Connie Francis' Life Story......

  • And now the rest of the story...



Early life

Francis was born in the Italian Down Neck, or Ironbound, neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey. She attended Newark Arts High School in 1951 and 1952. She and her family moved to Belleville, New Jersey, where she graduated 'Salutatorian' from the Belleville High School Class of 1955. Following her appearance on the Arthur Godfrey show (singing "Daddy's Little Girl"), Connie was advised to change her name from Franconero to something more easily pronounceable and to drop the accordion that was part of her act.

Then in her 1952 appearance on Battle of the Ages she is introduced as "13-year-old Connie Francis." There she sang "Wheel of Fortune." The story goes that every record label she had tried had turned her down. Finally, even when MGM decided to take her, it was basically because the track she wanted to record, "Freddy," happened to be the name of the son of a company executive. Francis' first single, "Freddy," (1955) and her next nine singles were commercial failures.

Early career

Early in her career, Francis was introduced to Bobby Darin, then an up-and-coming singer and songwriter. Darin's manager arranged for him to help write several songs for her. Despite some disagreement about material, after several weeks Darin and Francis developed a romantic relationship. Francis' strict Italian father would separate the couple whenever possible. When her father learned that Bobby Darin had suggested the two lovers elope after one of her shows, he ran Darin out of the building at gunpoint, telling Bobby to never see his daughter again.

Francis saw Darin only two more times - once when the two were scheduled to sing together for a television show, and again when Francis was spotlighted on the TV series This Is Your Life. By the latter's taping, Bobby Darin had married actress Sandra Dee. In her autobiography Francis says she and her father were driving into the Lincoln Tunnel when the radio DJ announced Darin's and Dee's marriage. Her father made a negative comment about Bobby finally being out of their lives. Angered, Francis wrote, she hoped the Hudson River would fill the Lincoln Tunnel, killing both herself and her father; she later wrote that not marrying Darin was the biggest mistake of her life.


After the failure of her first nine demos, MGM was about to drop her. She considered a career in medicine. At what was to have been her final recording session for MGM she recorded a cover version of the 1923 song "Who's Sorry Now?", which had been written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Francis has said that she recorded it at the suggestion of her father, who convinced her it stood a chance of becoming a hit because it was a song adults already knew and that teenagers would dance to if it had a contemporary arrangement.

The gamble paid off. On January 1, 1958, the song debuted on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. By mid-year, over a million copies had been sold, and Francis was suddenly launched into worldwide stardom. In April 1958, "Who's Sorry Now" reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and number four in the US.

As Francis explains at each of her concerts, she began searching for a new hit immediately after the success of "Who's Sorry Now?". After the relative failure of follow-up single "I'm Sorry I Made You Cry" (which stalled at #36), Francis met with Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield who sang a number of ballads they had written for her. After a few hours, Francis began writing in her diary while the songwriters played the last of their ballads. Afterward, Francis told them that she considered their ballads too intellectual for the young generation.
Greenfield suggested that Sedaka sing a song they had written that morning for another girl group. Sedaka protested that Francis would be insulted, but Greenfield said that since she hated all the other songs they had performed, they had nothing to lose. Sedaka played "Stupid Cupid." When he finished, Francis announced that he had just played her new hit record.

The song reached #14 on the Billboard chart. (Incidentally, while Francis was writing in her diary, Sedaka asked her if he could read what she had written. She refused, but Sedaka was inspired to write "The Diary", his own first hit single. Through the rest of her early career, Sedaka and Greenfield wrote many of her hits, including "Fallin" (#30) and "Where the Boys Are" (#4).The success of "Stupid Cupid" restored momentum to Francis' chart career, and she reached the US top 40 an additional seven times during the remainder of the '50s; four of her singles -- "My Happiness", "Lipstick on Your Collar", "Among My Souvenirs", and "Mama" -- were top-ten singles.

In 1960, Connie Francis became the youngest headliner to sing in Las Vegas, where she would play 28 days a year for the next nine years. That same year she also became the first female singer to have two consecutive No. 1 singles: "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own". (By 1967, Francis had had 35 U.S. Top 40 hits, three of which had reached No. 1.)

