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Crooner Dean Martin – Reminiscing With the King of Cool – The Timeless Music of Dean Martin
Everyone loves someone ever, and that someone is none other than the legendary singer Dean Martin. With a cigarette in hand and a lady by his side, the King of Cool has served his sultry love songs to the world for over four decades.
Dino Paul Crocetti, the son of Italian immigrant parents, made his way up by rolling with the punches, literally. Ridiculed by his peers for his poor English and dropping out of Steubenville High School at age 15, young Dino entered show business taking some pretty rough hits. Boxing as a welterweight under the title “Kid Crochet”, Dino acquired a bit of money, a broken nose, a split lip and broken knuckles during his boxing days. Among his many other early livelihoods, he smuggled, dealt blackjack for an illegal casino, and was an undercover croupier.
Musically influenced by Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers, Dino adopted that same smooth singing style. He allied himself with the leader of the band Sammy Watkins who convinced the young singer to change his name to Dean Martin.
A pleasant voice and natural charm won Martin some pretty cool disco gigs. However, he did not enjoy the fanatical magnetic draw that crooners such as Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra experienced from filming.
His first real break came in 1946 at the Glass Hat Club in New York City when he met a young comedian named Jerry Lewis. The two became good friends and began to join forces. This pairing would catapult Martin to almost overnight celebrity status. The duo was a comic singing act with most of the top billing going to Lewis. Martin served as the straight man of the two. Although the two embarked on a rapid ride to stardom that included a schedule of nightclub bookings at every major club in the country along with record and film deals, Martin was uneasy with second-billing criticism, and eventually the two had a fight . Martin and Lewis separated and dissolved their relationship both personally and professionally in 1956. The duo reconciled in a surprise public appearance in 1976 during the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.
Martin’s solo career has not been easy. His crooner-style singing was not being received as well with the new genre of rock & roll that was gaining popularity across the country. Struggling to find his unique niche, he focused more on his acting than singing. In 1957 Martin made a smart decision. Although he took a huge pay cut, he signed on to star in the film The Young Lions alongside headliners Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. This was the catalyst that allowed Martin to make his comeback, only this time, on his own. The movie was a blockbuster and Dean Martin was on his way. With the recognition of the big screen, she now had the luxury of cultivating her career as a singer. Perfecting his style and vocal technique, the King of Cool was now more comfortable singing duets with mentors like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.
The young Italian-speaking rebels of Steubenville, Ohio were now in the big leagues. Dean Martin almost always ensured a big box office draw with his name attached to a movie and when his name appeared on a Las Vegas marquee, the house was sure to be packed.
Teaming up with bandmates Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., Martin was one of the original members of the famous Rat Pack. However, they themselves did not refer to each other as the Rat Pack, instead labeling their group as “The Summit” or “The Clan”.
During the decade of the 1960s and the first part of the decade of the 1970s, Martin had great success on television with The Dean Martin Show, a variety series that featured many major stars of that time. His easy tongue in cheek format was an audience favorite, but sometimes a point of contention with his producers. Martin did best with adlibs and didn’t like following a rigid script, which would make crew members uncomfortable at times. Later, Martin hosted a celebrity roast that featured big stars like Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart and Lucille Ball.
Dino had found his own voice and went on to have legendary hits, such as; Memories are made of this, That’s Amoree Everyone loves someone. His songs are still heard in movies, TV shows and commercials. Martin’s songs are downloaded on iTunes by a whole new generation of song lovers.
Dean’s image as a lazy drunk with a continuous smoke in his hand became his signature public persona. Although never discussed by Martin, there has been much speculation that the drinking was in part, an act and a perception promoted by the media. Unfortunately, smoking was very real and in 1993 Martin was diagnosed with lung cancer.
His personal life included three marriages and seven children. Martin’s son Dean Paul (Dino) was killed in a plane crash in 1987. The tragedy took its toll on the entertainer and subsequently began the decline of his career. His last public appearance was in December 1990, celebrating Frank Sinatra’s 75th birthday. Dean Martin died on Christmas Day 1995 in Beverly Hills, California, of acute respiratory failure. He was 78 years old.
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