Born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, December 12, 1938, in Newark, NJ; daughter of George (a former dockworker and roofer who became one of her managers) and Ida (a homemaker; maiden name, Ferrara) Franconero; married and divorced four times; children: Joey. Education: Attended New York University, 1957. Sang and played accordion at school, church, and community events as a child; appeared on Arthur Godfrey's national television show Talent Scouts, 1950; weekly performer on youth-oriented television variety program Startime, 1950-54; sang in clubs and lounges during school vacations; signed first recording contract with MGM, 1955; international club and concert entertainer, 1958--; film actress, 1960-65; frequent television guest performer; vocalist on motion picture soundtracks and in television commercials. Film appearances include Where the Boys Are, 1960; Follow the Boys, 1963; Looking for Love, 1964; and When the Boys Meet the Girls, 1965. Addresses: Home-- Verona, NJ. Booking agent-- British and International Artists, 276 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02172.

Pop singer Connie Francis was America's top-selling female recording artist during the late 1950s and early '60s. Between 1958 and 1964 she recorded more than 50 chart singles, including "Who's Sorry Now," "My Happiness," and "Everybody's Somebody's Fool." The diminutive young singer with the big, clear voice became a teenage idol, lending her name to sweaters, charm bracelets, diaries, and other adolescent essentials; by the time she was 22 her appeal had extended to films, where she starred in such young-adult favorites as Where the Boys Are and When the Boys Meet the Girls. Of the former, however, Francis revealed to People in 1992, "I hated Where the Boys Are. I didn't like the way I looked. I didn't like the way I acted."

Tragically, like her prodigious success, Francis's decline was dramatic and profound, marked by a descent into mental illness that began when she was raped in a Westbury, New York, hotel room in 1974. Performing sporadically after that, the entertainer spent the ensuing years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, teetering precariously between wellness and crippling relapse. It is was not until the early 1990s that Francis reclaimed her health and returned to singing. Talking to Kathryn Casey in the Ladies' Home Journal, she revealed that performing, in fact, may be her best medicine: "I relax only when I'm in front of an audience," she related. "It's the only time I really know who Connie Francis is."

Francis was born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero in 1938, the only daughter of an Italian-American working-class couple. Her father was a natural entertainer who loved playing his concertina at gatherings; he consigned his unfulfilled career ambitions to his daughter early, sending her to music school for accordion lessons by the time she was three years old. Concetta's strong, tuneful voice showed even more promise, and her father sought out every opportunity--lodge celebrations, community events, church socials--for his daughter to perform.

By 1950 the young singer and accordionist had won first place on Arthur Godfrey's national television show Talent Scouts --it was Godfrey who suggested she change her name to Connie Francis--and that year she also became a weekly performer on Startime, a youth-oriented television variety program. There she remained for four years, becoming a veteran television performer; still, by the time she was 16 her managers knew that her days as a youth entertainer were numbered. So, with the help of a forged identity card, Francis began to sing at clubs and lounges and made a number of demo tapes in hopes of landing a recording contract.

MGM Records signed Francis in 1955. During the next two years she recorded ten singles that went nowhere; these, along with her failed auditions for radio and television shows and stage musicals, convinced the teenager to abandon performing and accept a scholarship in radio and television production offered by New York University. With one disc left on her MGM agreement, Francis recorded "Who's Sorry Now," a 1923 favorite of her father's--backed, this time, with a gentle rock and roll beat. The single was a blockbuster hit, a million-dollar seller; after "Who's Sorry" it seemed that every song Francis touched turned to gold.

Over the next six years the singer had 35 Top 40 hits (numbers surpassed at that time only by soul legend Aretha Franklin), including "Lipstick on Your Collar," "Mama," "Frankie," and "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own." While several of these hits were uptempo revivals of pop standards from her father's generation--"Among My Souvenirs" and "Together," for example, were written in 1928--others came from contemporary young songwriters like Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield.

In great demand as a concert and television performer, Francis began to appear at major clubs across the country, had her own one-hour television special, and even wrote an advice book for her legions of teenage fans. The singer was also enormously popular abroad, particularly in Italy and Spain, where she recorded in the native languages. Ethnic collections like Connie Francis Sings Italian Favorites, Connie Francis Sings Spanish and Latin American Favorites, and Connie Francis Sings Jewish Favorites were among her most successful albums.

With the arrival of the Beatles, in 1964, Francis's star dimmed, her conversational, pseudo-rock and roll style yielding to different tastes. Still, she retained a large following and continued to perform and record well into the 1970s. After appearing at the Westbury Music Fair in New York on November 8, 1974, Francis was robbed and raped at knife point in her hotel room and left tied to a chair under a pile of mattresses. While her attacker was never found, the singer won a $2.5 million settlement in a suit charging the hotel with negligence.

Afraid to leave her home after the trauma, Francis grew despondent. In 1977 plastic surgery to reshape her nose temporarily damaged her voice, adding to her despair. After her younger brother, a lawyer, was killed in a mafia-style slaying in 1981, the singer's equilibrium began to seriously waver. Francis's several failed marriages, two miscarriages, stormy relationship with her domineering father, and the pressures of stardom heaped on her since childhood weighed heavily on her.

