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- Posted on Jan 3rd 2012 1:00PM by Jason MacNeil
Fred Milano, an original member of '50s pop group Dion and the Belmonts who rose to fame with hits like 'I Wonder Why' and 'A Teenager in Love,' died Sunday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 72.
"With everyone who loves the roots of Rock 'n' Roll, I'm mourning the loss of Freddie Milano," lead singer Dion DiMucci wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 3 alongside an old photo of himself and Milano together.
"Fred played an important role in my younger life. He was a boyhood friend from the Bronx and one of the original members of Dion and the Belmonts. He was savvy with harmonies. We had our ups and downs through the years but that's how things go in families, even rock-and-roll families. I will always remain grateful for his contribution in 1958 & 59 -- may he rest in peace and rock on in heaven."
Milano was with the band -- who took its name from Belmont Ave. in their Bronx neighborhood -- from its infancy as the second tenor along with lead singer DiMucci, baritone vocalist Carlo Mastrangelo and first tenor Angelo D'Aleo. The group signed to Laurie Records and made inroads with the singles 'I Wonder Why,' 'No One Knows' and their biggest hit, 'A Teenager in Love.'
Watch Dion and the Belmonts perform 'A Teenager in Love'
A tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper followed during which DiMucci declined a seat on the infamous plane which crashed and killed all three singers in Clear Lake, Iowa in February, 1959.
In 1960, DiMucci left the group but the band continued as the Belmonts despite never achieving the same level of success. Dion and the Belmonts reunited in 1966 and again for a one-off live album in 1972.
Milano carried on in the group through its various lineup changes throughout the following decades up to recent years with a lineup that also include D'Aleo. Meanwhile, Milano also worked as a legal coordinator for the City of New York in his later years.
"On January 1, 2012 we lost a great man," a statement on the Belmonts' website said regarding Milano's death. "Freddie was the founder of our group and made rock n' roll (which is not easy to define) understandable. If you were lucky enough to have known him, the real nature of rock n' roll became clear and as in the songs he sang and the records he made."