"He made you uncontrolably SMILE"
"Tino" Rossi (who had lyrical subtleties in common with the great tenors) was a product of the time-honored Corsican-tradition of the itinerant troubadour.
Constantin Rossi was born in Ajaccio, into a large Roman-Catholic family which for generations prior, lived-on the west coast of the island of Corsica, on 29 April 1907, at 43 de la rue Fesch. His parents, Eugénie and Laurent, had a total of eight children; so, Constantin – known as "Tintin" – spent most of his childhood growing up with three brothers and four sisters. Constantin’s father worked as a tailor and fervently hoped that young "Tino" would go on to run the family business one day. But from an early age, "Tino" had other things on his mind: Young "Tino", as passionate music fan, and edged-on by his mother, was inspired by what he heard at the local opera house. Rossi developed his remarkably attractive voice by singing in his local Parish Church, l’eglise Saint-Roch d’Ajaccio.
In his late teens Tino went off to live on the French Riviera, chanting while accompanying himself on the guitar in the cafes and bistros of Ajaccio, Aix-en-Provence and Marseilles, where he enjoyed great success performing at amateur singing contests. Meanwhile, he earned a living working for a mortgage company in Nice.
While yet a teenager, in Marseilles, Constantine Rossi eloped with a Bohemian violinist, Annie (a few years his senior) and had a daughter, Pierette. His loving father, Laurent Rossi, came to his rescue, clearing him of the marriage, and sending him to St. Michael’s military academy on the Continent in Provance. After graduation, Tino moved back to Corsica where his parents got him a job working as a money changer in Ajaccio Casino.
"Tino" was still gripped by the music bug, however, and before long he was making his way back across the Mediterranean to try his luck in Marseilles; and, in the company of a male companion (just like in his early movies) but with his dear father always nearby, Tino spent several months meandering along the coast between Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence, he finally landed a job in Aix Casino, working as a money changer. It was at this stage of his life, around 1929, that "Tino" got his first major break. A local tour manager by the name of P’tit Louis happened to see "Tino" performing in concert ["au caf’conc" à Aix-en provence] one night. And, greatly impressed by the singer’s vocal talent, his natural stage charisma and his winning ways with female fans, promptly signed him up to do a series of galas in the region.
Tino’s fame rapidly spread beyond the Southern French-Mediterranean coast. Gaining fame, but not wealth, his father encouraged him to make an amateur recording at a local public street-side shop. God blessed him abundantly: Tino went into Parlophone’s Paris studio in 1932, He made his first audio-recordings in 1932 for the Parlophone Label in Paris and released a debut 78rpm, featuring "O Ciuciarella" and "Ninni Nanna", a few months later. The record failed to make any great commercial impact; but in Paris he received unprecedented acclaim after an engagement at the Theatre des Varities in 1933. Then, he soon scored a spot at the Alcazar in Marseilles (a venue renowned as a vital launchpad for new talents in the South of France). After bringing the house down á l’Alcazar de Marseille, Tino went on to perform a series of concerts with Berthe Sylva….History reveals the rest: In 1933 Columbia offered Tino a major recording contract. Rossi made the first of hundreds of phonograph recordings for the Columbia Label in 1934. The he made a few appearances on the silver screen. But it was in the music hall that Tino found real stardom.
Tino played a major role in the Casino de Paris’s new revue "Tout Paris chante". In fact, by this stage of his career, offers to perform in leading reviews and musicals were literally flooding in. There was no doubt about it, by the mid-30s Tino Rossi had become a headlining star and it came as no surprise to anyone when he sold a staggering 500,000 copies of his hit "Adieu Hawaï". As radio sets invaded French homes throughout the 30s, bringing singers into direct contact with national audiences, Tino’s record sales increased hand in hand with his fame.
Tino performed at the legendary ABC in 1934 and when Henri Varna, director of the Casino de Paris, created his famous revue "La Parade de France" (a show based on regional music), Tino was the obvious choice to represent Corsica. Choosing to perform a series of songs written by the Provençal author Vincent Scotto, Tino brought the house down when he performed at the première on 14 October 1934, receiving a rousing standing ovation from the audience. Tino’s return to his Corsican roots proved highly popular with French audiences and his success in "La Parade de France" was swiftly followed by tours with Gilles et Julien and the famous 30s diva Damia.
In 1936, Tino went on to star in Pierre Caron’s "Marinella", a musical film which was written specifically for him. Needless to say, the theme song from the film proved a great hit and in 1937 Tino scored another huge hit with "Naples au baiser de feu", the theme song from Augusto Genina’s film of the same name, in which he starred opposite Viviane Romance and Mireille Balin. With co-star Mireille Balin, in 1938, amidst a blaze of media publicity, Tino and Mirelle climbed aboard the French liner Normandie and set sail for the United States. Tino’s concert tour of the States and Canada proved a huge success; and, his single "Vieni Vieni" soon went rocketing to the top of the American charts – where it stayed for no less than 28 weeks!
