Soul's Survivors: Brooklyn's Little Anthony And His Distinctive Falsetto
Soul legend Little Anthony is a Brooklyn singer with a distinctive voice that's unforgettable. As part of "Little Anthony and the Imperials," he performed a string of hits in the 1950s and 1960s. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report as part of his "Soul's Survivors" series.
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"Tears on My Pillow" was the first song for Little Anthony and the Imperials. Released in 1958, it was an instant hit. The song made Little Anthony, who was still in high school at the time, a star.
"I didn't realize how big it had become," Little Anthony says. "Every station you turned to was 'Tears on My Pillow.' So I said, "What am I doing in school? I'm a star, I am out of here!' I left."
His journey to musical fame was on its way with follow up hits like "Going Out of My Head and "Hurt So Bad," with many more smash hits were to come.
Some called the group's sound doo-wop, but Little Anthony (born Jerome Anthony Gourdine), who grew up in Brooklyn, says the style is rhythm and blues, the same R and B music that they sang on the corner.
"We call it street corner, because that is where you basically sung it," he says. "Or you sang it in the subways to get that sound because of the echoes."
Anthony lived in the Fort Greene Public Housing development and went to Boys High School. He says he was a part of gang back in the day.
"I should have been dead," he says. "The things I did as a young man. I came up totally in the streets."
But with guidance from his parents, who were both in the music business, he pushed forward with his career. And that falsetto voice was a big help as well. He can still hit many of the high notes.
"It is just a gift that I have this voice," he said. "It is not like I have some formula, (like) if you take two pills and have some honey and your voice is great. No, every day I open my mouth, it comes out. That's supernatural."
Nowadays, he's still performing with the original members of The Imperials from his old Brooklyn neighborhood.
Over the years, a lot of Little Anthony's songs were about the pain and heartbreak love can bring. But those same songs have brought him and his fans a lot of happy memories as well.