Peter Nero, who died Thursday, played his final concert date at The Sharon seven years ago and soon after moved to The Villages. He purchased a home in 2017 in the Village of Osceola Hills.
Nero, 89, was a world-famed pianist, conductor and composer. He may be best known for his recording of the instrumental theme from the movie, “Summer of ’42.” Nero’s album from that song sold over a million copies in the early ‘70s.
Long before that, Nero achieved fame for his music. During the 1960s, he often appeared on TV with Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson — and other variety shows.
Nero also accompanied musical legends, including: Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis and Mel Torme’.
He released a remarkable 72 albums during his career and also conducted the Philly Pops orchestra for 34 years.
“The Philly Pops has always been inspired by his vision, talent, and his artistry,” the Philly Pops said in a statement after his death.
Nero conducted orchestras throughout the country, and was equally at home playing jazz or classical music.
The kid who grew up in Brooklyn – his real name was Bernie Nierow — found a way to reach audiences in piano bars, night clubs and symphony halls. He earned Grammy Awards in 1961, for best new artist, and a year later for best performance with an orchestra. That was for the album “The Colorful Peter Nero.” He also wrote the score for the movie, “Sunday in New York.”
Nero took great pride in composing the music for “The Diary of Anne Frank.” She was the courageous Jewish girl who hid for two years from the Nazis in Amsterdam. She was eventually killed in a concentration camp.
Nero, in an emotionally and haunting composition for full orchestra, used Frank’s words for 15 songs.
“Writing ‘Anne Frank’ was perhaps the most emotional experience of my life,” Nero told The New York Times. “I was so moved by the diary, I wanted to do something almost biblical.
“I wrote the bulk of it in just three weeks. Once I got on a roll, I couldn’t stop. Everything just fell into place….(Anne) was not just religious or spiritual. What came through was her faith in the goodness of man.”
Nero was criticized by some classical musicians for the way he mixed classical and jazz. But he made the music his way.
“I did an arrangement that mixed the ‘1812’ Overture and ‘Over the Rainbow,” Nero told the New York Times. “Somebody called and said: ‘How can you do that to ‘Over the Rainbow.’”
Some called Nero’s music middle of the road.
“Middle of the road and doing great business,” was Nero’s public reply.
Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist