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Singer Gene Pitney dies, aged 65

05 April 2006

Singer Gene Pitney, whose string of hits included Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa, has been found dead in a hotel in Cardiff.

The 65-year-old American, who was in the middle of a UK tour, was pronounced dead at the Hilton hotel at 10 this morning. He was in bed at the time and, while no cause of death has yet to be established, it is not being treated as suspicious.

Pitney, who had performed last night at St David's Hall in Cardiff, regularly toured the UK where he achieved his first hit 45 years ago last month with (I Wanna) Love My Life Away. It launched a chart career that stretched over five decades and saw his popularity in Britain ultimately surpassing the level of fame he experienced back home in the States.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1941, Pitney initially enjoyed success as a songwriter having headed to the legendary Brill Building in New York City after leaving high school. His writing successes included penning the US chart-topping He's A Rebel for The Crystals plus Hello Mary Lou for Ricky Nelson and the Bobby Vee hit Rubber Ball.

Following a couple of minor hits in (I Wanna) Love My Life Away and Every Breath I Take in 1961 in the US, he achieved a US Top 20 breakthrough that same year with Town Without Pity before (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valence reached number four for him the following year. Later in 1962 Only Love Can Break A Heart peaked at two on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest US chart hit of his career.

Despite his obvious and proven prowess as a songwriter, hits in his own right tended to be written by other people, among them Burt Bacharach and Hal David who penned the 1963-issued Twenty Four Hours From Tusla, which became his first UK Top 10 hit, peaking at number five. The follow-up, That Girl Belongs To Yesterday, reaching number seven in the spring of 1964, was penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Although he only scored two further Top 10 hits in the US (It Hurts To Be In Love and I'm Gonna Be Strong, both in 1964), he was only starting to get into his stride in the UK. After Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa and That Girl Belongs To Yesterday, he landed eight more Top 10 hits in Britain during the Sixties, among them Nobody Needs Your Love and Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart .

Whilst the hits in the UK diminished, he remained a popular live draw in Britain, but in 1989 staged one of the most remarkable comebacks in chart history when - 15 years after his last hit - he topped the chart with Marc Almond on a re-recording of his Top 10 hit, Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart. It saw him back on Top Of The Pops and brought him to the attention of new fans.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

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