Singer Perry Como Dead At 88

Perry Como, the crooning baritone barber famous for his relaxed vocals, cardigan sweaters, and television Christmas specials, died at his home in Jupiter Inlet Beach Colony, Fla., on Saturday after a

Perry Como, the crooning baritone barber famous for his relaxed vocals, cardigan sweaters, and television Christmas specials, died at his home in Jupiter Inlet Beach Colony, Fla., on Saturday after a lengthy illness. He was 88. Como died in his sleep, his daughter Terry Dhibadeau said.

"We spent two beautiful hours (Friday) with dad, me and my grandson, Holden," Dhibadeau told The Palm Beach Post. "We shared ice cream. It was a wonderful moment for us."

The charming Italian-American whose name became synonymous with mellow music, performed through seven decades, starting in the 1930s. His idol, the late singer Bing Crosby, once called Como "the man who invented casual."

Como left his job as a Canonsburg, Pa., barber to sing with big bands in the 1930s and his songs were a mainstay of radio and jukeboxes in the late 1940s. He helped pioneer variety shows on the new medium of television in the 1950s and performed on television specials over the last four decades. His music remained popular in recent years on easy-listening radio.

Como charted more than 100 singles, many of them reaching No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart and had the longest-running label association of any artist. From 1942, fresh from his vocalizing with the Ted Weems Orchestra, through the '80s, Como recorded for just one label, RCA Victor. His hit songs ranged from impassioned pleas ("Prisoner of Love," "No Other Love," which were No. 1 hits in 1946 and 1953, respectively) to tuneful novelties ("'A' You're Adorable" in 1949 and "Hoop-Dee-Doo" in 1950, also No. 1 singles).

Although he could not transfer this consistent recording popularity to the movies, (one of his roles was that of a fictional friend of Rodgers & Hart in the 1948 film "Words & Music") Como's relaxed persona -- the butt of many a comedy act (including a classic sketch on Canadian comedy show "SCTV") -- exuded a geniality that went over like a charm during the many years he hosted his own TV show.

Como, who sported 26 albums that reached the Billboard album chart during his RCA years, had several singles successes well into the rock 'n' roll era. A typical high-powered ballad, "It's Impossible," made it to No. 10 in 1971, while a version of Don McLean's "And I Love You So" reached No. 29 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart in 1973.

AP LogoCopyright 2001 Billboard.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.