Frankie Valli: a man for all seasons
There are legendary musicians still performing their craft after all these years, and then there is Frankie Valli.
The ageless front man for the Four Seasons, born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio to an Italian-American family in Newark, New Jersey, is still belting out songs some 65 years after he began doing it professionally in the early 1950s.
The current incarnation of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons visits Lincoln City for a pair of 8 p.m. shows at Chinook Winds Casino Thursday and Friday nights, June 21-22. For tickets/info: www.chinookwindscasino.com.
It's a chance for local music fans to enjoy the enduring sounds of Valli, 84, who scored 29 Top 40 hits with the Four Seasons and nine more as a solo artist in the 1960s and '70s. Seven of his songs made it to No. 1, including "Big Girls Don't Cry," "My Eyes Adored You" and "Grease."
The Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. Their lives were chronicled on Broadway (2005-17) and in film (2014, directed and produced by Clint Eastwood) with "Jersey Boys."
From the original quartet, which included Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, Valli is the only one still with the band. Massi died in 2000.
From a phone interview with Valli from his home in Los Angeles:
Tribune: How many concerts do you and your band perform these days?
Valli: We do 75 to 80 days a year. That may seem like a lot, but if I didn't like it, I certainly wouldn't be doing it.
Tribune: It seems like a lot, especially for an octogenarian.
Valli: Again, I do it because I like to do it. If I didn't do this, I'd be doing something else. It's nice to be doing something you really like to do. My whole life has been music and revolves around what I do for a living. If I'm not rehearsing, I'm recording. If I'm not recording, I'm rehearsing or being out there on the road. If I'm not out on the road, I'm doing interviews to help promote our group.
Tribune: What's the makeup of your current band like?
Valli: Including four singers, we have 15 or 16 in our group. We have a couple of new members. I feel good about what we have now. It's something you put together very slowly to make sure you have the right people. My musical director, Robby Robinson (and longtime keyboardest and honorary "Fifth Season" for the group), has been with me about 40 years.
Tribune: Nick is gone, but do you keep in touch with Tommy or Bob?
Valli: Bob and I are active partners. He handles publishing, writing and production for us.
Tribune: What kind of motivational experience was it when your mother took you to see Frank Sinatra perform at the Paramount Theater in Manhattan as a 7-year-old?
Valli: It was my earliest experience with the world of music. I'd never seen anything like that before in my life. It looked like something I wanted to do.
Tribune: Other male singers have employed falsetto, but perhaps no one as effectively as you in the history of pop music. Why did you use it? Was it just the natural way you sang?
Valli: It wasn't anything new I was doing. Falsetto has been used as long as I can think back. We just used it differently. We used it more forcefully, and it worked.
Tribune: Before you got going as a singer, you worked a spell as a barber. For how long? Do you think you could still cut hair?
Valli: I did that for about three years. I still cut my own hair once in awhile.
Tribune: What did you think of the stage production "Jersey Boys"?
Valli: I liked it. Very well-done.
Tribune: How about the movie?
Valli: I love Clint Eastwood, but it lost its way a little bit. I wasn't very happy with the movie. If the play was as successful as it was, no reason why the movie could not have been the same thing. The movie should be done with a true flavor of New York and New Jersey. It was shot in California. There were ingredients missing I thought should have been in there. It was supposed to be more drama, more story. I thought the casting was very poor.
Tribune: How did John Lloyd Young do portraying you?
Valli: John is a very talented guy. He could have been directed a little better. There were a lot of nuances that were missed. A play is so much different than a movie. A play is live performance, and a movie is action looked at through a microscope. A movie will zero right in on your face when you're singing a song. The casting for a play and a movie has to be different.
Tribune: How much input did you have?
Valli: I had a lot of input in the play. With the movie, I was convinced I should give up my rights, and everything would be exactly the way I wanted. That did not happen after I gave up my rights. There's a message there. If it's about you and it's yours, don't change for anybody.
Tribune: For two years, you made several appearances as a mobster in "The Sopranos." How was that?
Valli: I enjoyed it. I worked with some great actors. It was something like revisiting my childhood growing up in New Jersey. At the time, I thought every place in the world was the same.
Tribune: You have stayed in great shape over the years. How have you done it?
Valli: You just watch what you eat. It depends on what you want to do. You either consume it and wear it or leave it.
Tribune: What kind of music do you listen to these days?
Valli: I like Bruno Mars. But music is not what it used to be. It's a whole different ballgame. We're in an electronic world. Everything is moving so fast. There were so many wonderful things that came out from the era of the big bands, and some really great musicians and singers that came out of that period and through the early parts of rock and roll. Every major city in the country had at least seven or eight radio stations competing with each other. That's over. If it wasn't for oldies stations, I don't know how much radio we'd have. There are only one or two viable record companies. The record business is not really happening.
Tribune: When you look back at your career, what are you most proud of?
Valli: I'm proud that I was able to communicate what I love to do to so many people. I believe in all the freedoms. People should be thinking about what's going in their lives instead of worrying about everybody else. If we all concentrated on making ourselves a little better, it would be a much better world.
Tribune: What kind of a show can people expect at Chinook Winds?
Valli: Well, we're going to come out with what we do, what we're known to do. What would you expect?