The Jimmy Roselli Story
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An exasperatingly inept biography of the other Italian-American singer from Hoboken. Ten years younger than Frank Sinatra, Roselli, though enormously popular with the Italian-American community, has lived in that shadow of and—if this screed is credible—been kept from making it “big” by Sinatra and the mob. Novelist Evanier (Red Love, 1991) depends almost entirely on hearsay and the oral testimony of Roselli and some of his associates. He cites the occasional book for background, such as Richard Gambino’s Blood of My Blood, but relies heavily on newspaper accounts, concert reviews, and album liner notes. Roselli started singing in Hoboken saloons before the age of 10. Sinatra, whose family lived down the street, was “amazed at my two-octave range,” says Roselli. The two shared a stage just once, in 1937, at the dedication of a local park, when Sinatra was 22 and Roselli 12. Throughout the book, Evanier recounts slights and snubs; he reiterates Roselli’s claim that his refusal to sing at a charity benefit put on by Sinatra’s mother, Dolly, got his blackballed. There’s no documentation of this and what little corroboration he offers comes from the often inarticulate recollections of Roselli’s pals. While Evanier touts Roselli as one who defied the mob, he also outlines his career-long involvement with them (he sang at John Gotti Jr.’s wedding). Evanier recounts the singer’s hassles with everyone from Ed Sullivan to Merv Griffin to New York’s WNEW, the radio station that “yanked” his records at the behest of either Sinatra or the Gambino family. At the same time that he presents this as evidence as to why Roselli never “made it,” he writes of $100,000 concert fees and million-dollar mansions. It makes no sense. As unpleasant, mercurial, and contradictory as Roselli would appear, even he deserves better than this account of his career.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-19927-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998