Briefly in 1940, Tino Rossi joined the Corsican Resistance; but was basicly unscathed by the Second World War. Returning to Cinema, in 1941, Tino starred in Jean Delannoy’s film "Fièvres".
From "Wikipedia", one can learn of a war-secret not readily publicized while he was alive:"…At the Liberation, the French authorities reproached him for associating with the French Gestapo, but most importantly for actively supporting collaborationist causes such as the LVF (Légion des Volontaires Français) who sent French volunteers to work in German factories. He was arrested in October 1944 and spent three weeks in Fresnesprison (near Paris). Following a trial in 1945, his sentence was relatively light. Unlike his fellow entertainers Arletty, Mireille Balin, Josseline Gaël and Robert Le Vigan), Rossi received a retrospective and largely symbolic work suspension…."
Echoing in real life the film, "Fievres", Tino remained religiously celebate until he married actress Lilia Vetti in 1947 (well after she played a naked swamp-vamp in "Le Gardien" in May 1946, even though he "fell instanly in-love with her" in 1943) which produced a son, (Laurent*/ "Pupe" in May 1948); and which romatically lasted until Tino’s untimely and painful death.
Between Tino’s hectic filming and touring schedule, Rossi somehow managed to find time to flit in and out of the recording studio. As a family man, "Tino" returned to his native Corsica to make their home, "Le Scudo" on the island of Sanguinaira just-off the coast of Ajaccio; still flying frequently to the Continent to make many, many live appearances and innumerable pathé-EMI recordings…many times with his young son! (The property of "Le Scudo, had an older house on it which Tino demolished and bult a modern "dream bungalo" with a pool and a cave. It was his "luck" to have, in 1950 prior, met up with a circus-propriator through which he acquiscesed the property.) To have a beautiful home, a lovely wife, an affectionate dog, and a son is all he desired now in life!
In fact, over the years he built up an extensive repertoire, recording everything from romantic ballads, opera arias, classic songs, tangos and serenades to South American and Corsican classics. He made his last screen appearance in 1970 in "l’Ane de Zigliara". The singer remained a popular face on television, though, regularly appearing on French variety shows. But in 1976 he delighted fans by performing a special series of concerts in the Jean-Richard Big Top in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. He was invited to the grotto of Lourdes, which he visited many times; making there special recordings at the Sacred grove in honor of St. Bernadette.
At the age of 75 Tino soldiered back on stage at the Casino de Paris, celebrating 50 years in the music business with a series of farewell concerts. Tino’s farewell concerts lasted a full three months – and each night the Casino de Paris was packed to full capacity! Tino actually went on to sign a new 5-year recording contract with Pathé Marconi….His career spanned fifty years, included countless appearances on radio and television, and no less than 28+ cinematic-films. Indeed it was as a screen-idol that Tino Rossi achieved his most popular successes.
In 1982, for his contribution to France and its culture, President François Mitterrand named Tino Rossi a Commander of the Legion of Honor. At Nogent-sur-Marne, on the River Marne in Paris, there is a square named Tino Rossi Square. Also in L’Isle Rousse/Isula Rossa [Haute-Corse] there is a "Tino Rossi Square"!
Tino Rossi was awarded the Corsican French Legion of Honor as well. A street, plaza, and a large-port in Ajaccio was named after Tino Rossi.
Tino Rossi also piloted his own personal bateau/yacht, Le Tilipou, (being spotted commonly on the streets of Ajaccio); and when time permitted him to travel more relaxed to the French-coast.
In my opinion, Tino Rossi’s voice came into "full bloom" in the late 1960’s. He always had a most admirable and pleasant voice; and the tonal qualities changed very obviously in four distinct periods:
1) as a young man (1932-1945) [high and sweet],
2) as a fully developed artist (1945-1960) [a well defined, "lovely" "pop" tenor],
3) as a resounding, striking and extremely beautiful instrument fully matured at its peak [particularly in the late 1960’s, i.e. "Il fait Croire", "Merci Cherie"],
4) a deeper, less steady voice of aging..almost a baritone [particularly 1977- to his departure].
The great singing and incredible artistry of
the late Tino Rossi: most people do not understand! all they hear was a pretty voice!
Still, he was far more….
Tino Rossi had an uncanny sense of phrasing, rhythm, and a depth of
character. His pitch was perfect. He did not resort to efemishes (as many
tenors did, consisting of sobbing and italian accesses; or even French
accesses as today’s Fouchécourt, etc.).
He exuberated a grace very rarely seen upon stage. And listening to Tino Rossi, made you always happy with an uncontrolable smile!
His acting was insightful as well (remember "Deux Amours") and believable
("Le Fièvre")….And his personal morality remains beyond question….
"Tino" Rossi died at a hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine,
Nice, on the night of 26/27 September 1983 while being treated for pancreatic-cancer.
His funeral procession, to the consecrated family plot at the "Ancienne Cemetatire" on the isle of Sanguinara di Ajaccio, was one of the biggest ever recorded in all history…. Indeed, he was truly the second most widely recognized Corsican in history, only following Napoleaon Boneparte.
*: named after his father whom he loved dearly….