Joni James (born Giovanna 'Joan' Carmella Babbo, September 22, 1930, Chicago, Illinois) is an American singer of traditional pop music.
James was born into an Italian family in Chicago. As an adolescent, she studied drama and ballet, and on graduating from high school, went with a local dance group on a tour of Canada. She then took a job as a chorus girl in the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. After doing a fill-in in Indiana, she decided to pursue a singing career. Some executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) spotted her in a television commercial, and she was signed by MGM in 1952. Her first hit, "Why Don't You Believe Me?" sold over two million copies. She had a number of hits following that one, including "Your Cheatin' Heart" (a cover of Hank Williams' hit) and "Have You Heard?"
She was the first American to record at London's Abbey Road Studios, and recorded five albums there. She was also very popular across parts of the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Philippines where she performed at Manila's now defunct EM Club in 1957. She also scored a big hit in Manila with Filipino composer Salvador Asuncion's work entitled "In Despair."
James had seven Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Why Don't You Believe Me?" (#1 in 1952) "Have You Heard?" (#4 in 1953) "Your Cheatin' Heart" (#2 in 1953) "Almost Always" (#9 in 1953) "My Love, My Love" (#8 in 1953) "How Important Can It Be?" (#2 in 1955) and "You Are My Love" (#6 in 1955) as well as sixteen other Top 40 hits from 1952 to 1961. She has sold more than 100 million records.
James married composer-conductor Tony Acquaviva at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in 1956. In 1964 she retired from the music industry in part because Acquaviva was in bad health and needed her attention. She cared for him until his death in 1986. For many years she was out of the public eye, but began touring again in the mid 1990s some years after Acquaviva's death.
On October 5, 1997, she married retired Air Force General Bernard Adolph Schriever, 20 years her senior, and an extremely important figure in post-war U.S. ballistic missile development. They honeymooned in France and the Greek Isles. Gen. Schriever died on June 20, 2005.
For her contributions to the entertainment industry, James has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In a 1968 Peanuts strip, after a dust-up with the cat next door, Snoopy says, "Just don't ask to borrow my Joni James records again!" Thirty years later, Snoopy would appear on the cover of her Jukebox Joni compilation album.
Major hit songs
"Almost Always" / "Is It Any Wonder?" MGM 11470 (1953)
"Give Us This Day" / "How Lucky You Are" MGM 12288 (1956)
"Have You Heard?" / "Wishing Ring" MGM 11390 (1953)
"How Important Can It Be?" / "This Is My Confession" MGM 11919 (1955)
"My Believing Heart" / "You Never Fall In Love Again" MGM 12126 (1955)
"My Love, My Love" / "You're Foolin' Someone" MGM 11543 (1953)
"There Goes My Heart" / "Funny" MGM 12706 (1958)
"There Must Be a Way" / "Sorry For Myself" MGM 12746 (1959)
"Why Don't You Believe Me?" / "Purple Shades" MGM 11333 (1952)
"You Are My Love" / "I Lay Me Down To Sleep" MGM 12066 (1955)
"Your Cheatin' Heart" / "I'll Be Waiting Fof You" MGM 11426 (1953)
"You're Nearer" / "You're My Everything" MGM 30829 (1954)