In 1961, she starred in her own television special on ABC television, sponsored by Brylcreem. In Kicking Sound Around, she sang and acted with Tab Hunter, Eddie Foy Jr. and Art Carney. The next year, she appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on July 1, 1962 with the French singing star Johnny Hallyday in a show taped at the famous Moulin Rouge in Paris. Her first autobiography, For Every Young Heart, was released the same year. On July 3, 1963 she played a Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II at the Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland. During the height of the Vietnam War in 1967, Connie Francis performed for U.S. troops.


Further hits during the early 1960s included "Where the Boys Are", "Breaking in a Brand New Broken Heart", "Together" (all 1961), "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You" and "Second Hand Love" (1962). Due to changing trends in the early- and mid-1960s, Francis' chart success began to wane. She had her final top-ten hit, "Vacation" in 1962. A number of Francis singles continued to reach the top 40 in the U.S. Hot 100 through the mid-60s, with her last top 40 entry being 1964's "Be Anything (but Be Mine)". Her singles continued to chart in the lower regions of the Hot 100 through 1973. Despite her declining chart success, Francis remained a top concert draw.

Cross-over hits

Francis recorded several albums of country music standards during her pop career. In 1969, she had a modest country hit with "The Wedding Cake" and "My Happiness" (No. 2), which she recorded in 1959, and re-recorded in 1978 and 1989. She appeared on the country charts again in 1982 with "There's Still a Few Good Love Songs Left in Me." Several country singers found chart success remaking Francis' pop hits for the country market, including Marie Osmond, "Who's Sorry Now?" in 1975, Susan Raye, "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" in 1972, and Margo Smith, "Don't Break The Heart That Loves You" in 1978. Debby Boone had two successful recordings of Connie Francis' songs, with "My Heart has a Mind of Its Own", reaching No. 11 in 1979 and another cover release, "Breakin' in a Brand New Broken Heart", which reached No. 25 in 1979. She also included "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" on her 1986 album, The Best of Debby Boone.

Later career

After a hiatus in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Connie Francis returned to the spotlight in 1973 with "The Answer", a song written for her. She soon began performing again. While appearing at the Westbury Music Fair in New York, on November 8, 1974 Francis was raped at the Jericho Turnpike Howard Johnson's Lodge. She subsequently sued the motel chain for failing to provide adequate security. She reportedly won a $3 million judgment, at the time one of the largest such judgments in history. She did not perform again for seven years, and at one point in the seven years said she would never be able to perform again. Her rapist was never found.

In 1978, she appeared with her friend Dick Clark on his NBC-TV variety show Dick Clark's Live Wednesday. Unknown to the audience, the still-fragile Francis lip-synched to a pre-recorded disco medley of her hit "Where the Boys Are".

She released her autobiography, Who's Sorry Now?, in 1984. It was a New York Times bestseller.

In 1989, she resumed her performing career again. Her most recent CD The American Tour (2004) contains performances from recent shows. In late December 2004, Francis headlined in Las Vegas for the first time since 1989. In March and October 2007, Francis performed to sold-out crowds at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. She appeared in concert in Manila, the Philippines, on Valentine's Day 2008.

Vocal style

Connie Francis specialized in downbeat ballads (often remakes of old standards) delivered in her trademark "sobbing", emotive style. She often embellished using variations in delivery from touching, soft, sweet, tones to soaring, powerful voice textures, with successful hits such as "Who's Sorry Now?", "I'm Sorry I Made You Cry", "Second Hand Love" (No. 7), "Among My Souvenirs" (No. 7), "Together"(No. 6), "Breakin' In a Brand New Broken Heart" (No. 7), "Many Tears Ago" (No. 7), "Frankie" (No. 9), "When the Boy in Your Arms (Is the Boy in Your Heart)" (No. 10) and the Italian song "Mama" (No. 8). Francis also had success with several upbeat, rock-and-roll style compositions employing her powerful voice: "Stupid Cupid" (No. 1 in the UK), "Lipstick on Your Collar" (No. 5), "Robot Man" and "Vacation" (No. 9).

