Today’s Old Soul is Harry Connick Jr.
Joseph Harry Fowler Connick, Jr. (born September 11, 1967) is an American singer, musician and actor. He has sold over 28 million albums worldwide. Connick is ranked among the top 60 best-selling male artists in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, with 16 million in certified sales. He has had seven top 20 US albums, and ten number-one US jazz albums, earning more number-one albums than any other artist in US jazz chart history.
Connick’s best-selling album in the United States is his 1993 Christmas album When My Heart Finds Christmas, which is also one of the best selling Christmas albums in the United States. His highest-charting album is his 2004 release Only You, which reached No. 5 in the U.S. and No. 6 in Britain. He has won three Grammy Awards and two Emmy Awards. He played Grace’s husband, Dr. Leo Markus, on the TV sitcom Will & Grace from 2002 to 2006.
Connick began his acting career as a tail gunner in the World War II film Memphis Belle in 1990. He played a serial killer in Copycat in 1995, before being cast as jet fighter pilot in the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day. Connick’s first role as a leading man was in 1998’s Hope Floats with Sandra Bullock. His first thriller film since Copycat came in 2003 in the film Basic with John Travolta. Additionally, he played the violent ex-husband in Bug, before two romantic comedies, 2007’s P.S. I Love You, and the leading man in New in Town with Renée Zellweger in 2009. In 2011, he appeared in the family film Dolphin Tale as Dr. Clay Haskett and in the 2014 sequel, Dolphin Tale 2.
Harry Connick, Jr. was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. His mother, Anita Frances (née Levy; later Livingston; May 22, 1926 – July 1981), was a lawyer and judge in New Orleans and, later, a Louisiana Supreme Court justice. His father, Joseph Harry Fowler Connick, Sr., was the district attorney of Orleans Parish from 1973–2003. His parents also owned a record store. Connick’s father is a Catholic of Irish, English, and German ancestry. Connick’s mother, who died from ovarian cancer, was Jewish (her parents had immigrated from Minsk and Vienna, respectively). Connick has a sister, Suzanna; the siblings were raised in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans. Connick is a first cousin of both Jefferson Parish District Attorney, Paul Connick, and State Representative Patrick Connick (of Harvey, Jefferson Parish).
Connick’s musical talents soon came to the fore when he started learning the keyboards at age three, playing publicly at age five, and recording with a local jazz band at ten. When Connick was nine years old, he performed the Piano Concerto No. 3 Opus 37 of Beethoven with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra (now the Louisiana Philharmonic), and later played a duet with Eubie Blake at the Royal Orleans Esplanade Lounge in New Orleans. The song was “I’m Just Wild About Harry”. This was recorded for a Japanese documentary called Jazz Around the World. The clip was also shown in a Bravo special, called Worlds of Harry Connick, Junior. in 1999. His musical talents were developed at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and under the tutelage of Ellis Marsalis, Jr. and James Booker.
Connick attended Jesuit High School, Isidore Newman School, Lakeview School, and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, all in New Orleans. Following an unsuccessful attempt to study jazz academically, and having given recitals in the classical and jazz piano programs at Loyola University, Connick moved to the 92nd Street YMHA in New York City to study at Hunter College and the Manhattan School of Music, where a Columbia Records executive Sr. V.P. of A&R, Dr. George Butler, persuaded him to sign with that label. His first record for the label, Harry Connick Junior., was a mainly instrumental album of standards. He soon acquired a reputation in jazz because of extended stays at high-profile New York venues. His next album, 20, featured his vocals and added to this reputation.
When Harry Met Sally…, chart and movie success
With Connick’s reputation growing, director Rob Reiner asked him to provide a soundtrack for his 1989 romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally…, starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. The soundtrack consisted of several standards, including “It Had to Be You”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, and achieved double-platinum status in the United States. He won his first Grammy Award for Best Jazz Male Vocal Performance for his work on the soundtrack.
Connick made his screen debut in Memphis Belle (1990), about a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber crew in World War II. In that year he began a two-year world tour. In addition he released two albums in July 1990: the instrumental jazz trio album Lofty’s Roach Souffle and a big-band album of mostly original songs titled We Are in Love, which also went double platinum. We Are in Love earned him his second consecutive Grammy for Best Jazz Male Vocal.
“Promise Me You’ll Remember”, his contribution to the Godfather III soundtrack, was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 1991. In a year of recognition, he was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Performance in a Variety Special for his PBS special Swingin’ Out Live, which was also released as a video. In October 1991 he released his third consecutive multi-platinum album, Blue Light, Red Light, on which he wrote and arranged the songs. Also in October 1991 he starred in Little Man Tate, directed by Jodie Foster, playing the friend of a child prodigy who goes to college.
In November 1992, Connick released 25, a solo piano collection of standards that again went platinum. He also re-released the album Eleven. Connick contributed “A Wink and a Smile” to the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack, released in 1993. His multi-platinum album of holiday songs, When My Heart Finds Christmas, was the best-selling Christmas album in 1993.
In 1994, Connick decided to branch out. He released She, an album of New Orleans funk that also went platinum. In addition, he released a song called “(I Could Only) Whisper Your Name” for the soundtrack of The Mask, starring Jim Carrey, which is his most successful single in the United States to date.
Connick took his funk music on a tour of the United Kingdom in 1994, an effort that did not please some of his fans, who were expecting a jazz crooner. Connick also took his funk music to the People’s Republic of China in 1995, playing at the Shanghai Center Theatre. The performance was televised live in China for what became known as the Shanghai Gumbo special. In his third film Copycat, Connick played a serial killer. Released in 1995, Copycat also starred Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver. The following year, he released his second funk album, Star Turtle, which did not sell as well as previous albums, although it did reach No. 38 on the charts. However, he appeared in the most successful movie of 1996, Independence Day, with Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.
Late 1990s: jazz and Hope Floats
For his 1997 release To See You, Connick recorded original love songs, touring the United States and Europe with a full symphony orchestra backing him and his piano in each city. As part of his tour, he played at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, with his final concert of that tour in Paris being recorded for a Valentine’s Day special on PBS in 1998. He also continued his film career, starring in Excess Baggage opposite Alicia Silverstone and Benicio del Toro in 1997.
In May 1998, he had his first leading role in director Forest Whitaker’s Hope Floats, with Sandra Bullock as his female lead. He released Come By Me, his first album of big band music in eight years in 1999, and embarked on a world tour visiting the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia. In addition, he provided the voice of Dean McCoppin in the animated film The Iron Giant.
2000–02: Broadway debut, musicals, Will & Grace
Connick wrote the score for Susan Stroman’s Broadway musical Thou Shalt Not, based on Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin, in 2000; it premiered in 2001. His music and lyrics earned a Tony Award nomination. He was also the narrator of the film My Dog Skip, released in that year.
In March 2001, Connick starred in a television production of South Pacific with Glenn Close, televised on the ABC network. He also starred in his twelfth movie, Mickey, featuring a screenplay by John Grisham that same year. In October 2001, he again released two albums: Songs I Heard, featuring big band re-workings of children’s show themes, and 30, featuring Connick on piano with guest appearances by several other musical artists. Songs I Heard won Connick another Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Album and he toured performing songs from the album, holding matinees at which each parent had to be accompanied by a child.
In 2002, he received a U.S. Patent 6,348,648 for a “system and method for coordinating music display among players in an orchestra.” Connick appeared as Grace Adler’s boyfriend (and later husband) Leo Markus on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace from 2002 to 2006.