The song spent three weeks at No. 1 on the US pop charts in June 1952, earning Martino a gold disc and later in the year, also reached the top of the UK charts. It was number one in the first UK Singles chart, published by the New Musical Express on November 14, 1952, putting him into the Guinness Book of World Records.
“Here in My Heart” remained in the top position for nine weeks in the UK, a record for the longest consecutive run at number one, that has only since been beaten by five other songs.
The record’s success led to a deal with Capitol Records, and he released three more singles: “Take My Heart”, “Rachel”, and “When You’re Mine” through 1953, all of which hit the U.S. top 40. However, his success also attracted the attention of the Mafia, which bought out Martino’s management contract and ordered him to pay $75,000 as a safeguard for their investment.
After making a down-payment to appease them, he moved to Britain. His popularity allowed him to continue to perform and record successfully in the UK, headlining at the London Palladium and having six further British chart hits in the period up to 1955, including “Now” and “Wanted”.
However, his work received no exposure back in the US. In 1958, thanks to the intervention of a family friend, Martino was allowed to return to the U.S. and resume his recording career, but he faced difficulties in re-establishing himself, especially with the arrival of rock and roll. In 1959, Martino signed with 20th Fox Records; his deal scored him two albums and four singles released, none of which was a major hit.
The success of his 1962 album The Exciting Voice of Al Martino secured him a new contract with Capitol, and was followed by a mostly Italian-language album, The Italian Voice of Al Martino, which featured his version of the then internationally popular song “Al Di Là”. He also made several high-profile television appearances, helping to re-establish his visibility.
In 1963, he had his biggest U.S. chart success with “I Love You Because”, a cover of Leon Payne’s 1950 country music hit. Arranged by Belford Hendricks, Martino’s version went to number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and number one on the Easy Listening chart.
The album of the same name went top 10 in the Billboard 200. Martino had four other U.S. top 10 hits in 1963 and 1964 – “Painted, Tainted Rose” (1963), “I Love You More and More Every Day”, “Tears and Roses”, and “Silver Bells” (all 1964).
He also sang the title song for the 1964 film, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. One of his biggest hits was “Spanish Eyes”, achieving several gold and platinum discs for sales.
Recorded in 1965, the song reached number five on the UK Singles chart when reissued in 1973. The song, with a tune by Bert Kaempfert originally titled “Moon Over Naples”, is among the 50 most-played songs worldwide.
In the mid- to late 1960s, the Martino family lived in this house on the corner of Laurel Place and Belmont Drive in Cherry Hill Estates, New Jersey, just down the street from Frankie Avalon.
Martino’s run of chart success faded after the mid-1960s, although many of his records continued to reach the U.S. Hot 100.
Another later hit was a disco version of “Volare”, (also known as “Nel blu, Dipinto di Blu”). In 1976, it reached number one on the Italian and Flemish charts, and was in the top 10 in Spain, the Netherlands, and France, as well as in many other European countries.
In 1993, Martino recorded a new studio album with German producer Dieter Bohlen (former member of pop duo Modern Talking, producer of international artists such as Chris Norman of Smokie, Bonnie Tyler, Dionne Warwick, Engelbert or Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate).
The single “Spanish Ballerina” (written in Bohlen’s europop sound) reached number 93 in the German single charts.
Apart from singing, Martino played the role of Johnny Fontane in the 1972 film The Godfather, as well as singing the film’s theme, “Speak Softly Love”. He played the same role in The Godfather Part III and The Godfather Trilogy: 1901–1980. He later returned to acting, playing aging crooner Sal Stevens in the short film Cutout, appearing in film festivals around the world in 2006.
Martino was married to Judi. He had three children, Alison Martino, Alfred Cini, and Alana Cini; and several grandchildren.
Daughter Alison Martino is a writer and television producer of such programs as Mysteries and Scandals and Headliners and Legends.
Martino also writes for Los Angeles. Martino is an amateur historian, who launched the organization Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. Vintage Los Angeles is a tribute to the Los Angeles of yore, which has about 250,000 followers on Facebook.
Martino died from a heart attack on October 13, 2009 at his childhood home in Springfield, Pennsylvania, six days after his 82nd birthday. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Awards and honors
2009 — inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
The Godfather (1972) – Johnny Fontane
The Godfather Part III (1990) – Johnny Fontane
1959: Al Martino
1960: Swing Along With Al Martino
1962: The Exciting Voice of Al Martino (U.S. No. 109)
1962: The Italian Voice of Al Martino (U.S. No. 57)
1963: I Love You Because (U.S. No. 7)
1963: Painted, Tainted Rose (U.S. No. 9)
1963: Love Notes
1964: A Merry Christmas
1964: I Love You More and More Every Day/Tears and Roses (U.S. No. 31)
1964: Living a Lie (U.S. No. 13)
1965: My Cherie (U.S. No. 19)
1965: Somebody Else is Taking My Place (U.S. No. 42)
1965: We Could (U.S. No. 41)
1966: Spanish Eyes (U.S. No. 8)
1966: Think I’ll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep (U.S. No. 116)
1966: This is Love (U.S. No. 57)
1967: Daddy’s Little Girl (U.S. No. 23)
1967: This Love for You (U.S. No. 99)
1967: Mary in the Morning (U.S. No. 63)
1968: Love is Blue (U.S. No. 56)
1968: This is Al Martino (U.S. No. 129)
1969: Jean (U.S. No. 196)
1969: Sausalito (U.S. No. 189)
1970: Can’t Help Falling in Love (U.S. No. 184)
1970: My Heart Sings (U.S. No. 172)
1972: Love Theme from ‘The Godfather’ (U.S. No. 138)
1975: To the Door of the Sun (U.S. No. 129)
1976: In Concert: Recorded With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (live)
1976: Sing My Love Songs
1977: Time after time
1978: Al Martino Sings
1978: Al Martino
1982: All of Me
1993: The Voice to Your Heart; produced by Dieter Bohlen in Germany
2006: Come Share the Wine
2011: Thank You
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