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Four Decades Into His Career, Gino Vanelli's Keeping It New
Few who were introduced to Gino Vanelli in his first wave of fame, as a singing disco age sex symbol, would have imagined Vanelli of today — a musician with an enduring following, appreciated by connoisseurs, who has been called a "Zen master" in the world's community of musicians, a vocal coach who attracts students from thousands of miles away to his Oregon studio, a poet and explorer of religious philosophy.
This year, he's taken on an extensive concert tour in support of his "Gino Vannelli Live in LA," CD and DVD that's led him across North America and will soon see him heading to South America. In December, he'll pause long enough to record another album.
"We're touring a little more than I would like to this fall, but it just kind of fell that way," he says. "People are curious about this show and this band. Maybe it's just a third or fourth wind — who knows?"
Vanelli is certainly all too well acquainted with the rigors of the road, which, he notes, "test your tolerance skills, your bobbing and weaving skills. There is always something going on, whether it's a storm in Philly that you have to avoid so your plane can't take off, or your flight is late and you miss your connection — or they lose your bag, or you get to the hotel and your air conditioning is not working." He and his wife Patricia enjoyed the "great hotels in Niagara Falls" but not their rubbery eggs. His brother Ross, who took ill while running for a train with him — a chapter in Vanelli's lively and well-written blog — "is better. I need to report that he recovers miraculously," says the amiable performer with a laugh.
He's already sold more than 10 million records.
"I don't know how much longer I'm going to do it," Vanelli replies. "I figure, my health is good. I think I'm singing my best. So I just want to get out there. I love being onstage. That 95 minutes on stage is really worth it. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't do it."
As for how he manages to tackle the rigors at 62, he notes, "You can't eat junk food, obviously; you've got to be eating good food to keep your energy and strength up. I do yoga regularly. Never a day goes by without running a mile and a half to two miles. The lungs are taken care of, the cardio is taken care of that way. When I can't run, I have what they call a rebounder. You can really get a workout on that little trampoline."
Vanelli's music is reflective of his eclectic interests nowadays. He reveals that the album that he will be recording later this year will mark something new, again. "It's a totally acoustic guitar approach — Americana and jazz." He's been working with some young singers back home in Portland. Rather than doing a lot of overdubs, he says they will be recording live, in harmony. "They're very good, not only in their voices, but their dedication and understanding," according to him.
Looking back, Vanelli realizes, "I never really appreciated it in the '70s and the '90s — especially the '70s, playing big places multiple nights. It was sort of a blur. You know, they say youth is wasted on the young — it all just went by. But now, to look out and see those shining faces in the audience, it's great. It's cool to be able to come out and perform songs I've written over the last 40 years and actually see people enjoying it while I'm enjoying it, with young musicians out there enjoying themselves and playing the crap out of the music. This has been good."
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