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- Genre: Pop, Rock, Other, R&B/Soul, Brill Building Pop, British Invasion, Bubblegum Pop, Classic Rock, Northern Soul, Soul
Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco (born February 19, 1943), known professionally as Lou Christie, is an American singer-songwriter best known for three separate strings of pop hits in the 1960s, including his 1966 hit, "Lightnin' Strikes".
Sacco was born in Glenwillard, Pennsylvania, and raised in suburban Pittsburgh. He traveled to New York after graduating from Moon Area High School and found work as a session vocalist. He studied music and voice at Moon Township High School., where he was the student conductor of the choir. He sang solos with the choir at the holiday concerts. His teacher and mentor Frank Cummings wanted him to pursue a career in classical music, but Sacco wanted to cut a record to get on American Bandstand. He performed with several vocal groups, worked as a session singer, and recorded songs on small Pittsburgh labels between 1959 and 1962. He released "The Jury" by 'Lugee & The Lions' on the Pittsburgh-based Robbee label obtaining local airplay and sales.
In 1962, Sacco approached Nick Cenci with some demo tapes. Cenci liked Christie's falsetto voice and suggested that he listen to the Four Seasons' recent hit, "Sherry". Christie and his writing partner Twyla Herbert used the song as a model to write their original song called "The Gypsy Cried". Cenci produced a recording of the song at Gateway Studio in Pittsburgh paying the band with wine and $500. Cenci's boss at Fenway, Herb Cohen, provided financial backing for the recording. Christie had released several doo-wop singles on Robee Records under the name of Lugee & the Lions, a group composed of Christie, his sister Amy Sacco, Kay Chick and Bill Fabec. They had a regional hit with "The Jury" and had backed Marcy Jo on her national hit "Ronnie". Wanting to create a new image Cenci changed the singer's name to Lou Christie. The CO&CE label and released the single in 1963. It became a hit, selling 30,000 copies in Pittsburgh.
Cenci contacted Morris Levy of Roulette Records saying that he had a hit that needed national distribution. Levy published the single on his label but initially nothing happened. Airplay slowly spread across the country, and "The Gypsy Cried" reached number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Selling over one million copies of the song, Christie was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. Cenci produced additional recording sessions for Christie in 1963 that generated two more hits. "Two Faces Have I", his second million-seller, reached number 6 on the chart in March 1963. Roulette released an album of 12 Lou Christie / Tylwa Herbert songs in 1963 that reached 124 on the Billboard 200. With those hits Christie joined Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars Tour.
During this pre-Army phase of his career, the female vocalists featured on Christie's records were The Tammys, a trio from Pleasantville, Venango County, Pennsylvania. Christie and Herbert wrote the single "Egyptian Shumba" for the group, and although it was not a hit, it became a cult favorite in the Northern Soul scene in the early 1970s. In 2002, The Tammys' singles plus several Christie hits on which they sang were released on a CD called Egyptian Shumba - The Singles and Rare Recordings: 1962-1964. Egyptian Shumba was also included in the box set One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost and Found.
Christie's third Roulette release, "How Many Teardrops" (written by Milan), stalled at #46 as Christie's career was temporarily derailed by his induction into the US Army. Christie would not have another charting single for two and a half years.
Re-establishment and "Rhapsody In The Rain": 1965-1966:
Christie's career was quickly re-established after his discharge from the military, when he signed with the MGM label. MGM reportedly disliked Christie's first single for the label. But Christie's new management promoted the record in California, and when it gained some traction (eventually reaching #2 on KHJ the last two weeks of 1965), MGM released it. "Lightnin' Strikes" reached #1 in the U.S. on Christie's 23rd birthday on February 19, 1966; entered the UK Top 20, becoming his first hit in that country; and peaked at #1 in Canada. The song featured his signature falsetto and included a female chorus (Bernadette Carroll, Denise Ferri, and Peggy Santiglia) shouting "Stop!" in counterpoint to the lead vocal:
When I see lips begging to be kissed (Stop!)
I can't stop, (Stop!) no I can't stop myself! (Stop! Stop!)
Released in the spring of 1966, "Rhapsody in the Rain" featured a haunting melody inspired by Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet", telling of a teenager's memory of his sexual experience in the back seat of a car during a rainstorm as the windshield wipers made a rhythmic sound of "together, together". Later after the romance ends, the wipers seem to say "never, never". Many radio stations banned the song after hearing the opening lyrics:
Baby, the raindrops play for me
Our lovely rhapsody, 'cause on our first date
We were makin' out in the rain.
