“Mr. Lonely” is a song co-written and recorded by American singer Bobby Vinton. The song was first released on Vinton’s 1962 album Roses Are Red.
The fourth and last of the no. 1 singles by Vinton, this is the only one that was not a cover. Vinton wrote the song with Gene Allan, a songwriter who worked for Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music.
The song spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 1 on December 12, 1964, while reaching No. 3 on Billboard‘s Middle-Road Singles chart. In Canada, the song reached No. 1 on RPM‘s “Top 40 & 5” chart. The song also reached No. 2 on New Zealand’s “Lever Hit Parade”, No. 8 in Australia, and entered into the top 3 in South Africa.
A song about a soldier away from home
Bobby Vinton began writing the song while serving in the Army. The song describes a soldier who is sent overseas and has no communication with his home. The singer laments his condition and wishes for someone to talk with.
“Mr. Lonely” was recorded in the make-or-break session in which Vinton recorded “Roses Are Red (My Love),” in 1962. His label, Epic Records, was going to drop him if he did not produce a hit.
“I wrote the song when I was in the Army, and when I did my first recording session – which was ‘Roses Are Red’ – the producers asked if I had any songs of my own. I played them ‘Mr. Lonely’ and they loved it.”
The single of Vinton’s recording was released just as the Vietnam War was escalating and many soldiers were experiencing a similar situation. Vinton’s version was noted for his emotional sobbing during the second verse.
When Vinton proved everyone wrong
Epic Records never had much initial faith in Bobby Vinton, but he turned out to be their best selling artist of the 1960s. Bobby included it on his first vocal album “Roses Are Red,” but it was not initially released as a single. He wanted the single to be a follow up to his first hit “Roses Are Red.” However, Epic’s executives went with the decidedly similar “Rain Rain Go Away” and then gave “Mr. Lonely” to Buddy Greco, whom they were grooming as their next big superstar.
Greco’s version reached No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on November 10, 1962. When Vinton heard Greco’s version on the radio, the executives at the company confessed to him that the move was made because they felt he was not a singer, but rather, a musician and a songwriter.
However, in the following months, Bobby’s continued success as a vocalist which proved them wrong.
Many months later, when Epic was preparing a “Greatest Hits” album, they had eleven cuts and asked Bobby what should be the twelfth. “Mr. Lonely” was his response to the question.
“Mr. Lonely”: Vinton’s favorite
Following its inclusion, many disc jockeys started to play it – particularly those who remembered Buddy Greco’s version and how Epic had shortchanged Bobby on his own song. With this newfound playing came many-a-demand for “Mr. Lonely” to be released as a single.
“Mr. Lonely” became one of Bobby’s signature songs and a favorite with servicemen around the world. Epic subsequently built an entire album release around “Mr. Lonely” when it became a hit as a single.
This remains Vinton’s favorite recording. It has endured through numerous cover versions. Frank Chacksfield, Franky B., The Lettermen, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Red Squares and The Village Stompers all recorded the song. Akon’s 2005 hit Lonely is based on a sample of this song.
The longing of a Soldier. Watch Bobby Vinton perform his melancholic hit, “Mr. Lonely.”