Monday, January 30, 2023

Keeping up with Gino Vannelli

[For your love]
[For your love]
When I think about those nights in Montreal
I get the sweetest thoughts of you and me
Memories of love above the city lights . . .

That mane of thick, black, curly hair!  Those rich vocals!  I wonder if Gino Vannelli still thinks about those nights in Montreal?  Do you remember the lyrics to his smash hit "I Just Wanna to Stop?"  The song was released as a single in August of 1978 and it remains Gino's biggest hit to date, his signature song.

"I Just Wanna Stop" climbed to Number 1 on the charts in his native Canada and reached Number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.  Gino produced the recording, along with his older brother Joe Vannelli,  and his younger brother Ross Vannelli.  The song was composed by Ross and earned Gino a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Performance.

Gino Vannelli was born on June 16, 1952 in Montreal, Quebec to a family of Italian background .His father, (Joseph) Russ Vannelli, was a cabaret singer who performed with Montreal dance bands.  Gino originally had dreams of becoming a drummer.  His idols were Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.  As a high school student, he became the drummer for The Cobras, an East-End Montreal band.  

In 1969, before his 17th birthday, Gino signed his first recording contract with RCA Records of Canada, using the pseudonym "Van-Elli."   He released a single entitled "Gina Bold."  Determined to make his mark in the music industry, Gino lived on and off in New York City, knocking on the doors of record companies and publishers.

In 1972, Gino and Joe headed for Los Angeles.  The brothers were desperate and broke.  They made one last stop at  the studios of A&M Records in Hollywood, before having to head back to Montreal.  The brothers waited patiently for Herb Alpert, co-owner of A&M to emerge from the building.  Gino handed Alpert a demo tape before being chased away by a security guard.  A&M signed a record deal with Gino, and released his debut album, Crazy Life, in the summer of 1973.  

It was not until 1974 that Gino had his first hit, "People Gotta Move." for A&M.  In 1974, Gino became one of the first Caucasians to appear on the television dance program Soul Train.  He was invited to tour with Stevie Wonder.

Gino Vannelli reached the height of his creative and commercial success in the 1970s.  In 1975, he  began touring in Canada and the United States.  In 1978, he moved to Los Angeles.  After his 1979 tour, he kept a low profile until 1990.  After the success of "I Just Wanna Stop," Gino signed with Arista Records,, headed by legendary record producer Clive Davis.  Gino's next album, Nightwalker, contained his second top-10 hit, "Living Inside Myself," which was released as a single in 1981.  However, executives at Arista were not pleased with the singer's plan to release an edgier album.  A year-long conflict followed, a time in which Gino felt blacklisted from recording.  During that time, he immersed him self in the study of philosophy, world religions and poetry.

Although Gino's 1985 singles "Black Cars" and "Hurts to Be in Love," as well as 1987's "Wild Horses," were well-received, Gino made a few appearances during the 1980s, after his 1979 LIVE "Brother to Brother' World Tour.  Gino never again sold as many recordings, but his artistic zig zags various musical genres, including jazz, blues and classical, gained him many fans around the world.  

Gino's music was enjoyed by Pope John Paul II.  In the year 2000, he was commissioned by the Vatican to perform "Parole Per Mio Padre" (A Word to My Father) for the pope. (The song was written as a tribute to Gino's deceased father). 

The papal event was televised in Europe and was noticed by the head of BMG Records, who requested that Gino  record a contemporary classical recording in a similar style to "Parole Per Mio Padre."  In 2003,  BMG released Canto, which, a multilingual disc -English, Italian. Spanish and French - which many fans, and Gino himself, regard as one of his most treasured musical achievements.

In 2013, Gino headlined two concerts at the Rialto Theatre in Montreal.  At that time, he told Pop Tart   that it felt good to be be back home.  "It's nice to visit Mount Royal again, and it's nice to see my mom," he said at the time.

Gino's album Wilderness Road was released by an independent label in 2019.  It was his first studio album of original material in over a decade.

At the age of 70,  Gino Vannelli may not be in the spotlight, but he continues to record and perform. H He toured in 2022 and, according to his official website, he will be performing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on March 1st, 2023 and Clearwater, Florida on March 3rd.  Gino has a following around the world.  He is an accomplished musician and songwriter.

“I grew up in a more singer-songwriter generation. People want instant success today. They are fed that kind of diet. There’s a little less substance and a lot more bling. But I’m not a cynic. Every decade has its strong points and its weak points. The strong points today are people know how to present themselves, they’re more accomplished, more precocious. You see a lot of younger singers who are better singers than there used to be 30 years ago. The weaker side of it is they’re not as well-rounded and don’t understand the humanities as well. They’re not interior-oriented like [performers] were in the 1960s and 70s, like [Bob] Dylan.”

- Gino Vannelli, Montreal Gazette, 2013


* Gino Vannelli studied music theory at Montreal's McGill University,

* Gino has received seven Juno Awards (to honour Canadian artists for their achievements in all aspects of music).  He won for Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year (1975) and Male Vocalist of the Year (1976, 1979).  In 1979, Gino and his brother, Joe, shared a Juno for Best Production for the1978 album Brother to Brother, which included "I Just Wanna Stop."  In 1986, 1987 and 1991, Gino and Joe also won Junos for Best Production.

* Gino is married.  He and his wife, Patricia, wed in the 1980s and had a son named Anton.  The couple first met in Portland, Oregon.  According to The Oregonian, Gino arrived in Portland to perform as the opening act at a concert, in the early 1970s.  The show was cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales, so Gino had some time to walk around the city and met Patricia, who was working in a jewellery store.

When the couple tired of Los Angeles, Patricia's Northwest Pacific Roots led to them to move to Oregon in 1992.  They resided in Portland's Mount Tabor neighbourhood  four eight years before settling in the Columbia River Gorge, near Troutdale, Oregon, where. Gino teaches music in his studio.  Troutdale has a population of about 16,000 people and Gino avoids the spotlight there.  He enjoys relative anonymity and seldom performs in the city, choosing to have his concerts elsewhere.

* Gino's mother, Delia Vannelli, died of COVID-19 in 2020.  She passed away in a Montreal nursing home just shy of her 93rd birthday.  Gino and his brothers could not see their mother in her final days due to the pandemic.

* Gino's published an autobiographical book is called Stardust in the Sand.  He spent a few years in the Netherlands seeking new inspiration for his music before returning to Oregon.  While away, he assembled a band of local musicians.  The result was a recording entitled The Best and Beyond  Released in 2009, the album features new interpretations of Gino's most well-known songs.  The linear notes from that album eventually became Stardust in the Sand.

SOURCES: Montreal Gazette, "All Those Nights in Montreal with Gino Vannelli," by News Desk, November 1, 2013; The Oregonian (,), "Gino Vannelli avoids spotlight in Oregon where he lives, but draws crowds elsewhere," by Eric Apalate, August 28, 2013; Gino Vannelli Official Website; iHeart Radio. "Canadian singer Gino Vannelli Loses Mother to COVID-19,:" by John R. Kennedy, May 8, 2020, Wikipedia.

- Joanne