And in this car, our love went much too far
It was exciting as thunder
Tonight I wonder, where you are?
MGM insisted on a re-recorded version that toned down the lyrical content. The third and fourth lines were changed to:
We fell in love in the rain
And in this car, love came like a falling star
Despite the edited version, many radio stations instead played two older songs re-released by other labels Christie had once recorded for: "Outside the Gates of Heaven" (A side of "The Gypsy Cried", but in 1966 on Co & Ce Records, successor to C & C) peaked at #45, while "Big Time" (on Colpix Records) managed to hit #95. All three singles hit nationally within three weeks of one another, in March 1966, while "Lightnin' Strikes" was falling off.
Resurgence and Romeo: 1969-1970:
After being dropped by MGM and an unfruitful stint with Columbia Records in the late 1960s, Christie teamed up with Buddah Records (a move prompted by his business manager Stan Polley) and bubblegum music record producer Tony Romeo and had a surprise Wall of Sound constant uptempo hit "I'm Gonna Make You Mine" (which Romeo wrote) in the early autumn of 1969. Helped by backing vocalist Linda Scott and by two promotional videos distinctly different from each other, the song peaked at #10 in the US but climbed to #2 on the UK Singles Chart and thus became his biggest hit there.
A follow up, "She Sold Me Magic" charted only in the UK, peaking at #25, and was later covered by Elton John. Conversely, "Are You Getting Any Sunshine?" only charted in America, where it reached #73.
Remakes: 1971 to present:
Christie spent the early 1970s between London and New York. In 1971 he released a concept album called Paint America Love, regarded by some as his best LP, and married former UK beauty queen Francesca Winfield in London. In 1974, Christie would try another new musical style, going country on his Beyond The Blue Horizon album. The title track, a remake of a hit song from 1930, written for the film Monte Carlo, featured one of Christie's strongest non-falsetto vocal performances. The song missed the Country charts and only made #80 on the pop chart but managed #12 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The song has been used in several film soundtracks, including 1988's Rain Man. In the spring of 1978 Christie returned home to Pittsburgh to head the upstart record Label 2001 records, a branch of the 2001 and VIP nightclubs nationwide. While visiting local Friends at the Staircase Lounge, Christie heard a local group, Sweet Breeze, and loved the band's harmonies and music. Christie signed the band Sweet Breeze to their first recording contract and the band recorded a song written by Christie and Herbert called "Summer in Malibu" that was a regional hit for the band.
Christie became active on the oldies circuit starting in the early 1980s, scoring a final US chart hit, credited as "Summer '81 Medley" by The Cantina Band (featuring Lou Christie), in 1981, performing a medley of Beach Boys classics.
In 1986, he recorded a duet with Lesley Gore of a medley of "Since I Don't Have You"/"It's Only Make Believe" for Manhattan Records, a division of EMI-America. Both singers, who each debuted on the Hot 100 in 1963, were touring together at the time, and the song was released only as a one-off single.
In 1997, Christie recorded his first all-new album since the 1970s entitled Pledging My Love, produced by Alan Grossman & Jimm Mosher of Hit Music Studio in Spencer, North Carolina. Billboard labeled this new album "Most Impressive Comeback" album. Most of it was penned by Christie, presented in a contemporary manner, and included the songs "What Happened to the Nights", "Techno Pop" (a diatribe about the loss of communication in our lives), and "I Sure Fell in Love" and covers of the Critters' "Mr. Dieingly Sad" and Johnny Ace's title tune. Cub Koda said it was "loaded with AOR hits".
In 2004, Christie released his first concert album, Greatest Hits Live From The Bottom Line, which featured studio recording "Christmas In New York" as a bonus track. In addition to the occasional new release, Christie remains a concert act on the oldies circuit in the US and UK. He has also hosted a series of programs on SiriusXM radio for the 1960s channel. In 2015, Christie will debut his first new recording in several years, entitled "Drive In Dreams", written by Gregory Scharpf, who is a former member of Sweet Breeze, the Pittsburgh-based band that Christie signed to their first recording contract. The next release is scheduled shortly thereafter and is called "When You Were Young" also penned by Scharpf. The new songs were scheduled for release in the spring of 2015.