By Steven Lieberman
Gino Vannelli, who took the music world by storm in 1978 with his smash hit “I Just Wanna Stop” (#4 in the United States), will perform at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on November 8 for his first LA-area performance in 16 years.
For the past three years, Vannelli has been touring with his eight-piece band and performing all of his hits and some newer songs. Before that, he was on hiatus from touring while in the studio exploring new music.
He spends a lot of time creating in his studio and also holds a master class every year called the “Art of Song & Art of Voice.”
PBS will be taping this concert, his first-ever American TV special. “Out of all the venues in LA, I felt the best connection to the people at The Canyon and wanted the special taped at the Saban Theatre,” said Vannelli. “They understood what we wanted to do.”
Vannelli’s storied career is what dreams are made of. He’s had a “lucky star” following him throughout his entire life. He knew at a very young age that he wanted a career in music and began writing songs at the age of 15.
Just out of high school, he signed his first recording contract with RCA. Following this, he would experience what every hopeful musician dreams of.
While at RCA he studied all the great writers – Bacharach, McCartney, among others – and learned how to “carry the message to his listeners.”
After a stint in New York City, Vannelli and his brothers went to LA after they ran out of money.
“I was lying down on a pew in a church when I had an epiphany,” said Vannelli. “I stood outside the gate at A&M Records and waited for the chance to sing for co-owner Herb Alpert. When he appeared, I started to approach him but John, the guard, was resistant.”
Alpert did give Vannelli a chance to sing for him and liked what he heard. After four years looking for a record deal Alpert agreed to sign him to the label three weeks after their initial meeting and Vannelli would go on to release his first album (“Crazy Life”) in 1973 at the age of 21.
Things got better for Vannelli as the “lucky star” continued to follow him.
In 1975, he made his television debut on “Soul Train,” becoming the first significant Caucasian singer to perform on an African American music program.
Three years later, he was sitting poolside at the former Hallmark Hotel on Sunset Blvd. and overheard Stevie Wonder lounging and singing Vannelli’s song, “Crazy Life.”
Vannelli approached him and introduced himself and Wonder would then invite him to be his opening act for seven dates on his tour. Chaka Kahn had fallen ill so Vannelli was given another opportunity of a lifetime.
Not only did Wonder like his music, but so did Pope John Paul II. In 2003, after listening to Vannelli’s new album release, “Canto,” he invited him to perform at the Vatican at their Christmas Jubilation party. The music was compared to a cross between a full-blown opera and a Broadway musical sung in French, Italian, and Spanish.
Upon meeting Pope John, Vannelli said that “he had a mystical effect. You could understand what he was doing.”
Vannelli’s “lucky star” will soon land at the Saban Theatre where he will mystify his audience with a rich collection of music.
For more information, go to: www.sabantheatre.org