Joni James

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Joni James
James in 1962
James in 1962
Background information
Birth nameGiovanna Carmella Babbo[1]
Born(1930-09-22)September 22, 1930
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedFebruary 20, 2022(2022-02-20) (aged 91)
West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
GenresTraditional pop
Years active1952–1964

Giovanna Carmella Babbo (September 22, 1930 – February 20, 2022), known professionally as Joni James, was an American singer of traditional pop music.


Giovanna Carmella Babbo was born to an Italian-American family in Chicago, Illinois, on September 22, 1930,[1][2] as one of six children supported by her widowed mother.[3] 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.[2] She then took a job as a chorus girl in the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago.[4]

After doing a fill-in in Indiana, she decided to pursue a singing career, and picked the stage name Joni James at the urging of her managers.[1] Some executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) spotted her in a television commercial, and she was signed by MGM in 1952.[2] Her first hit, "Why Don't You Believe Me?",[2] 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?".[2] 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 titled "In Despair".[citation needed]

Joni James had seven Top 10 hits on any of the different Billboard charts that existed previously to the Hot 100.[2] "Why Don't You Believe Me?" (No. 1 in 1952) "Have You Heard?" (No. 4 in 1953) "Your Cheatin' Heart" (No. 2 in 1953) "Almost Always" (No. 9 in 1953) "My Love, My Love" (No. 8 in 1953) "How Important Can It Be?" (No. 2 in 1955) and "You Are My Love" (No. 6 in 1955) as well as sixteen other Top 40 hits from 1952 to 1960. She has sold more than 100 million records and recorded more than 25 albums.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

James married composer-conductor Anthony "Tony" Acquaviva at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York in 1956.[5] In 1964, she retired from the music industry in part because Acquaviva was in bad health and needed her attention.[5] She cared for him until his death in 1986.

Shortly after her first husband's death, James met retired Air Force General Bernard Schriever, two decades her senior. He had led the crash program that developed U.S. ballistic missiles — both ICBMs and IRBMs in 1953–62. The couple wed on October 5, 1997, in Arlington, Virginia.[6] They honeymooned in France and the Greek Isles, then took up residence in Schriever's home in Washington, D.C. Bernard Schriever died on June 20, 2005, aged 94.

James is mentioned by Snoopy in the last panel of the May 1, 1976 comic strip of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts.[7] Schulz was a fan and friend of James who had Snoopy featured on the cover of her Jukebox Joni 1999 compilation album.[8][9]

Later years[edit]

For many years she was out of the public eye, but began touring again in the mid-1990s some years after she was widowed,[10] 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.[11] With her renewed popularity, nearly her entire body of work was released on the Capitol-EMI, DRG and Taragon labels under her personal supervision[11] and, in 2000, she released a new recording, Latest and Greatest.[12]

James died at a hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, on February 20, 2022, at the age of 91.[13] She was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.[14][15]

