Danny Aiello sits with Patrick Cole at the Bloomberg Studio
Danny Aiello's music video with Hassan - Besame Mucho. It is rumored that Hassan "might" be a surprise guest at the Blue Note from July 3-8.
CLICK "READ MORE" BELOW TO READ DANNY AIELLO'S BLOOMBERG INTERVIEW!
How did the idea for the first record come about?
A friend of mine, Tommy Mandell, he was working with itune records and he said “I'd like to make an album with you.” So at that time, I thought he was referring to these Italian songs which I didn't do. 'Cause I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, and I didn't know Italian songs. He said "No, let's do the things that have more or less influenced you through your life." And it was guys like them, that, more specifically, Bobby Darin, these are the people that I grew up idolizing, musically. And I said, "Alright, let's do something like that," and I went home and selected 80 songs from the American songbook. Out of the eighty, we whittled it down in one day to fourteen, and those are the fourteen you hear on my debut album, “I Just Want Hear The Words.” And I think that first album, although it hit number 4 on Billboard’s traditional jazz chart which I was very proud of, it didn’t stay there for a long period of time. For the moment it was there, it was next to Diana Krall, Tony Bennett, and Harry Connick Jr., so it maybe it was a way of saying “Hey, I arrived!” Of Course, I didn’t. But in that particular album, I felt that I selected songs like a lot of Italian baritones do, with no high notes, and I tried to get through it and I did, and I people seemed to accept it well and it continues to sell. Of course, I have another album coming out in August, Live at the Sands Hotel. Some of this material and much of Bobby Darin’s is on that record.
Your love for singing goes back to when you were a kid, because you were doing Doo-wop when you were growing up in the Bronx. At one point, you were auditioning to sing for the Arthur Godfrey show. Take us back to that moment.
Again, my mother sort of influenced me. We didn’t have a Dad at home, and she raised seven children by herself. Mama had a great deal of confidence in me, and I not too much in myself. She thought I could sing, and she knew someone who knew the Arthur Godfrey talent coordinator, and so she brought me there. I was approximately 12 years old at the time, and we went to a vestibule where there was an audition area. I was very, very nervous and asked if I could go to the bathroom. I never came back. I just left – and that was the last time I even attempted an audition to sing. Now, I went into it simply because Tommy asked me, and I said alright and we did it. But that was a great experience in my life. In fact, I even remember the song I intended to audition with. It was “All Of Me,” and I do that on the stage now when I perform. I always indicate to the people that there are two songs that meant a great deal to me – “Besame Mucho,” I learned that when I was six years old, which was of course written by Consuelo Velázquez. It was something, for some reason, that I remember in my youth – that song just kept coming to me. It’s the first song that I can even remember. I also remember that Carmen Miranda had this man who did some small bits in many of her pictures. Latin American pictures in English – but they were great big hits. The man who did this song was Andy Russell, black curly hair, looked Irish but he was Spanish. It had a tremendous influence on me when I was six years old. I said to myself, “Oh, I love that song” and I put it in my show. It’s my opener now, and we’ve even done some additional things with Besame Mucho which of course will come later in our conversation, but those are two songs that meant a great deal to me, and that audition with Arthur Godfrey was something that I wish maybe I had done. My sons and I, and I have three of them, we often talk and I say “God I wish I had done this when I was twenty – I would have loved to have been doing this.” I love acting, and that is truly my vocation. Singing, I guess we will consider that my avocation. I do make a lot of money doing it, but that was not the reason I went out to do this. I probably would have done it for nothing…this is not a good thing to be saying to the people who might employ me (laughter)…it’s not a real good negotiable position, but I love singing, I love entertaining people, and I came to this very late in life. I’ve gained confidence over the last two years, which I didn’t have in the beginning. When I went on the stage at the beginning, before I even began to sing I would apologize to people. “You know,” I’d say, “I’m sorry, I’m really an actor.” But now I sort of have a Bobby Darin attitude – “You’re going to love me whether you like it or not.”
And yet, at that very young age, when you had this burning desire to sing and didn’t have the confidence, you got into the acting business. First you were a bouncer at the comedy club here in New York, and from there you got gigs acting. How did you feel about acting at that time?
I had no thought about it. I lived in New York City, and when I was a kid, I had observed what was on the street. Although the culture of Broadway was relatively close to us we couldn’t afford to go to it, but acting had never generated a thought in my mind until the age of 36. I certainly didn’t do it because I elected to do it, though. I lost a union job for the Greyhound Bus Union AFL/CIO Local Revision 1202. I worked there for 10 years and I was the youngest President in the country, which I’m very proud of. It was very difficult to obtain for someone who was unemployed. I’m not uneducated, you know what I mean, but I went to James Monroe for about a half an hour, and that was my high school education. I was in the army at the age of 17, so I didn’t expect to act. When I lost the job as union president, I sort of floundered around for a while. Bud Freeman, the improvisation in New York offered me a job. He recognized my talent and made me a bouncer (laughter). I became a part time MC when Bud wasn’t there, and all I did there was introduce comedy acts. I wasn’t underneath some of that, because that was something I didn’t consider I was capable of doing. But I was trying to find out where exactly I fit. So late at night, at 3am when everyone was gone and chairs were being on top of the tables. Very few people there, except for the people who were cleaning up, and I would go on stage, open mic, and I would sing:
“Some of these days, you’re gonna miss me baby. Some of these days, you’re gonna feel so lonely. You’re gonna miss my hugging, you’re gonna miss my kissing. You’re gonna miss me baby, when I’m far away…you’re gonna feel so lonely, and you want me only. ‘Cuase you know pretty baby, you’ve always had your way. So baby when you leave me, you know you’re gonna grieve me. You’re gonna miss you’re tall, thin Danny, some of these days.”
