With some artists, Picking 3 is difficult because you do not want to discredit all your other favorites from that artist. That is the case for me with Gene Pitney. Next to Roy Orbison, Gene has been one of my favorites since eighth grade. Gene’s voice is so distinctive and his lyrics so crystal clear that you can’t help but enjoy the stories he tells in every song.
While his career got derailed by the ‘British Invasion’ of the mid 60’s, Gene found enthusiastic audiences in the UK and Australia that extended his career into the 90’s. In fact, one of his best songs, “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” was recorded in 1989! Despite declining popularity in the US, I’m delighted to report that Gene was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, an honor he richly deserved.
My first pick from Gene is the song that defined his career and will forever be his flagship recording… “Town Without Pity”. Most people over 50 know the words and everyone over 50 knows the story line. You can’t listen to it without swaying back and forth just a little. It’s a true masterpiece with a fun melody and perfectly articulated lyrics. My favorite line is “Before this gray and granite planet falls apart”.
“Half Heaven Half Heartache” is my second choice… my favorite part of this song is the violins and the background instrumentals. This song features Gene’s distinctive voice and again some superb lyrics.
To fully appreciate my third pick, “I’m Gonna Be Strong”, you need to listen to it all the way to the very end! You will not hear many singers ramp up four octaves to exit a song like Gene does in this one. Throughout this tune, Gene builds the intensity and drama until his unforgettable conclusion! ENJOY!
QUICK PITNEY ANECDOTE: For years I was convinced that Gene Pitney must have moonlighted and sang the lead on the song “Black is Black” by Los Bravos. I would scour the internet, trying to confirm my suspicions. BUT, alas, I could not find any evidence that my “scoop” had any validity. Still, I always wondered if I would ever learn more…