Gene Pitney dies on UK tour

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The Independent Culture

Singer Gene Pitney has died in the middle of his UK tour, his agent said today.

The 65-year-old American star was found dead just after 10am today at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff.

His 40-year career included the hits Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa and Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart.

A spokesman for South Wales Police said: "We've had a report of a death. It is not believed to be suspicious.

"We had the call just before 10.10am. The body, which has not been formally identified yet, was found at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff."

Pitney played St David's Hall in Cardiff last night and was due to perform in Bristol tonight.

In an interview at Christmas he spoke of his excitement at taking his show around the UK on a 23-date tour which was due to end later this month.

He denied it was a gruelling schedule, saying: "I take care of myself. I can finish up the tour no problem whatsoever.

"I love doing what I'm doing - to pick and choose where I want to go and what I want to do."

A spokesman for the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust confirmed that a rapid response vehicle and an ambulance attended the Hilton in Cardiff this morning.

The spokesman said: "We did not convey a patient to hospital. We were on the scene within two minutes."

Pitney had been in good health and his death came as a shock to friends.

Mark Howes, of Pitney's management company In Touch Music, told BBC Wales: "He did a good show last night at St David's Hall and it was wonderful.

"I've seen him quite a few times on this tour and he was fit and well. He said it was the best tour he had done for quite a few years."

Mr Howes said the singer was found dead in his bed by his tour manager.

Pitney's tour manager James Kelly said the singer was found dead in his hotel room this morning by long-term friend Geoff Clennell.

"We don't have a cause of death at the moment but looks like it was a very peaceful passing," said Mr Kelly.

"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, which is nice."

He added: "Last night was generally one of the happiest and most exuberant performances we've seen out of him.

"He was absolutely on top of his game and was really happy with the show.

"I got the news a couple of hours ago and I'm flabbergasted."

Mr Howes said later that he last saw the singer on Sunday after his show at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham and that he looked well.

"It's terrible news and I'm still shaking," he said.

"I just can't believe it. I wasn't at Cardiff but I understand the show went particularly well and he was in good form.

"There was no indication anything was wrong. It's terribly sad."

He added: "I last spoke to him on Sunday after the show at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. He was very well and was enjoying the tour.

"He was talking about the next time he was coming over to Britain as he said this was the best tour he had done for a number of years.

"It wasn't like a business relationship (with Gene) - he was a friend and that is why it has hit hard with everybody.

"It was almost like he had a family going around with him. He was a really nice person."

Pitney rose to fame in the Sixties and was introduced to a new generation of fans in 1989 when he duetted with Marc Almond on Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart.

The single gave Pitney his first UK number one - 22 years after its first release.

He had 11 top 10 hits in this country including That Girl Belongs To Yesterday and Looking Thru The Eyes of Love.

His songs have been recorded by some of the world's biggest stars - Hello Mary Lou was released by Ricky Nelson, Today's Teardrops by Roy Orbison, and Rubber Ball by US singer Bobby Vee and British artist Marty Wilde.

He worked with the Rolling Stones and is credited with helping them find fame in the US.

In 2002 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

A spokeswoman for Cardiff coroner Mary Hassell said she had been officially informed of the star's death.

The spokeswoman said a post mortem examination will take place to establish whether an inquest will be necessary.

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