While researching this entry, I was surprised to learn that Connie Francis had the most successful chart run of any female solo singer of the 1960s. Over the 40 years since the decade ended, collective cultural rewriting of the ‘60s has caused it to become associated with singers like Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, and Grace Slick – but all three of those spent most of the ‘60s in groups, and only Ross had any real pop chart success. Still, successful solo artists Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield all spring to mind as more representative of the period’s pop landscape. Yet it was Connie Francis who had three Hot 100 #1’s. So why has her chart impact become diminished in retrospect? For one, her three most iconic hits (“Who’s Sorry Now,” “Stupid Cupid” and “Where the Boys Are”) are not the three that topped the charts (“Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own” and “Don’t Break the Heart the Loves You”). But what probably played a larger part was timing: her final #1, “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You,” hit in 1962, before the pop cultural megalith of “the ‘60s,” as it has been redefined and recast, actually began. (Which, for someone who wasn’t alive during the decade, doesn’t really start until The Beatles invade America.)
Further, Francis’s singles often owed more to the Great American Songbook than to contemporaneous pop and rock and roll. Her first success, “Who’s Sorry Now?,” was a cover of song first published in 1923. And the more singles she released, the more her records grew indebted to pre-rock sounds. The rockabilly-lite kick of early hits like “Fallin’” and “Lipstick on Your Collar” was almost completely absent by the ‘60s, replaced by smooth strings and echo chamber production. Now Francis just needed an original hit that would become every bit the classic that “Who’s Sorry Now?” had been when she recorded her version of it. Therefore, she hired Benny Davis and Ted Murry, two former Tin Pan Alley songwriters whose greatest successes dated from decades earlier. The result was “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You,” a record that finds Francis’s voice in typically lovely form, but in a style that already feels a few years out of date. The slick countryish pop of Connie Francis and Brenda Lee was being replaced on the pop charts by urban girl groups and brighter, punchier arrangements. It doesn’t help that “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You” lacks personality – it’s pretty much the standard pop-country ballad ca. 1958, complete with requisite woozy spoken word bit.
The single that replaced Francis atop the Hot 100, also by a solo female singer, is clearly inferior, but the outmoded details of “Don’t Break the Heart” – and Connie Francis herself – stand out in stark contrast. In her mere four years as a chart presence, Francis had a steady run of quality singles, and she would continue to have great singles afterward (1964’s “Don’t Ever Leave Me,” in which she adopts the girl group sound that had displaced her, is a particular highlight). Connie hadn’t changed, but the pop charts had moved on. The ‘60s would continue – or start – without her. 6
Hit #1 on March 31, 1962; total of 1 week at #1
67 of 970 #1′s reviewed; 6.91% through the Hot 100