Johnny Mathis: The Voice of Romance
Songs like “Chances Are” have made Johnny Mathis the renowned ‘voice of romance.’
The lyrics of this worldwide pop standard were written by Hall of Fame songwriter Al Stillman while the music was arranged by acclaimed pianist Robert Allen. Johnny literally bumped into Robert on the busy streets of Manhattan, and it was the start of a beautiful relationship. The two artists became fast friends and collaborators.
“Chances Are”: Robert Allen Takes a Chance on a Young, Unproven Johnny Mathis
“Chances Are” was Johnny’s third single, released in 1957, at the beginning of his illustrious career, and the follow-up to the Top 5 achievement of his second single “It’s Not for Me to Say”, another Stillman & Allen composition. The song was Johnny’s first #1 single. The B-side of the single “Twelfth of Never” was also heavily played on AM radio & jukeboxes throughout the U.S., peaking at #9 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart that same year.
Johnny often reflects back on those magical days. He was an unproven singer, only in his early 20s, and innocently unsure of his future, when Robert Allen approached him about singing “It’s Not for Me to Say” and then “Chances Are”, two of the most beloved torch songs of all time. Johnny was amazed by more than just Robert’s musical talent. “He had wisdom, and intuition that I didn’t have,” said Johnny. “How did he know that those songs were going to work for me? I certainly didn’t know,” Johnny added.
Many refer to “Chances Are” as Johnny’s signature song. It is a classic Mathis performance sung with enchanting tenderness, and swooning passion, that showcases Johnny’s extraordinary talent as a vocalist and interpreter. The ballad was fittingly given the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.
The great Bing Crosby recorded an unheralded version of “Chances Are” for his popular radio show, also in 1957, as did English comedic actor Dave King. King’s version was a flip side for his single “Shake Me I Rattle”. Mathis re-recorded the tune as a duet with Liza Minnelli in 1996 for Liza’s album Gently.
“Chances Are” launched Johnny Mathis into Stardom and Pop Culture
In 1989, “Chances Are” was used prominently as the theme song for the movie of the same name, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Mary Stuart Masterson.
Robert Allen’s hunch about Johnny being the perfect vocalist for his songs, was truly prophetic. Catapulted by the timeless success of “It’s Not For me to Say” and “Chances Are”, Johnny Mathis has become one of the biggest selling artists in music industry chart history. He ranks #2 for overall chart performance on the Billboard Album chart for the 1950s. He ranks #10 for the 1960s, and for the period of 1955 to 2009, Johnny comes in at #6 all time.
Johnny continues to dazzle audiences while tirelessly touring the world. His majestic voice is just as seductive and riveting today as it was back in the golden days of 1957.