Singer Al Martino dies at 82

Played Johnny Fontane  in the 'Godfather' films

Al Martino, a crooner who had several pop hits spanning more than 20 years and played Johnny Fontane in the "Godfather" trilogy, died Tuesday at his childhood home in Springfield, Pa. He was 82.

He was born Alfred Cini on Oct. 7, 1927, in South Philadelphia. Encouraged by his boyhood friend Mario Lanza, Martino began his singing career in the late 1940s. In 1952, he landed the U.K.'s first No. 1 single with "Here in My Heart"; the song took the top spot in the first issue of New Musical Express and stayed there for nine weeks. That run at No. 1 has been topped only four times since.

He performed the song for Queen Elizabeth at the London Palladium that year, and a family spokesman said the singer planned to return for an anniversary performance at the Palladium next year.

Martino had a run of chart singles through 1953, but his career stalled with the advent of rock 'n' roll. He caught fire again in 1963 with the Top 5 hit "I Love You Because"; it was the first of six consecutive top 40 singles in less than two years, including "I Love You More and More Every Day," peaked at No. 9 in 1964.

The string of hits propelled a pair of Martino's albums -- "I Love You Because" and "Painted, Tainted Rose" -- into the U.S. top 10 in 1963. He also scored a top-10 disc with "A Merry Christmas," which made Billboard's holiday chart for four consecutive years. His last top 10 album was "Spanish Eyes" in 1966, his only RIAA-certified gold record.

The Italian-American Martino continued to hit the pop charts through the mid-'70s, reaching the top 20 with "To the Door of the Sun (Alle Porte del Sole)" in 1974. But a new audience got to know him as Don Vito Corleone's godson Johnny Fontane, the coddled -- and connected -- heartthrob singer and would-be actor in the best picture Oscar winners "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather Part II" (1974). He sang "I Have but One Heart (O Marenariello)" during the first film's wedding scene and on its score album "The Love Theme From 'The Godfather.' " He reprised the role in 1990's "The Godfather Part III."

A longtime resident of Beverly Hills, Martino is survived by his wife, Judi; a daughter, Allison; a son, Alfred; a brother, Frank; two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Services are pending.
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