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Lou Christie in 1966
|Birth name||Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco|
|Born||February 19, 1943|
|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".
Early life and career
Christie was born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco on February 19, 1943, in Glenwillard, Pennsylvania, and grew up in suburban Pittsburgh. While attending Moon Area High School, he studied music and voice, served as student conductor of the choir and sang solos at holiday concerts. His teacher Frank Cummings wanted him to pursue a career in classical music, but Sacco wanted to cut a record to get on American Bandstand. At age 15 he met and befriended Twyla Herbert, a classically trained musician 20 years his senior, who became his regular songwriting partner and wrote hundreds of songs with him over the next 30 years until her death in 2009. Sacco performed with several vocal groups and between 1959 and 1962 released several records on small Pittsburgh labels, achieving a local hit with "The Jury" by Lugee & The Lions (a group consisting of Sacco, Twyla Herbert's daughter Shirley, and two others) released on the Robbee label. After graduating from high school in 1961, Sacco traveled to New York and worked as a session vocalist.
In 1962, Sacco approached Nick Cenci with some demo tapes. Cenci liked his falsetto voice and suggested that he listen to the Four Seasons' recent hit "Sherry". Sacco and Herbert used the song as a model to write an original song called “The Gypsy Cried.” Cenci produced a recording of Sacco performing the song at Gateway Studio in Pittsburgh and initially released it on his own C & C label as a single in 1962, credited to "Lou Christie," the name Sacco would use thereafter. The name "Lou Christie" was chosen by C & C Records, and "The Gypsy Cried" was credited to "Lou Christie" before they had consulted with Sacco about the name.
"The Gypsy Cried" became a regional hit, selling 30,000 copies in Pittsburgh. Cenci contacted Morris Levy of Roulette Records, saying that he had a hit that needed national distribution. Levy released the single on Roulette, but initially nothing happened. Airplay slowly spread across the country, and "The Gypsy Cried" reached number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Selling over one million copies of the song, Christie was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. Cenci produced additional recording sessions for Christie in 1963 that generated two more hits. "Two Faces Have I," his second million-seller, reached number 6 on the chart in June 1963. Roulette released an album of 12 Lou Christie / Twyla Herbert songs in 1963 that reached 124 on the Billboard 200. With those hits, Christie joined Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars Tour.
During this pre-Army phase of his career, the female vocalists featured on Christie's records were The Tammys, a trio from Pleasantville, Venango County, Pennsylvania. Christie and Herbert wrote the single "Egyptian Shumba" for the group, and although it was not a hit, it became a cult favorite in the Northern Soul scene in the early 1970s.
Christie's 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.
"Lightnin' Strikes" and "Rhapsody In The Rain": 1965-1966
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, the Christie-Herbert song "Lightnin' Strikes." 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 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." Later, after the romance ends, the wipers seem to say "never, never." Many radio stations banned the song after hearing the opening lyrics:
- Baby, the raindrops play for me
- Our lovely 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 third and fourth lines were changed to:
- We fell in love in the rain
- And in this car, love came like a falling star
Despite the edited version, many radio stations instead played two older songs re-released by other labels for which Christie had once recorded: "Outside the Gates of Heaven" (on Co & Ce Records) peaked at #45, while "Big Time" (on Colpix Records) hit #95. All three singles hit nationally within three weeks of one another, in March 1966, while "Lightnin' Strikes" was falling down the chart.
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. Conversely, "Are You Getting Any Sunshine?" only charted in America, where it reached #73.
Later career: 1971 to present
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, 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. 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 band's 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.
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 1986, he recorded a duet with Lesley Gore of a medley of "Since I Don't Have You"/"It's Only Make Believe" for Manhattan Records, a division of EMI-America. The two singers, who each debuted on the Hot 100 in 1963, were touring together at the time, and the song was released only as a one-off single.
In 1997, Christie recorded his first all-new album since the 1970s, entitled Pledging My Love and produced by Alan Grossman & Jimm Mosher of Hit Music Studio in Spencer, North Carolina. Billboard labeled this new album "Most Impressive Comeback" album. 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".
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. In 2015, Christie will debut his first new recording in several years, entitled "Drive In Dreams", written by Gregory Scharpf, who is a former member of Sweet Breeze, the Pittsburgh-based band that Christie signed to their first recording contract. The next release is scheduled shortly thereafter and is called "When You Were Young" also penned by Scharpf. The new songs were scheduled for release in the spring of 2015.
