A vintage photo of the Four Seasons
Courtesy of the Rock Hall Library and Archive

The Four Seasons

1990
Category:
Performers
Members:
  • Tom DeVito
  • Bob Gaudio
  • Nick Massi
  • Frankie Valli

In the '60s, few acts had as many hits—or sounded as unique—as the Four Seasons.

Leader Frankie Valli boasted a once-in-a-lifetime voice with a three-octave range and an unstoppable falsetto reach, while his bandmates teased out precise doo-wop harmonies on tunes such as "Sherry," "Walk Like A Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry." 

Biography

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In the case of the Four Seasons, truth is stranger than fiction. That became clear in 2005, after Jersey Boys—which was based on the band's life and times—opened on Broadway. The musical exposed the sordid (and sometimes tragic) dimensions of the group's formation and immense popularity. A couple of members did time in jail; the band had a friendly relationship with a mobster; and leader Frankie Valli experienced the sudden, unexpected death of his daughter.

Yet as in the musical, the real-life Four Seasons experienced more triumphs than heartache. In the '60s, the group was a perennial presence in the top 40, courtesy of songs such as "Sherry," "Walk Like A Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry." The secret was their vocal prowess: The band backed up Valli's once-in-a-lifetime voice—which boasted a three-octave range and an unstoppable falsetto reach—with precise doo-wop harmonies.

As a youngster, Valli honed his talent singing with a Newark, New Jersey, group called the Variatones. They later became known as the Four Lovers (and briefly charted with a 1956 single, "You're the Apple of My Eye") before changing their name to the Four Seasons in 1960. This lineup featured Valli and two of his pals—vocalist/guitarist Tommy DeVito and vocalist/arranger Nick Massi, the aforementioned members who had spent time in jail—and songwriter Bob Gaudio. (Notably, future actor Joe Pesci had introduced the Four Lovers to Gaudio, which spurred the latter's entrance into the group.)

Working with Philadelphia lyricist/producer Bob Crewe, the newly fortified Four Seasons connected in 1962 with the No. 1 singles "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry." 1963 started off with a similar bang, as "Walk Like A Man" also hit the top of the charts. These songs were released via the record label Vee Jay, which had business and contractual issues; as a result, the Four Seasons switched labels to Philips Records in 1964.

The band rebounded in the new situation, and released a slew of hits: "Working My Way Back To You," "Rag Doll," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "Let's Hang On!" Even Massi leaving the group in 1965 didn't stop their momentum; Joe Long simply joined the group and they soldiered on.

Despite waning commercial fortunes, the Four Seasons kept plugging along throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s; Valli also released multiple songs under his own name. In 1975, however, Valli and Gaudio reactivated the Four Seasons for a new record deal and high-profile comeback tunes: the disco-influenced "Who Loves You" and "Swearin' To God" and the No. 1 "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)." The latter song would become one of the group's best-known songs.

In 1978, Valli would have another chart-topper, although this time as as a solo artist, thanks to "Grease," the title track to the beloved movie of the same name. He's have similar good fortune in 1994, after "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" landed on the Forrest Gump soundtrack: The song went right back onto the singles charts, where it peaked at No. 14.

With the success of Jersey Boys, the Four Seasons (with Valli as the only remaining original touring member) went back on the road in 2007. The golden-voiced musician also continues to tour regularly himself, bringing his indelible hits and inimitable style to legions of fans, some for the very first time.

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