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


Year Single (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Chart positions Album
U.S. CB UK[16]
1952 "Let There Be Love"
b/w "My Baby Just Cares for Me" (Non-album track)
Let There Be Love
"You Belong to Me"
b/w "Yes, Yes, Yes"
Non-album tracks
"Why Don't You Believe Me?" / 1 1 11 Joni James' Award Winning Album
"Purple Shades" 26
1953 "You're My Everything"
b/w "You're Nearer"
24 Let There Be Love
"Have You Heard?" / 4 3 Joni James' Award Winning Album
"Wishing Ring" 17 21
"Your Cheatin' Heart"
b/w "I'll Be Waiting for You" (Non-album track)
2 4
"Almost Always" / 9 16
"Is It Any Wonder?" 16 27
"My Love, My Love" / 8 13
"You're Fooling Someone" 11 21 Award Winning Album Vol. 2
"I'll Never Stand in Your Way" / 23 22 Non-album tracks
"Why Can't I" 30 Non-album tracks
b/w "Christmas and You"
27 27 Merry Christmas from Joni
1954 "Maybe Next Time" / 22 33 Non-album track
"Am I in Love" 22 23 Let There Be Love
"In a Garden of Roses" / 22 23 Award Winning Album Vol. 2
"Every Day" 23 48 Non-album tracks
"Mama Don't Cry at My Wedding" / 23 19 Non-album tracks
"Pa Pa Pa" 42 Non-album tracks
"When We Come of Age"
b/w "Every Time You Tell Me You Love Me" (Non-album track)
28 19 Joni James' Award Winning Album
1955 "The Moment I Saw You"
b/w "Where Is That Someone for Me"
48 Non-album tracks
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
b/w "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)"
Merry Christmas from Joni
"How Important Can It Be?"
b/w "This Is My Confession" (from Let There Be Love)
2 6 Joni James' Award Winning Album
"When You Wish upon a Star" / 48 Award Winning Album Vol. 2
"Is This the End of the Line" 23 Non-album track
"You Are My Love"
b/w "I Lay Me Down to Sleep" (from Little Girl Blue)
6 11 Non-album track
"My Believing Heart"
b/w "You Never Fall In Love Again" (Non-album track)
49 31 Joni James' Award Winning Album
1956 "Danny Boy"
b/w "To You I Give My Heart" (Non-album track)
Joni James Sings Irish Favorites
"Don't Tell Me Not to Love You"
b/w "Somewhere Someone Is Lonely"
83 Non-album tracks
"I Woke Up Crying"
b/w "The Maverick Queen"
72 37
"Give Us This Day" / 30 30 Give Us This Day
"How Lucky You Are"
b/w "Give Us This Day"
70 Award Winning Album Vol. 2
"Love Letters"
b/w "Don't Take Your Love from Me" (from In the Still of the Night)
Non-album tracks
1957 "Only Trust Your Heart"
b/w "I Need You So"
"Summer Love"
b/w "I'm Sorry for You, My Friend" (from Joni James Sings Songs of Hank Williams)
1958 "Nothing Will Ever Change"
b/w "Does It Show"
"Love Works Miracles"
b/w "Dansero" (from Award Winning Album Vol. 2)
"Junior Prom"
b/w "Coming from You"
"There Goes My Heart"
b/w "Funny" (Non-album track)
19 21 More Joni Hits
1959 "There Must Be a Way"
b/w "Sorry for Myself?" (Non-album track)
33 28 24
"I Still Get a Thrill"
b/w "Perhaps"
51 45
"I Still Get Jealous"
b/w "Prayer of Love"
63 66
"Are You Sorry?"
b/w "What I Don't Know Won't Hurt Me" (Non-album track)
102 106
"Little Things Mean a Lot" / 35 54
"I Laughed at Love" 108 123
1960 "I Need You Now" / 98 tag Non-album tracks
"You Belong to Me" 101 114 Award Winning Album Vol. 2
"We Know"
b/w "They Really Don't Know You"
124 More Joni Hits
"My Last Date (With You)"
b/w "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" (from I'm in the Mood for Love)
38 54 Non-album tracks
"Be My Love"
b/w "Tall a Tree" (from One Hundred Voices...One Hundred Strings and Joni)
1961 "Theme from 'Carnival'"
b/w "Can You Imagine That"
"I Gave My Love"
b/w "Go Away (Bother Me No More)"
Folk Songs By Joni James
"Somebody Else Is Taking My Place"
b/w "You Were Wrong"
123 Non-album tracks
1962 "I Almost Lost My Mind"
b/w "I'll Be Around"
After Hours
"Tender and True"
b/w "It's Magic" (from I'm Your Girl)
Non-album track
"You Are My Sunshine"
b/w "Lend Me Your Handkerchief"
Country Style
"Anyone But Her"
b/w "Forgive a Fool"
126 Non-album tracks
1963 "He Says the Same Things to Me"
b/w "Hey, Good Lookin'" (from Joni James Sings Songs of Hank Williams)
"Red Sails in the Sunset"
b/w "Every Time I Meet You"
Like 3 O'Clock in the Morning
1964 "Teach Me to Forget You"
b/w "Un Caffe" (from Italianissime!)
Non-album tracks
"Break My Heart"
b/w "Don't Let the Neighbors Know"
"Pearly Shells"
b/w "Hawaiian War Chant"
Beyond The Reef
"Sentimental Me"
b/w "You're Nearer" (from Bossa Nova Style; new version of song from Let There Be Love)
Non-album track
"Once I Loved"
b/w "Dindi"
Bossa Nova Style
1965 "There Goes My Heart"
b/w "I Still Get Jealous"
More Joni Hits


  • 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 Hundred 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. ^ a b c Seelye, Katharine Q. (March 4, 2022). "Joni James, Heartfelt Chanteuse of the 1950s, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 1261/2. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ Wilson, Chris (June 1953). "What's Spinning?" (PDF). Radio-TV Mirror. 40 (1): 14. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (2022-03-04). "Joni James, Heartfelt Chanteuse of the 1950s, Dies at 91". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-03-04.
  5. ^ a b Roura, Phil (September 22, 1996). "One From Her Heart Joni James Returns To The Spotlight". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on October 19, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2009.
  6. ^ Sheehan, Neil (2009). A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon. New York: Random House. pp. 472–75.
  7. ^ Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, Saturday, May 1, 1976 – GoComics. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  8. ^ Newhouse, Dave. "Have you heard? Joni James still singing," East Bay Times (Walnut Creek, CA), Friday, February 19, 2010. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  9. ^ Archerd, Army. "Coppola to pass on award to Spielberg," Variety, Monday, February 14, 2000. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  10. ^ Bell, Bill (October 28, 2000). "Joni James: A Melancholy Baby Returns". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Album notes, "Why Don't You Believe Me?", Joni James (BYD77053)
  12. ^ "Joni James CDs: Music". Amazon. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2011-11-10.
  13. ^ Barnes, Mike (25 February 2022). "Joni James, Popular songstress of the 1950s, dies at 91". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  14. ^ Joni James
  15. ^ "Burial detail: Schriever, Joan Carmella". ANC Explorer. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  16. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 278. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.

External links[edit]