Dean Martin

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About Dean Martin

Singer and actor Dean Martin was America’s favorite “lush in a tux,” the sardonically smiling embodiment of all that was cool in mainstream American culture in the ’50s and ’60s. Born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, OH, in 1917, Martin grew up far from the booze- and broads-filled good life of his later years: He was the son of a barber, and he spoke only Italian until age five. He dropped out of school at age 16 and tried his hand variously as a boxer (known as “Kid Crochet”), a steel-mill worker, a gas-station attendant, and a speakeasy croupier. But Martin was allergic to working life, and he found his ticket with nightclub singing, inspired by his hero Bing Crosby. He was blessed with a mellow, buttery tenor, and he got his first big break in Atlantic City, performing opposite the comedian Jerry Lewis. The gig—originally meant to be temporary—unveiled Martin and Lewis’s vaudevillian improvisational genius. Whereas Martin was all charm and sophistication, Lewis was the anarchic delinquent, and audiences loved it: They made 16 movies in 11 years before an acrimonious split. Meanwhile, Martin was recording jazzy, insouciant hits that played on his Italian heritage, such as 1953’s “That’s Amore” and 1958’s “Volare.” After his split with Lewis, Dino found himself a new niche as part of the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., costarring in a series of comedies that cemented his image. He showed serious acting chops in films like 1959’s Rio Bravo, had his own television show from 1965 onward, and continued to seduce listeners with sly songs like “Ain’t That a Kick In the Head” and “You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Loves You.” He died in 1995.

Steubenville, OH, United States
June 7, 1917
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