A couple of years ago I wrote about how much I’d enjoyed seeing Jersey Boys, the musical based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I was thinking about that as I put together today’s piece, because Valli and singer/songwriter Lou Christie have some things in common, even if Christie had far fewer big hits — “Lightnin’ Strikes” was his only Number One.
Both were Italian-Americans (Christie was born Luigi Alfredo Giovanni Sacco) who first rose to fame back in the 1960s, and both have had long careers that continue even now. But the biggest similarity might be their ability to break into a distinctive falsetto singing voice in many of their most memorable songs. In fact, some called Christie an imitator earlier in his career, but with the passage of time he has come into his own.
Christie grew up in the Pittsburgh area, where he began aiming for a musical career while still in high school in the late 1950s. After school he continued to work with local singing groups, but eventually began spending time in New York too, gaining experience where he could. He was also spending a lot of time with songwriter Twyla Herbert, forging what would be a lifelong collaboration and friendship. He managed to cut a few records along the way, scoring a minor hit with “The Gypsy Cried” in late 1962, although the record also forced him into a new stage name – Lou Christie – a mistake by the record company that annoyed him for years.
Quickly following up on his good start, “Two Faces Have I” became his first Top Ten hit, but his career was put on hold for two years when he was drafted into the Army. However, Christie came back with a roar, hitting the top of the charts with what would be his biggest hit, “Lightnin’ Strikes.” It was followed in rapid succession by several good-selling records, including his controversial “Rhapsody in the Rain,” which featured a sexual theme that was bold for the era.
Christie continued to find success for the rest of the decade, with “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” managing to make it into the Top Ten, but in subsequent years things slowed down a little. He continued to make good records and entertain for many years, and even after undergoing rehab and dropping out of music for a while, he found his way back and is even now still entertaining his fans.