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BMI Hitmaker Gene Pitney Dies

Posted in News on April 5, 2006
BMI songwriter Gene Pitney, who shot to fame in the 1960s with the hits "Town Without Pity" and "Only Love Can Break a Heart," died April 5 in Cardiff, Wales. The 65-year-old was in the Welsh capitol in the middle of a 23-date tour of Great Britain when he was found dead in his hotel room, which police have confirmed was from natural causes.

As a singer and performer, Pitney had a string of Top 10 hits that also included "24 Hours from Tulsa," "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance," both written by legendary songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and his first successful song, "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away." "Only Love Can Break a Heart" was his biggest U.S. hit, peaking at No. 2 in 1962.

A prolific songwriter and a multi-talented musician who also played guitar, drums and piano, Pitney wrote such memorable songs as "Rubber Ball," a Top 10 single for Bobby Vee in 1961, and the BMI Award winners "Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart" by Ricky Nelson and "He's a Rebel" by the Crystals. Roy Orbison recorded the Pitney-penned tune "Today's Teardrops" as the B-side to his million-selling single, "Blue Angel."

His 40-year career also included some success as a country singer, pairing with George Jones to record "I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night" and "Louisiana Man." He scored his first British No. 1 in 1990 with the Marc Almond duet, "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Lynne, and three sons.