Birth Date: May 18, 1912
Birth Place: Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death: May 12, 2001 / Age: 89
Location of Death: Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida, USA
Cause of Death: Alzheimer's disease
Biography: Perry Como, born Pierino Ronald Como (May 18, 1912–May 12, 2001) was an Italian-American crooner during the latter half of the 20th century. His exclusive recording contract with RCA Victor in 1943 began an association that would last for almost fifty years. He sold around 60 million records in his long career.
Como was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Although he always liked to sing, his first great ambition was to be the best barber in Canonsburg. After graduation from high school, he opened his own barber's shop. In 1933 he married his teenage sweetheart Roselle Belline.
In 1933 he joined Freddy Carlone's band in Ohio, and three years later moved up to Ted Weems' Orchestra and his first recording dates. Their first recording was a novelty tune titled "You Can't Pull the Wool over My Eyes", recorded for the Decca Records label.
In 1942 Weems dissolved his band and Como went on to CBS, where he sang for a couple of years without any conspicuous success. By this time the erstwhile barber had definitely decided to return to Canonsburg, his family, and his barbering. Just as he was about to abandon his singing career once and for all, two NBC producers stepped in, returning him to show business — specifically for the NBC "Supper Club", followed by very successful theatre and night club engagements.
In 1945, Como recorded the pop ballad "'Til the End of Time" (based on Chopin’s "Polonaise"), which marked the beginning a highly successful career. Como was the first artist to have ten records sell more than one million copies. Likewise his television show has achieved a much higher rating than that of any other vocalist to date.
By the 1980s, the atmosphere of recording had changed dramatically from his early days at RCA Victor. Como's recording sessions, previously filled with laughter and joy, had deteriorated into much more sombre occasions. For this reason he walked-away from his final studio-produced recordings in the early 1980s, but returned to record a final album with his trusted friend and associate Nick Perito in 1987. His recording of "The Wind Beneath My Wings'" was almost autobiographical, and a fitting end to a long and successful recording career. Como would record only once more in 1994, but privately, for his well-known Irish Christmas Concert.
He had numerous Christmas television specials, beginning on Christmas Eve, 1948, and continuing to 1994 when his final Christmas Special was recorded in Ireland. Following his weekly series, ending in 1963, Como's television specials changed to bi-monthly, then monthly, followed by seasonal specials celebrating Easter, Spring, Thanksgiving, and Christmas festivities, ending in 1987. They were recorded from many parts of the world, including England, Rome, Austria, France, and many locations throughout North America. Como's Christmas Concert in Ireland would be his final special and the last of his commercial recordings, although not for his original label RCA Victor.
His regular television show, at first a spin-off from the Chesterfield Supper Club, continued through the early 1950s, becoming The Perry Como Show, and then for five years The Perry Como Kraft Music Hall; he became the highest paid performer in the history of television to that date, earning mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. Prior to this, Como battled against Jackie Gleason in what was billed the "Battle of the Giants", and won. This is rarely mentioned, because Como commonly played down his own achievements. He recorded many albums of songs for the RCA Victor label between 1952 and 1987, and is credited with numerous gold records. Como had so many recordings achieve gold record status that he refused to have many of them certified. It was this characteristic which made him so different from his peers, and which endeared him to legions of fans throughout the world. Over the decades, Como is reported to have sold millions of records, but he commonly suppressed these figures.
A farewell concert from Ireland
In January 1994, Como travelled to Dublin, Ireland, for what would be an auspicious moment in his long career of more than sixty years. The year 1993 would have marked his fiftieth anniversary with the RCA Victor label, now owned and controlled by Bertelsmann and operated under the BMG logo, as well as his forty-fifth year of television specials celebrating Christmas and its importance throughout the world to people of all faiths. Como's Irish Christmas was produced for the American PBS public television system, and has been re-broadcast annually since 1994.
Como died on May 12, 2001 at his home in Jupiter, Florida, six days before his eight-ninth birthday.