- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

From combined dispatches

LONDON — An autopsy on American singer Gene Pitney, who was found dead in a hotel room in the Welsh capital Cardiff on Wednesday morning, showed that he died of natural causes, police said yesterday.

Mr. Pitney, 65, who shot to fame in the 1960s with hits including “24 Hours from Tulsa,” died after having given a concert the previous night that had won him a standing ovation.

“The post-mortem results show Gene Pitney died of natural causes, and there will not be a police investigation,” Reuters news agency quoted a spokesman for South Wales police as saying.

He said the body of the singer had been released to relatives and will be flown to the United States.

“We don’t have a cause of death at the moment but looks like it was a very peaceful passing,” Mr. Pitney’s tour manager, James Kelly, told the Associated Press. “He was found fully clothed, on his back, as if he had gone for a lie-down. It looks as if there was no pain whatsoever.”

“Last night was generally one of the happiest and most exuberant performances we’ve seen out of him,” Mr. Kelly added.

Mr. Pitney toured regularly and was in the middle of a 23-show tour of Britain when he died.

Nigel Corten, who reviewed the show for the South Wales Argus, said Mr. Pitney appeared to be healthy during the performance.

“It came through in his voice because he really let it rip. If you are ill, that would be one of the first things to show it,” Mr. Corten said. “The audience were in raptures.”

In his long career, Mr. Pitney had hits as a singer, such as “24 Hours from Tulsa,” “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance,” and “Half Heaven, Half Heartache.” As a writer, he penned “Hello Mary Lou” for Ricky Nelson and “Rubber Ball” for Bobby Vee.

In 1962, Mr. Pitney had the top two songs on the U.S. chart — his rendition of “Only Love Can Break a Heart” was at No. 2, just behind a song he wrote for the Crystals, “He’s a Rebel.”

“He was a rare talent and a beautiful man, and his voice was unlike any other. I have great memories of working in the studio recording with Gene. He was a great guy, and I will miss him,” songwriter Burt Bacharach said.

Mr. Pitney was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

“I’m a performer,” Mr. Pitney told the Associated Press in 1997. “I’ve tried everything there is.”

Born in Hartford, Conn., on Feb. 17, 1941, Mr. Pitney married his high-school sweetheart, Lynne, in 1967, and kept a base in Connecticut all his life. He built a recording studio in his home in Somers, 20 miles northeast of Hartford.

While still in high school, Mr. Pitney formed a band called Gene and the Genials.

He is survived by his wife and three sons.

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