Her other notable performances included "In the Summer of His Years", a tribute to slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and Bert Kaempfert's "Strangers in the Night", although the latter is more often associated with Frank Sinatra). Both "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1960. In 1962, Francis had another number one hit with "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You".

Francis recorded many of her hit songs in foreign languages, including "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and her signature song, "Where the Boys Are". She recorded in thirteen languages throughout her career: English, Greek, German, Swedish, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian (and local language in Italy, Neapolitan), Hebrew, Yiddish, Japanese, Latin and Hawaiian. During a concert at the Golden Stag Festival in Braşov, Romania, in March 1970, Francis performed live in Romanian. Francis' biggest hit album in the U.S. was 1959's Italian Favorites; she followed it with several more albums of Italian language songs over the years, as well as collections of Spanish language and Jewish songs, among others.

Personal life

Francis has been married four times. Against her father's wishes, on August 15, 1964, she married Dick Kanellis. She divorced him three months later, citing domestic violence. She married hairdresser Izadore "Izzy" Marion on January 16, 1971. They divorced the following year. In September 1973 she married Joseph Garzilli; together they adopted a son, Joseph Garzilli Jr., also known as Joey, born in 1974. After the marriage ended, she married television producer Bob Parkinson, on June 27, 1985. Like the others, this marriage ended in divorce.

Francis supported Richard Nixon's 1968 bid for the Presidency when she recorded a TV ad for him.


Francis brought a suit alleging that Universal Music Group took advantage of her condition and stopped paying royalties. The suit was dismissed. On November 27, 2002, she filed a second suit against UMG alleging the label had synchronized several of her songs into movies without her permission: the 1994 film Post Cards from America, the 1996 film The Craft, and the 1999 film Jawbreaker. This suit was also dismissed.

She also sued the producers of the 1999 film Jawbreaker, in which her song "Lollipop Lips" is heard during a sex scene.

Film and other media

Francis appeared in the motion picture Where the Boys Are (1960); Follow the Boys (1963) (the title song of which became a No. 17 Billboard single for Francis); Looking for Love (1964), and When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965). She overdubbed the vocals for Tuesday Weld in the 1956 movie "Rock, Rock, Rock," and for Freda Holloway in the 1957 Warner Brothers rock and roll movie Jamboree, singing the songs "Siempre", "For Children of All Ages", "Who Are We to Say", and "Twenty-Four Hours a Day", which appeared on the promotional soundtrack album for the film.


Billboard chart historian Joel Whitburn has ranked Francis as the top female vocalist on the Adult Contemporary chart during the 1960s. In 1961, Francis was the first female artist to score a No. 1 Billboard Adult Contemporary single with "Together," and she topped the AC chart the following year with "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You." In 2000, "Who's Sorry Now?" was named one of the Songs of the Century. Francis was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in December 2007, a charter first-ballot member.

Francis and singer Gloria Estefan completed a screenplay for a movie based on Francis' life titled Who's Sorry Now?. Estefan has announced that she would produce and play the lead. She said, "[Connie Francis] isn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and yet she was the first pop star worldwide, and has recorded in nine languages. She has done a lot of things for victims' rights since her rape in the '70s .... There's a major story there."

In December 2009 the film was dropped. According to Connie Francis., "They chose to use amateur writers to write the screenplay. I wanted the writer Robert Freeman who wrote that mini-series Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows which won I don’t know how many Emmies, but Gloria and company were unwilling to hire that writer. I absolutely adored his screenplay of Judy’s life ... he was so eager to do my life story for film, but she [Gloria] wouldn’t agree to hire him and that was the end of that. And I’m sorry I wasted ten years with those people [i.e. the Estefans]."

In the same article, Francis revealed that entertainer Dolly Parton had been contacting her for years trying to produce her life story, but due to her previous commitment to Estefan's organization, she was not able to accept Parton's offer. She noted in the article that both she and Parton had considered, independently of one-another, actress Valerie Bertinelli to play Francis.


Complete list of Connie Francis' songs Here