Al Martino, (Born Alfred Cini) died in October of 2009. Martino played the Sinatra like character Johnny Fontane in the film series, The Godfather. Martino arrived on the music scene in the 1950s and hit his stride in the 1960s with the song Spanish Eyes.
His Italian immigrant parents ran a masonry business, and he worked alongside his brothers as a bricklayer while growing up.However, he was more interested in music, and was inspired by Al Jolson and Perry Como to try his own hand at singing. When his boyhood friend Alfredo Cocozza changed his name to Mario Lanza and became an international opera star, the possibility of a career in music suddenly seemed plausible
After service with the United States Navy in World War II, including being a part of the Iwo Jima invasion where he was wounded, he commenced his singing career. Adopting the stage name Al Martino (after his maternal grandfather's last name), he performed in local nightclubs for a time, and moved to New York in 1948 with Lanza's encouragement. He went on to win first place on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television program, thanks to a rendition of Como's "If," and that exposure helped him land a recording contract with the Philadelphia based independent label, BBS
His single "Here in My Heart" 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 United Kingdom, setting up a record for the longest consecutive run at number one, which over half a century on, has only been beaten by four other tracks ("I Believe" (11 weeks), "Cara Mia", "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" and "Love Is All Around
Martino has stated that Mario Lanza dropped his plans to record this song after he called Lanza in Los Angeles, California and explained that his own recording would be neglected if he did so.
A transatlantic chart-topper, "Here in My Heart" earned Martino a gold disc. Its success secured Martino a record label 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, Martino's contract was taken over by a Mafia connected management team, which ordered Martino to pay $75,000, as a safeguard for their investment. Martino made a down payment to ensure his family's safety, then fled to the United Kingdom where his popularity allowed him to perform successfully for a time, headlining at the London Palladium. He continued to record in the UK with moderate success, but his work received no exposure back in the U.S. In 1958, thanks to the intervention of a family friend, Martino was allowed to return home and resume his recording career
Martino faced an uphill battle re-establishing himself, especially with the counteracting arrival of rock and roll. He recorded for 20th Century Fox during the late 1950s, but the label ended up dropping him. A new album, The Exciting Voice of Al Martino (1962) secured a new deal with Capitol, and was followed by a mostly Italian language album, The Italian Voice of Al Martino. He also made several high-profile television appearances to re-establish his visibility.
He scored a major comeback hit with 1963's "I Love You Because." Arranged by Belford Hendricks, Martino's cover version went to number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and number one on the corresponding Easy Listening chart. The accompanying album of the same name went Top 10 in the Billboard 200, and Martino remained a regular visitor to the charts for over a decade afterwards, with hits including "Painted, Tainted Rose" (1963) plus "Always Together," "I Love You More and More Every Day", "Tears and Roses" and "We Could" (all 1964).
One of the most successful Martino hits was "Spanish Eyes", achieving several gold and platinum discs for sales. Recorded in 1965, the song reached number 5 on the UK Singles Chart when re-issued in 1973. Even today, this classic by composer Bert Kaempfert (his original title for the song was "Moon Over Naples") is among the 50 most-played songs worldwide. Another 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 Ten in Spain, The Netherlands and France, as well as in many other European countries.
In the U.S., Martino had eleven Top 40 hits in the Billboard pop singles chart in the 1960s and 1970s, with 1963's "I Love You Because" (#3) and 1964's "I Love You More and More Every Day" (#9) both reaching the Top Ten. He also sang the title song for the film, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).
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 (Love Theme from The Godfather).
He played the same role in The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III, as well as The Godfather Trilogy: 1901-1980. Martino died on October 13, 2009 at his childhood home in Springfield, Pennsylvania, 6 days after his 82nd birthday.