 "I'm Gonna Change Everything" - - 29
1967 "There Must Be a Way" 93 90 13
"All the Time" - 107 19
1968 "Please Believe Me" - 125 31
"'O Surdato 'Nnammurato" - 122 -
"Oh What It Seemed To Be" - 134 35
1969 "My Heart Cries For You" - 123 -
"Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell" - - 38


  1. ^ Grudens, Richard (1998). The Music Men: The Guys Who Sang With the Bands and Beyond – Richard Grudens – Google Books. ISBN 9781575790978. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  2. ^ Fox, Margalit (July 10, 2011). "Jimmy Roselli, Italian-American Singer, Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  3. ^ "Mourners gather for Jimmy Roselli funeral in Hoboken". The Star-Ledger. July 5, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  4. ^ Patrick, Vincent (December 27, 1998). "The Wedding Singer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Evanier, David (March 25, 1996). "Jimmy Roselli Really Did It His Way". New York. p. 36.
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 470. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  7. ^ Italian Tribune News, August 8, 1991
  8. ^ Timothy K. Smith, The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 1991
  9. ^ Tiziano Thomas Dossena, "Remembering the other voice from Hoboken", Queens Ledger, September 8, 2011
  10. ^ As quoted in: Las Vegas Magazine, November 4, 1966.
  11. ^ Kent, Bill (August 11, 1993). "That Other Guy From Hoboken Who Can Fill A Casino Showroom". The Philadelphia Inquirer.

External links[edit]