Annette Funicello (October 22, 1942 - April 8, 2013) was a hugely popular and beloved actress, singer, and teen idol who became famous beginning in the late 1950s. As a performing artist, her best known songs include "Tall Paul" (1959), "O Dio Mio" (1960), and "Pineapple Princess" (1960).
Born in Utica, New York, Funicello moved with her family to Southern California when she was four. She took music and dancing lessons as a child and at age 12, was discovered by Walt Disney while performing the lead role in "Swan Lake" at a dance recital. In 1955, she signed a contract with Disney, and by the end of the first season of "The Mickey Mouse Club," had become the most popular of all the Mouseketeers. She starred in many other Disney productions through the late 1960s and also co-starred and performed alongside Frankie Avalon in several beach movies beginning in 1963 with "Beach Party."
Annette Funicello launched her singing career on TV in 1958 with her performance in the Disney serial, "Walt Disney Presents: Annette," of "How Will I Know My Love," which became her first charting song and led to a recording contract with Disneyland Records and later Buena Vista. Her fame as a singer took off in early 1959 with "Tall Paul" which, along with "O Dio Mio" (1960), made the Top 10 and became her biggest hits. "Tall Paul" was the first of several hits for Funicello penned by the famed songwriting duo, Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman (a.k.a. The Sherman Brothers), that also include "Jo-Jo The Dog-Faced Boy" (1959), "My Heart Became Of Age" (1959), "Pineapple Princess" (1960), and "Dream Boy" (1961). Her many hits, which continued through 1963, also include "Lonely Guitar" (1959), "First Name Initial" (1959), and the Paul Anka-penned "Train Of Love" (1960) and "Talk To Me Baby" (1960). She recorded over a dozen albums through the mid 1960s that include all her hits as well as songs from her many Disney and beach movies.
By the late 1960s, Funicello had left show business to raise a family, with occasional TV and movie appearances over the years. In 1979, she became the TV spokeswoman for Skippy peanut butter, and in 1984, she briefly resumed her recording career with the release of "The Annette Funicello Country Album." She reunited with Frankie Avalon in 1987 for the beach movie spoof, "Back To The Beach," and they toured the U.S. for a time as a singing duo. In 1992, Funicello was inducted as a Disney Legend, and she announced that same year that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after several years of keeping her disease a secret. Shortly thereafter, she founded the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases. A biopic starring Eva La Rue in the title role, "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story," aired on TV in 1995, and Funicello made a surprise cameo appearance in the final scene. She made her final public appearance on September 13, 1998 at California's Multiple Sclerosis Society.
- The New York Times remembers Annette Funicello.
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Annette With The Afterbeats
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