Francis enjoyed a comeback in 1981, but this upturn would go unfulfilled; her father committed her to a psychiatric hospital, against her will, in 1983. The singer was diagnosed as manic-depressive, but once released, failed to regularly take the medication prescribed to correct this chemical imbalance. Throughout the 1980s Francis's life was plagued by stormy highs and abysmal lows: She was arrested for punching her hairdresser, refusing to extinguish a cigarette while on a refueling jet, and threatening a police officer with a broken glass; she attempted suicide by swallowing a handful of sleeping pills, underwent shock treatments for depression, and suffered from paranoid delusions. Francis confided to Ladies' Home Journal' s Casey that, at one time, she even thought she was the target of a White House plot or that she was the Holy Spirit. Finally, a new drug therapy--and the singer's long-overdue realization of the essentiality of her medication--set her on the road to recovery.

Back on the singing circuit, Francis once again performed before capacity crowds, her audiences filled with middle-aged fans who had not forgotten their former favorite. With her act delivering a generous dose of hit songs from the past, Francis and her followers--at least for a short while--glady relived memories of more carefree times.

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Connie Francis's Career

Connie Francis's Awards

Named best female singer of the year four times by television program American Bandstand; Exhibitor magazine Laurel Award as best newcomer in film, 1960, for Where the Boys Are; numerous gold albums and platinum singles.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Books

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 7 years ago

Connie I went to Bergan St School with you and Arts High Newark N.J Do you remember baby sitting for Phyllis Lynch in Newark? I am a food contractor area manager at Fort Dix N.J how the guys here would love to see you and myself of course I hope you get to read this somehow. I am playing your Xmas album at this very minute you are the best.

almost 7 years ago

Connie I went to BergenSt School Newark N.J you where great playing the accordian and singing Also at Arts High. I am your age and work as a food contracter area manager at Fort Dix n.j. How I would love to see & talk to you again. Do you remember Phllis Lynch You used to baby sit for her in Newark. If you ever could get to Fort Dix the guys would love it and of course me to.

over 7 years ago

Hey Connie, I bet a niger did you in the azz, and you liked it when he made you eat the come off his dic. Thats the way it was huh?

over 7 years ago

Connie, you truly are and always have been my very favorite singer. I've always wanted to write a fan letter to you, and regret I didn't, so I'm very happy to have this opportunity to express my feelings on this forum. Listening to your superbly beautiful recordings have always brought both tears and smiles to me. In 2007 I was blessed to see you perform again and blessed also to meet you at a performance you gave at the Majestic Theater in Boston. It was a night I'll never forget. May God bless you with continued health and happiness. You are loved not only for the beautiful music you make but also for the dear, courageous person you are.

over 8 years ago

Connie, when I graduated from high school in 1959, you were at the top of the record charts. I have loved you ever since and have collected all your 45 rpms. You are truly one of the world's great artist and I thank God for you. I hope that some day I will have the privilaged to see you. Take care and you have many fans out there. Ray Garcia

over 8 years ago

Connie, I remember you when you were a STAR. You sang beautiful looked great and we loved all your songs, this was in the late 60's on to about that time when you experienced the hotel horror. You were never the same after this, but you remained in our hearts and on records for ever. Love you always, stay nice. and don't give up.

over 8 years ago

Connie, I just saw you at the Arcada in St. Charles, IL on Fri. 3/20/09. What a wonderful evening! You put on a fantastic show!! I was one of the fortunate people that got to see you off-stage after the show where you signed the 3 record albums that I brought with me. You referred to me and my 2 friends as the "Andrew Sisters". We had a good laugh over that. We had a grand time singing and clapping along to the music that brought back many great memories. Can't wait to see you again when you're in the Chicago area. The very best to you!!

almost 9 years ago

Connie Francis. In her heyday On an average day She entertained us With a singing voice In volume and In soul-caressing tenderness In pitch and tonal range, And harmonies of endless depth Beyond the dreams Of any songstress Of her century; In her heyday On an average day. At her divinely best, Perhaps some deity or angel Might have bested her. We'll never know Because no one Was confident enough To dare.

almost 9 years ago

Good to read "Azra`s" comments. The pop world was far too narrow for a voice of such power,precision,range and depth. We won`t hear the equivalent today,because there isn`t one. 70 tomorrow. She has brought great pleasure to so many. I hope that she knows how much she is still appreciated.

almost 9 years ago

Happy birthday, Connie.

about 9 years ago

I'm an Australian. and have been a huge fan of Connie's Since i was about 12 yrs of age. I Hope someday again Connie will tour Australia. Gregory Williams

about 9 years ago

Dawn, I have a copy of "Who's Sorry Now?" Has an introduction by Dick Clark. St. Martin's Press. New York. Happy 70th birthday to Connie. Is it appropriate for me to put on this site a poem I wrote about Connie?

about 9 years ago

I am a retired teacher of Speech and Voice. I taught Voice for 46 years through the use of electronics and anatomy. Believe me when I say that Connie Francis was the greatest pop singer of the twentieth century. She had the most flexible and balanced voice, and she used it fully, healthily and imaginatively as no other vocalist of her time. Nana Mouskouri is the only singer who, at times, equals Connie in high voice quality and singing applications.

over 9 years ago

Thank you for the great information on Connie, she certainly is an amazing woman, who underwent extreme traumas to her life. I am actually reading a very old Biography actually written by Connie that has been lent to me by a friend and was wondering if there might be a possibility of acquiring a copy of my own. The book is called Who's sorry now and printed by St Marins Press 1984.