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Jimmy Roselli

Jimmy Roselli

American singer
Jimmy Roselli
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American singer
Was Singer
From United States of America
Type Music
Gender male
Birth 26 December 1925, Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey, USA
Death 30 June 2011, Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida, USA (aged 85 years)
Star sign Capricorn
Traditional pop music
The details


Michael John "Jimmy" Roselli (December 26, 1925 – June 30, 2011) was one of the most significant Italian-American pop singers of his time, during an era of competition from such performers as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Vic Damone, Al Martino, and Jerry Vale.

Early life

Roselli was born in Hoboken, New Jersey the son of Anna Bernadette Lovella, a seamstress, and Phillip Roselli, a boxer. His mother died two days after he was born and his father abandoned him, leaving him in the care of his aunts and his widowed grandfather Michael Roselli who spoke no English. He grew up five doors down from Frank Sinatra who was ten years his senior. In 1944, Roselli joined the United States Army, serving in the 66th Infantry Division. During the war he witnessed the sinking of the SS LĂ©opoldville and served in northern France and Vienna. After the war, he returned to Hoboken where he married Angeline Giuffra and had a daughter. During this time he worked as a construction worker and a pianist. He received his first break in 1954 when Michael "Trigger Mike" Coppola arranged for him to appear with Jimmy Durante at the Boston Latin Quarter.


He had success with the song "Mala Femmena" on his first album Showcase: Jimmy Roselli. It sold over three million records in 1963. It never was a hit song for him, but is considered his signature song. His only charting pop hit was a 1967 remake of "There Must Be a Way", a song previously recorded by Joni James. In addition to reaching No. 93 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, "There Must Be a Way" was an easy-listening hit, reaching No. 13 in Billboard and No. 2 in Record World. He also had success with the song "All The Time" that same year. The song reached No. 19 on the Billboard easy listening chart. His third and last hit song was "Please Believe Me" in 1968. That song was No. 31 on the Billboard easy listening chart. Those were his only U.S. hit singles, although his version of "When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New" twice appeared in the UK Singles Chart. It peaked at number 51 in 1983, and number 52 in 1987.

At the beginning of his career, with appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, with Jimmy Durante, and at the Copacabana, critics were calling him a 'miracle'". As New York magazine states, "guys were trying to put a stranglehold on him. He pushed them all away. Although he was in good terms with a number of mob chieftains, he claimed that he had "never done business with organized criminals". In 1970, Roselli refused Joseph Colombo's offer to sing at a concert that supported the Mob-controlled Italian American Anti-Defamation League. After this incident, Roselli was blackballed from singing in clubs and venues owned or controlled by Mafia associates. At times, he was relegated to selling his music out of the trunk of his car parked in Little Italy in Manhattan (he was the founder and owner of M&R Records).

Jimmy Roselli is a favorite among Italian-Americans and his signature tune "Mala Femmina" is featured twice in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. Roselli sang in perfect Neapolitan dialect. Other Neapolitan songs recorded by Roselli include "Core 'ngrato", "Anema e core" and "Scapricciatiello". Jerry Lewis said of him that "Roselli sings as an Italian should sing".

Later, as the influence of the Mafia waned, Roselli's career experienced a resurgence. In 1989, he found success in the United Kingdom when he played a series of concerts at the London Palladium. During the 1990s, he also headlined various shows at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

He sang the title song "Who Can Say?" for the 1966 Italian documentary film Africa Addio.

A book in the late 1990s entitled Making The Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story was published by David Evanier. A film adaptation of the book is in production by Merchant Ivory.

Joseph Pistone mentioned an incident he witnessed regarding Roselli during the Feast of San Gennaro in the former FBI agent's book, Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia.


Roselli died of heart failure in 2011 at his home in Clearwater, Florida.


  • Showcase: Jimmy Roselli (1963)
  • This Heart of Mine (1964)
  • Life & Love Italian Style (1965)
  • Mala Femmena (1965)
  • The Great Ones (1965)
  • Saloon Songs (1965)
  • New York: My Port of Call (1965)
  • Right from the Heart (1965)
  • The Christmas Album (1966)
  • The Italian Album (1966)
  • Saloon Songs Vol. 2 (1967)
  • Sold Out: Carnegie Hall Concert (1967)
  • There Must Be a Way (1967)
  • Rock-a-Bye Your Baby (1968)
  • 3 A.M. (1968)
  • Core Spezzato (1969)
  • Let Me Sing and I'm Happy (1969)
  • It's Been Swell (1970)
  • Jimmy Roselli (1971)
  • Saloon Songs Vol. 3 (1971)
  • Simmo 'E Napule... Paisa (1972)


Year Single Chart positions
1963 "Mala Femmena" 135 101 -
1964 "Anema E Core" - 125 -
1965 "Just Say I Love Her" - 140 -
1966 "I'm Gonna Change Everything" - - 29
1967 "There Must Be a Way" 93 90 13
"All the Time" - 107 19
1968 "Please Believe Me" - 125 31
"'O Surdato 'Nnammurato" - 122 -
"Oh What It Seemed To Be" - 134 35
1969 "My Heart Cries For You" - 123 -
"Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell" - - 38
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 16 Jun 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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