Nick Massi, an original member of the popular '60s group Four Seasons, died Sunday of cancer-related causes at his home in West Orange, New Jersey, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. He was 73.
Born Nicholas Macicoi in Newark, New Jersey, Massi first collaborated with future Four Season members Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito in another band, the Four Lovers, during the late '50s and early '60s.
That group evolved in 1961 into the Four Seasons, which rattled off a string of pop hits over the next three years, including such doo-wop influenced classics as "Sherry" (RealAudio excerpt), "Big Girls Don't Cry" (RealAudio excerpt), "Walk Like a Man" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Candy Girl" (RealAudio excerpt), among others.
Massi was primarily responsible for singing the bass parts opposite Valli's falsetto, and he also helped arrange the vocal parts for the other members of the Four Seasons. Massi departed from the group in 1965 after growing weary of touring, but he continued working with new artists in a West Orange studio with DeVito.
The Four Seasons, along with the Beach Boys and various Motown-affiliated artists, are widely credited with helping maintain the American music scene during the onslaught of the British Invasion fronted by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who during the '60s.
"He could do four-part modern harmonies that would amaze musicians who had studied for years," Valli told the Star-Ledger. "And he did it all in his head without writing it down."
"In the voice department, there was no one like Nick," longtime Four Seasons producer Bob Crewe told the paper. "He had that wonderful big booming sound. He was one of the most informed musicians I've ever worked with, with an innate sense of how things worked together."
The Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 by singer/songwriter Billy Joel, who at the time noted that "the Four Seasons had wonderful chord progressions, beautiful writing, terrific production, fantastic harmony, [and] records that really spoke to us."