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions||Record Label||B-side
From same album as A-side except where indicated
|1962||"The Gypsy Cried"||24||–||–||–||–||–||Roulette Records||"Red Sails in the Sunset" (Non-LP track)||Lou Christie|
|1963||"Two Faces Have I"||6||–||11||–||–||20||"All That Glitters Isn't Gold"|
|"How Many Teardrops"||46||–||–||–||–||79||"You and I (Have a Right to Cry)"|
|"Shy Boy"||119||–||–||–||–||–||"It Can Happen"||Non-LP tracks|
|1964||"Stay"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"There They Go" (Non-LP track)||Lou Christie|
|"Guitars and Bongos"||123||–||–||–||–||–||Colpix Records||"Merry-Go-Round" (Non-LP track)||Lou Christie Strikes Again|
|"Have I Sinned"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"Pot of Gold"|
|1965||"Why Did You Do It Baby"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"Make Summer Last Forever"|
|"A Teenager in Love"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"Back Track"|
|"Lightnin' Strikes"||1||–||–||11||1||9||MGM Records||"Cryin' in the Streets"||Lightnin' Strikes|
|1966||"Outside the Gates of Heaven"||45||–||–||–||32||–||Co & Ce Records||"All That Glitters Isn't Gold"||Non-LP tracks|
|"Big Time"||95||–||–||–||–||–||Colpix Records||"Cryin' on My Knees"||Lou Christie Strikes Again|
|"Rhapsody in the Rain"||16||–||–||37||10||40||MGM Records||"Trapeze" (from Lightnin' Strikes)||Painter of Hits|
|"If My Car Could Only Talk"||118||–||–||–||–||–||"Song of Lita"||Non-LP tracks|
|"Since I Don't Have You"||118||–||–||–||71||–||"Wild Life's In Season"||Painter of Hits|
|1967||"Shake Hands and Walk Away Cryin'"||95||–||–||–||–||–||Columbia Records||"Escape"||Non-LP tracks|
|"Self Expression (The Kids on the Street Will Never Give In)"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"Back to the Days of the Romans"|
|"Don't Stop Me (Jump Off the Edge of Love)"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"Back to the Days of the Romans"|
|1968||"Genesis and the Third Verse"||–||–||–||–||–||–||Buddah Records||"Rake Up the Leaves"|
|"Canterbury Road"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"Saints of Aquarius"|
|1969||"I'm Gonna Make You Mine"||10||–||–||2||5||28||"I'm Gonna Get Married"||I'm Gonna Make You Mine|
|"Are You Getting Any Sunshine?"||73||–||–||–||56||–||"It'll Take Time"|
|1970||"Love is Over"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"She Sold Me Magic" (from I'm Gonna Make You Mine) (#25 UK)||Non-LP tracks|
|"Indian Lady"||106||39||–||–||–||89||"Glory River"|
|1971||"Lighthouse"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"Waco"||Paint America Love|
|1973||"Beyond the Blue Horizon"||80||12||–||–||57||–||Three Brothers Records||"Saddle the Wind"||Lou Christie|
|1974||"Good Mornin'/Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"You Were the One"|
|1975||"Summer Days"||–||–||–||–||–||–||Slipped Disc Records||"The One and Only Original Sunshine Kid"||Non-LP tracks|
|1976||"Riding in My Van"||–||–||–||–||–||–||Epic Records||"Summer in Malibu"|
|"You're Gonna Make Love to Me"||–||–||–||–||–||–||Midland International Records||"Fantasies"|
|1977||"Spanish Wine"||–||–||–||–||–||–||"Dancing in the Sand"|
- "Lou Christie" (Roulette, 1963)
- "Lou Christie Strikes Again" (Colpix, 1964)
- "Lightning Strikes" (MGM, 1965)
- "Painter of Hits (MGM, 1966)
- "I'm Gonna Make You Mine" (Buddah, 1969)
- "Paint America Love" (Buddah, 1971)
- "Lou Christie" (Three Brothers, 1974)
- "Pledging My Love" (Varese Sarabande, 1997)
- "EnLIGHTNIN'ment-The Best of Lou Christie" (Rhino, 1990) 
- "Biography by Jason Ankeny". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 January 2009.
- Leszczak, Bob. (2014). Encyclopedia of Pop Music Aliases, 1950-2000, Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 62-63. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- "Reviews and Ratings of New Records", Billboard, April 17, 1961. p. 32. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- "Lou Christie - Pittsburgh Music History". Sites.google.com. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
- Bronson, Fred. (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Books. p. 193. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 143–4. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 157. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Lou Christie - Chart History - The Hot 100, Billboard.com. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- "Rhapsody In The Rain (lyrics)". Top40db.net. Retrieved 2012-09-10.
- Lou Christie - Full Official Chart History, Official Charts Company. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- "Legendary Covers as Sung by Elton John - Elton John". AllMusic. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
- "Lou Christie Sacco "Paint America Love" 1971 | Rising Storm Review". Therisingstorm.net. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
- "The Year in Music", Billboard, December 27, 1997. p. YE-83. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- "AllMusic Review by Cub Koda: Pledging My Love by Lou Christie". Allmusic website. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
- Microsoft Music Database fai.music.metaservices.microsoft.com