Johnny Maestro was one of the most influential singers of the doo-wop era, with a career spanning over five decades and three successful vocal groups. He was best known for his 1958 hit “16 Candles” with The Crests and his 1968 smash “The Worst That Could Happen” with The Brooklyn Bridge. But how did he die and what was his cause of death?
Early Life and Career
Johnny Maestro was born John Peter Mastrangelo on May 7, 1939, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. He began singing at an early age and joined The Crests in 1956, one of the first interracial groups of the recording industry. The Crests had several chart hits, including “Step by Step”, “The Angels Listened In”, and “Trouble in Paradise”. Their biggest hit was “16 Candles”, which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959.
Maestro left The Crests in 1960 and pursued a solo career, recording for various labels under different names. He had some minor hits, such as “What A Surprise” and “Model Girl”, but failed to replicate his success with The Crests. In 1968, he joined forces with two other vocal groups, The Del-Satins and The Rhythm Method, to form Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge. The new group had a distinctive sound that combined rock, pop, and doo-wop, and featured a large band with horns and strings.
Their debut single was a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “The Worst That Could Happen”, which had been previously recorded by The 5th Dimension. The song was a huge hit, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and selling over a million copies. The Brooklyn Bridge followed up with more hits, such as “Welcome Me Love”, “Blessed Is The Rain”, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. They also performed on popular TV shows, such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show.
Cancer Diagnosis and Death
In the late 1970s, Maestro left The Brooklyn Bridge and resumed his solo career, while also reuniting with The Crests for occasional shows. He continued to record and perform throughout the 1980s and 1990s, often appearing in oldies concerts and festivals. He also received several honors and awards for his contributions to music, such as being inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.
In 2009, Maestro was diagnosed with cancer and underwent treatment. However, his condition worsened and he died on March 24, 2010, at his home in Cape Coral, Florida. He was 70 years old. He is survived by his wife Grace and four children.
According to his friend and original Brooklyn Bridge member Les Cauchi, Maestro was a class act and a gentleman who sang like an angel. He also said that Maestro’s last performance was on January 17, 2010, at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, where he showed great courage and strength despite his illness.
Legacy and Influence
Johnny Maestro is widely regarded as one of the finest vocalists of his generation and one of the pioneers of doo-wop music. His smooth voice and expressive style influenced many singers who came after him, such as Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, and Luther Vandross. His songs have been covered by numerous artists, such as Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Bruce Springsteen.
Maestro’s fans and peers have paid tribute to him after his death, praising his talent and personality. Dion DiMucci, who worked with Maestro in the 1960s, said that he sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” like an angel and thanked him for the beautiful trip he took us on. Bruce Morrow, a veteran radio host and music historian, said that Maestro was the smoothest singer who sounded more like his recordings live than any other performer.
Maestro’s music lives on through his recordings and performances, which are still enjoyed by millions of people around the world. He is remembered as a doo-wop legend who touched many hearts with his voice and songs.