Frankie Valli – Still Going Strong
An old rocker with a legendary falsetto is outranking stars nearly half his age on the Billboard charts for highest concert grosses.
At 77, Frankie Valli is raking in millions from the nightly showings of the Tony-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boy, the story of how he and the Four Seasons took doo-wop sound from a street corner in Newark, N.J., in the ’60s to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Showing nightly in London, Las Vegas and numerous smaller regional towns across the US and the world – it’s recently finished very successful seasons in Australia and New Zealand – Jersey Boys makes good use of his hits – songs like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “Grease” in a show that even appeals to all kids young enough to be his grandchildren.
Rags To Riches Story
Jersey Boys traces the rags to riches – and back to rags again – journey People magazine describes as “outrageously good fortune and unbearable tragedy” which has left him with a very down-to-earth take on life.
According to the magazine, despite the millions made and his renewed popularity, Valli still happily eats at diners, cooks himself pasta dinners and raids the sale racks at Emporio Armani, H&M and Diesel.
“I’ve been up and down many times and worked my way through everything,” he says. “If it all went away tomorrow, I can go live a normal life.”
Feet On The Ground
Valli grew up in the projects of Newark, but saw a way out early on, when his mom took him to see Frank Sinatra at around age 6.
At the height of the Four Seasons’ fame in the 1960s, women followed Valli wherever he performed. On a whim he could ring up the Beatles to hang out in their hotel room in Italy. Frank Sinatra, who called Valli “Cheech,” would send his Lear jet for the Four Seasons when he wanted company, and he taught Valli breathing techniques to protect his voice after vocal cord surgery in the late ’60s.
Valli’s now in the midst of a divorce from his third wife, Randy, with whom he has three sons and to whom he was married for 27 years. His years on the road were hard on family life; he once described the road as “his mistress, you have to be dedicated about it to keep going.”
“This was a tough breakup because of the boys,” says pal Stewie Stone. “It’s tough when you have kids and they’re not in the house anymore. You don’t hear that noise.”
While Valli is protective of his personal life, he says, “I really don’t know why it didn’t work out. People don’t get married to get divorced. Maybe people weren’t meant to be together forever.”
The marriage may not have endured, but his commitment as a father certainly has. Jersey Boys tells the heart wrenching story of the death of his daughter Francine from a drug overdose, with Valli feeling guilty because his career took him on the road away from home so much.
These days he tries to keep his family close: “It’s unconditional love with your kids,” Valli says.
He tries to make sure his three sons (Francesco, 20, a college student, and 13-year-old twins Emilio and Brando) feel free to “express themselves with me.”
His twins, who play guitar and drums and dig Dad’s Led Zeppelin albums, soak it all up when they’re on the road with him. “He’s a great father,” says composer and business partner Bob Gaudio. “He loves kids and gets right into their world with them. It’s fun to watch.”
Cooking Up New Projects
Today Valli has a home in Calabasas, Calif., and an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He’s constantly cooking up new projects. Work on a Jersey Boys movie starts next year. He’s planning a line of Italian sauces.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he told the New York Times. “With all the ups and downs, all the disappointments, all the accolades that come with success, I wouldn’t change it for anything. To get out onstage and watch people get happy and appreciate what you’re doing? That’s like being touched by God to do something very special. It’s really nice.”