I used to sing to tables and chairs. I didn’t have the guts to do it in front of people.
There were no agents in the audience?
No I’m sure they wouldn’t have singed me with that! But I stayed there for a couple of years. And then a wonderful man by the name of Louis LaRusso II, he’s passed on, and he asked me, “Would you like the act.” And I said, “what do you mean, act?” He said, “Well, you know I have this play I’m doing off-off-off-off-off Broadway.” I’d never acted before, and I looked at it and it was about a 20 minute monologue, and I’m saying “how am I gonna memorize all this!” So, I said yeah, I’ll do it just like that, because I’m impulsive. I get a feeling I want to do something, and boom I go do it. Before you know it, it went off-off-off Broadway, and then he wrote me another one and still another one. They were called “Knockout,” “Wilma Closes,” and “Grandpa’s Reunion.” All three of those plays ended up on Broadway, with me starring. So it’s kind of a magical moment in my life, and I don’t if anyone else has gone through that, or was fortunate or lucky enough to have that kind of accomplishment without any training whatsoever.
Over your career you’ve had a long, long list of credits. Everything from “Band the Drum Slowly,” “Once Upon a Time In America,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo.” Which movie to you point to and say, this was the defining role, or performance of my career. This was the one I’m proudest of.
You know, a lot of people came to me and said, you know the circle that your traveling with. If you’re with Martin Scorcese’s circle early in your career, you probably would have accomplished maybe 5, 6, 7, 8 Academy award nominations. Unfortunately, when I began my career, I was with people who were as new as I was, and we weren’t accepted very easily or quickly. A lot of people come over to me now and say, “You should have been nominated for this, you should have been nominated for that.” But not too many people saw them then because there was hardly any P&A money – Print and Advertising – and for the public at large, such a move didn’t exist. Out of the moves that I’ve done, “Moonstruck” – I HATED the character – but it turns out to be a classic movie. I hated the character he was wimpy, and you know, in my neighborhood, if you were a wimp you got smacked. That was personal thing, but it did a great deal of good for me. A lot of the people who were making decisions, for them to know that I could be funny in certain situations was a good thing. And 29th Street was probably my favorite movie because the character is as close to me as any character would be. I think that character, with the exception of some of things that happened to him in the movie, but that character, his personality, his anger, his love, his good feelings, his sensitivity, his coarseness, everything about him is me. It’s me in a little bottle.
You have a performance coming up at the Blue Note. Tell us about the band and the songs you’re going to do on July 3-8.
The band is Joe Geary and the guys. 8 guys that I perform with. They cover my mistakes beautifully, and they’re all young, so it generates a little excitement and makes me feel young. The Blue Note is tremendously exciting for me because the Blue Note denoted “making it.” When they accepted me at the Blue Note I felt I had arrived, because it’s a very prestigious place. When I walk through there it’s like walking through a holy area. The people who have performed there and graced that stage – and this is my third time there, actually, and we were quite successful, the last two. This is the longest engagement, so I’m kind of frightened. You know, six days, twelve performances, not very easy. But the songs I’m singing, some are from the album “I Just Want to Hear the Words,” and some are from the new album Live at the Sands Hotel, which will be out in August. Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea,” “Clementine,” “All of Me.” We put what we feel a nice contemporary feel to it.
I hear you’re venturing into rap music a little bit…
Well let me tell you something, this is very exciting because I’m at Chun King Studios recording a song by Charles Lalow, he’d written a song called “Home America” which is a tremendous patriotic song that you’ll be hearing very shortly. It’s a great song. While I’m there, a rap group walks by, and I was not recording at the moment. They saw me, and some of them recognized me from Harlem Nights and Do The Right Thing, which was another important movie for me, of course. This guy, Hassan said, “My God, I’d like to rap to that song.” He put a rap on the patriotic song, and then he heard some of the live recordings that I’d done, and he said “You know, I’d like to do something with that as well” and the song was Besame Mucho. Low and behold we have a rap record now, and it’s on YouTube at this present time. I think in a week and a half it will be on iTunes. In just five days on YouTube it had 1400 hits with no publicity, just by people telling other people. It’s dynamite – in my opinion, everyone who sees it loves it, and everyone who hears it loves it. I remained traditional to the song as I recalled it and remembered it, but then again, his interpretation on the other side does not in any way adversely affect Beasme Mucho and we do not lose the beauty of Besame Mucho. It’s very Latin and very exciting. We’re going into the studio on Thursday to record “Save the Last Dance,” and we’ll do a rap to that as well. Buble just put it out, and it’s great, but ours is nice too. The producers on the tracks are Hassan and his brother-in-law Corey who worked with Tommy Matolloa, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Jessica Simpson, J. Lo, Marc Anthony…so I’m in with some good company, some youthful company! They’re trying to make an album for me in every category! I hope you get a chance to play Beasme Mucho. I don’t know if it would interview with your wonderful programming, but it might not be exactly the format you like, however, if you do it I’ll love you for it and I’d love for your audience to hear it.
Are you even thinking about the next album already?
Christmas. I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas album. That will probably come into fruition relatively quickly, because as you know, if you’re going to do a Christmas album it should be happening right now. Because I’m so tied up with the other one, it will probably be a little bit later. But we’ll get it out this year.
Thank you for your time, Danny
One more thing I want to say, I have a comedy club in Hoboken, New Jersey, every Thursday night at 9pm that’s knocking people out. It’s called “Danny’s Upstairs” at Tutta Pasta. If anyone is in the area and wishes to come, you’ll love it. Jerry Stiller was in the place last week and they loved him. He blew the place apart, and when he came in they all said “It’s happening, it’s happening.” Very good friend of mine, for a very long time. Thank you, Patrick.