2:05pm

Wed June 19, 2013
The Two-Way

Country Singer Slim Whitman, Known For His Yodel, Dies

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 10:18 pm

Country singer Slim Whitman, whose yodel helped sell millions of albums in the United States, died overnight on Wednesday in a Florida hospital, his family tells the BBC.

He was 90.

While Whitman was at some point known as "America's Favorite Folksinger," he was actually far more popular overseas. As the BBC explains, in 1955 his hit Rose Marie became the longest-reigning No. 1 single until it was knocked off the perch by a Bryan Adams hit in 1991.

The AP adds:

"Whitman's tenor falsetto and ebony mustache and sideburns became global trademarks — and an inspiration for countless jokes — thanks to the TV commercials that pitched his records.

"But he was a serious musical influence on early rock, and in the British Isles, he was known as a pioneer of country music for popularizing the style there. Whitman also encouraged a teen Elvis Presley when he was the headliner on the bill and the young singer was making his professional debut.

"Whitman recorded more than 65 albums and sold millions of records, including 4 million of 'All My Best' that was marketed on TV."

Whitman was introduced to younger audiences by the film Mars Attacks! Aliens were taking over the Earth when humans discover that Whitman's yodel in Indian Love Call destroys them:

We'll leave you with one of his biggest hits, Rose Marie:

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

He was a pencil-thin man with a pencil-thin moustache and an unmistakable yodel.

(SOUNDBITE OF YODEL)

SIEGEL: Slim Whitman has died at the age of 90. His career as a country singer spanned six decades, 65 albums and several hit songs, including "Indian Love Call" and "Rose Marie." But he achieved cult-figure status in the 1980s, thanks to TV commercials, like this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV COMMERCIAL)

SLIM WHITMAN: (Singing) Making believe...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Here is all the magic of Slim Whitman, the star who had the number one record in England for more weeks than even Elvis and The Beatles.

SIEGEL: Slim Whitman also saved the Earth from aliens. Well, his three-octave yodeling did, anyway. It caused Martian brains to explode in the 1996 movie "Mars Attacks!."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MARS ATTACKS!")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as Character) What's happening to them? What's killing them?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as Character) I think it must be my music.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: And yet, jokes aside, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were all fans of the romantic balladeer. Slim Whitman died today of heart failure in his home state of Florida. Several years ago, in an interview with The Associated Press, he said he wanted to be remembered as a nice guy with a good voice and a clean suit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INDIAN LOVE CALL")

WHITMAN: (Singing) If you refuse me, I will be blue and waiting all alone. But if when you hear my love call ringing clear. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.