Singing legend Gene Pitney dies

SINGER Gene Pitney has been found dead, days before he was due to appear at Edinburgh's Usher Hall.

The 65-year-old American singer, who found fame with 24 Hours From Tulsa, was discovered dead in bed in his room at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff just after 10am today.

He was midway through a UK tour and had been due to play at the Usher Hall on Sunday night.

Spokesman Mark Howes said Pitney was found by his tour manager, who had been a friend of the singer's for more than 30 years.

Mr Howes said that everyone had been shocked by the death and there had been no signs that he was ill.

Pitney first rose to fame in the 60s and enjoyed a revival in 1990 with his number one duet of Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart with Marc Almond.

Pitney, who played Cardiff last night, spoke to the Evening News on Monday. He sounded weary but told how he was enjoying his best ever UK tour.

"This has been the best tour I have had in the UK. It's been unbelievably successful and my voice is in super shape. Everything is working right."

He also revealed that he was not keen to play the Usher Hall and had wanted to go back down south after playing Glasgow on Saturday, rather than hanging around for another day in Scotland.

"It's just better for the routing," he said. "And I'll be honest with you, Edinburgh is the weakest show that we have for the audience. It's the only one on the whole tour. I don't know why that is - maybe it's me."

On his last two visits to Edinburgh in 2002 and 2003 he played the Festival Theatre, a venue he described as "beautiful".

Of the Usher Hall he said: "It's like a swirling sound. It's the kind of sound that drives my sound people crazy, but I love it because I'm in the middle of it."

While he was not looking forward to the performance, he said he was looking forward to having a day off in Edinburgh, which he intended to use to have a look around the city.

"I don't know what I'll see. We'll just have a wander. I never usually get to see too much - I'm usually just in and out so I'm looking forward to coming."

Pitney's songs have been recorded by some of the world's biggest stars - Hello Mary Lou was released by Rick Nelson, while Roy Orbison recorded Today's Teardrops as the B-side to his million-selling single, Blue Angel. His track Rubber Ball became a huge worldwide hit for US artist Bobby Vee and UK artist Marty Wilde.

He is also credited with helping the Rolling Stones break the American market.

The son of a mill worker, Pitney was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on February 17, 1941 and attended nearby Rockville High School from which he earned the name "The Rockville Rocket".

He enjoyed considerable success on both sides of the Atlantic and notched up more than 20 Top 40 hit singles.

He began by writing hit songs for others such as "He's A Rebel" for The Crystals and "Today's Teardrops" for Roy Orbison.

In 1961, he started a collaboration with songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David which produced his first hit single, "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away", followed by his first big hit, "Town Without Pity" the same year.

His last American hit was "She's a Heartbreaker" in 1968, while he last hit the charts in the UK with a duet with Marc Almond, a new version of "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart".

In 2002, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife Lynne and three sons who live in his native Connecticut.

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