Singer Perry Como dead at 88
JUPITER INLET BEACH COLONY, Florida (CNN) -- Singer Perry Como, best known for his hit Christmas television specials and albums, died Saturday at his home, according to the co-host of his weekly radio program.
John Knox, who hosted "Weekend with Perry" with the singer, said Como died in his sleep. He was 88 years old, and would have turned 89 May 18.
Knox said Como's health had been failing in recent years, especially after the death of his wife, Roselle, three years ago.
Como was born in 1912 in the steel town of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and first worked in a barber shop. Como left the barber job to sing with big bands in the 1930s and his songs were a mainstay of radio and jukeboxes in the late 1940s.
Como helped pioneer variety shows on the new medium of television in the 1950s and performed on television specials during the past four decades. His music remained popular in recent years on easy-listening radio.
His television career spanned 20 years. He had 14 singles that made it to No. 1 and sold more than 100 million albums. He had more than 20 gold records in his career, and was probably best known for the tune "And I Love You So."
In 1958, Como won a Grammy Award as best male singer for the hit "Catch a Falling Star."
While Como emulated singer Bing Crosby in his early years, some of his best-known numbers were light novelty songs like "Hot Diggity" and "Papa Loves Mambo." Como often said he preferred singing romantic ballads, but the novelty songs were a frequent audience request.
"They get tired of hearing `Melancholy Baby' and those mushy things," Como told The Associated Press in a 1994 interview. "But those are the songs that, as a singer, you love to sing."
Some music experts say Como, with his naturally melodic baritone voice, might have carved a deeper niche if he had taken firmer control of his material.
Will Friedwald, author of "Jazz Singing" and an expert of music from Como's era, once told the AP that Como was "a marvelous singer" who "seemed to do everything they put in front of him."
For the past 12 years, Como co-hosted the syndicated weekly radio program, either by person or by phone. Knox said he would continue to do the show, without the singer, because the public interest was still there.
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