Monday, October 19, 2009

Crooner Al Martino and Rock 'n' Roll Artist Michael English

Al Martino

Baritone crooner Al Martino passed on October 13 at the age of 82. His career has spanned fifty years.

Al Martino was born Jasper Cini on October 7, 1927 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During World War II he joined the United States Navy and took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima. Injured there, he was returned home. It was in 1947 that he moved to New York City in hopes of a singing career. He was a winner on the TV show  Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. His exposure from the show led to a recording contract with the small BBS label in Philadelphia. It was in 1952 that he had his first hit, "Here in My Heart," which went to #1 both in the United States and the United Kingdom. This led to a recording contract with Capitol Records. Martino would have three more hits in the United States in 1953 alone. Until the Sixties, top forty hits would be sparse for Martino in the United States, although he did quite well in the United Kingdom. There he had four more hits between 1953 and 1955.

Rock 'n' roll would take its toll on the crooners, and this was as true of Al Martino as anyone else. Although his once successful career in the United Kingdom languished, Martino once more hit the charts in the United States in 1963. For the remainder of the Sixties into the Seventies he had twelve more top Forty hits in the United States, including "I Love You Because," "Spanish Eyes," "Mary in the Morning," and "Volare."

Al Martino would appear in a few films, most notably The Godfather. There he played Johnny Fontane, a crooner loosely based on Frank Sinatra who pleads with Vito Corleone to help him in his career. He also appeared in The Godfather Part III, the mini-series The City, and the comedy short Cutout.

Al Martino continued to perform and record up until his death. In fact, he had just been in the studio recording a new album the Monday before he died.

Al Martino may not have numbered among the most famous of the crooners, but he still numbered among the best. He possessed a smooth baritone that was particularly suited for American pop standards. It was because of this that he was able to survive the arrival of rock music and because of this that his career lasted over fifty years. In many respects, his passing signals an end of an era.

Michael English

Michael English, an artist who created posters for bands ranging from Pink Floyd to Soft Machine, passed on September 25 at the age of 68.  He had struggled with bone marrow cancer for five years.

Michael English was born in Bicester, Oxfordshire, on September 5 1941. He attended Ealing School of Art in West London. After graduating, English embraced the counterculture. He painted the fronts of two of the more famous Chelsea shops--Granny Takes a Trip and Hung On You. Afterwards  he formed the graphics team Hapshash and the Coloured Coat with Nigel Waymouth. Hapshash and the Coloured Coat designed psychedelic posters with influence from art noveau for such music artists as Pink Floyd, The Incredible String Band, Jimi Hendrix, and so on. They also created posters that were distributed by Osiris Press ( a publishing arm of The International Times) and several editions of the legendary magazine Oz. In 1967 English and Waymouth, with Guys Stevens,  even released their own music album as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat: Featuring the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids.

It was in 1969 that Michael English moves way from psychedelia towards a different direction. His new style tended towards hyper-realism. He created series of limited edition prints, published by Edward Booth-Clibborn, entitled Food Synaethetics and Rubbish. By 1973 he had left prints behind and began painting on canvas. It was at this point that he began to focus on man made objects, including such subjects as a Coca-Cola bottle cap, motorcycles, buses and so on. Over the years he would create adveryising imagery for companies ranging from British Airways to Porsche to McDonalds. He created two sets of stamps for the British Mail. In 1995 he was hired by the BBC to seve as artistic director on a proposed adaptation of Gormenghast. In this planned adaptation, the actors would have appeared against virtual sets generated entirely on a computer. The escalating costs of the project forced the BBC to end it.

Whether it is the psychedelia of his later career or the hyper-realist pieces of his later career, Michael English was among the most talented artists of the late 20th century. Throughout his career, from the Sixties to the Naughts, there was a starkness to his work that simply caught the eye. He was also a versatile artist. English was able to move from psychedelia to hyper-realism, and later return to psychedelia for his work for McDonalds. It is sad that he died much too young.

1 comment:

Holte Ender said...

The Godfather, one of my all time favorite movies, who could forget the pathetic, weepy, spoiled Johnny Fontane, "act like a man".