Over Dean Martin
The famously laid-back and unruffled Dean Martin was one of the greatest stars of the 20th century. He loomed large on stage, radio and screen (big and small), and had a parallel career in music. Martin, whose real name was Dino Crocetti, was a journeyman romantic crooner until, out of desperation, he created an anarchic nightclub show with bizarro spaz Jerry Lewis. Audiences had never before seen anything like the duo's wild performances, and they immediately became worldwide sensations. Martin was always a brilliant straight man and comic, but his singing and acting abilities improved greatly during his years with Lewis, and by the time their partnership was over, he was a major recording and movie star. Most of Martin's best music and movies come from the 1950s and early '60s (an era he's forever associated with), but, surprisingly, such classics as "Volare," "Just In Time," and the relentless Rat Pack theme, "Ain't That A Kick In The Head," didn't perform that well in the charts.(In fact, "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" was banned in the U.S. because it mentioned a king-size bed.) Martin's career was at its peak during the swinging '60s and early '70s, when his weekly variety show was a ratings sensation and he became the first musician to knock the Beatles off the top of the pop charts with "Everybody Loves Somebody." As a vocalist, Martin excelled at Italian ballads, uptempo swing, straight pop and even country music. Elvis Presley always stated that Dean Martin was a major influence on his singing style (a quick listen to Dino's "Memories Are Made of This" illustrates this perfectly), and the driven, brooding Frank Sinatra always wished he possessed his pal's famous nonchalance. That quality explains a major part of Martin's enduring appeal.He was an intelligent performer with a beautiful voice and a knowing twinkle in his eye, a glint that told his audiences that it was all a joke and he didn't take himself, them or anything else too seriously. Ain't that the definition of "cool"?