Jimmy Roselli  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Jimmy Roselli (born December 24, 1925, Hoboken, New Jersey died June 30, 2011, Venice Beach, Florida) was one of the most significant Italian-American pop singers of his time, during an era of formidable competition from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, and Jerry Vale.


Roselli, who missed being a Christmas baby by two hours, was raised by his two aunts and his grandfather papa Roselli. It was his grandfather's love for music that instilled the same enthusiasm in Roselli so that even at the age of ten, Jimmy was earning a few dollars by singing weekends at a local Hoboken hotel. As he explained "I used to wear a bellhop's uniform, but I didn't do bellhop's work. I just loved to sing. On Sundays they sent me home early after the first show because I had to go to school the next morning." Jimmy worked bars in New Jersey and Staten Island and at the age of thirteen, won first prize in the Major Bowes Amateur Hour. He had to leave school to augment the family income. Among the jobs that Roselli well remembers were those of shining shoes, washing dishes and running errands.

Jimmy recalls that the first real break in his career came about in 1946 when he worked the same bill as Jimmy Durante in Boston. Durante was so impressed with Roselli's singing talent that he invited him to share his suite for the duration of the engagement. Durante also convinced the management to double the $300 salary that Roselli was getting and made certain that he phoned his wife every day. After that, the Roselli career was strictly on the upswing. Jimmy was in demand everywhere. The results were gratifying.

Jimmy Roselli's biggest and only pop hit was a remake of "There Must Be A Way", a song previously recorded by Joni James. It reached #93 pop (according to Billboard's pop charts). The song was recorded in 1964. The following year he had another hit with "Mala Femmena". It reached #43 easy listening (according to Billboard's easy listening charts). Those were his only US hit singles, although his version of "When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New" twice appeared in the UK Singles Chart. It peaked at #51 in 1983, and #52 in 1987.

A record contract with United Artists was signed and during its duration produced over 35 best selling albums. Capacity crowds at the 500 Club in Atlantic City, and on May 2, 1969, Roselli along with comedian Pat Cooper premiered in their two man show at Broadway's Palace Theatre, New York, for an exciting two week stand with standing room only signs every evening. Sell out houses each year at the Westbury (LI) Music Fair, followed by three appearances on the Ed Sullivan television show, seven record breaking years at the Copacabana in New York. Jimmy is the only artist to do two engagements in the same year at the Copa. His Carnegie Hall concert broke all records for a Monday night.

Jimmy is the parent of a daughter, Ann. Ann in turn has gifted Jimmy with a grandson, Michael Louis Bernstein, the joy of Jimmy's life.

In 1991, The Wall Street Journal wrote a front page story about Jimmy and his career headlined "Fans of the other Hoboken singer say Sinatra is just Roselli's Salieri." Comparisons to Frank Sinatra are inevitable due to their similar backgrounds, Italian-Americans from Hoboken, NJ. Roselli is the crooner who was loved and loathed by the mob. They loved his songs, but were furious that they couldn't control him. Unlike Sinatra who embraced the mob, Jimmy Roselli refused their assistance (like fellow Italian American Jake La Motta, whose life story was captured on film by Martin Scorsese in Raging Bull). Indeed, Roselli was relegated to selling his music out of the trunk of his car parked in Little Italy in Manhattan.

Jimmy Roselli is a favorite among Italian-Americans and his signature tune "Mala Femmina" is featured twice in Martin Scorsese's early classic Mean Streets. Unlike Sinatra who rarely recorded in Italian and could not speak his mother tongue, Roselli sings in perfect Neapolitan dialect. Other Neapolitan songs recorded by Roselli include "Core 'ngrato" and "Scapricciatiello."

A book in the late 1990s entitled Making The Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story, was published by David Evanier who also published a book on the life of Bobby Darin - Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin.

Plans to make a movie based on Making the Wiseguys Weep starring John Travolta never came to pass.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jimmy Roselli" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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