'Into The Night' singer-songwriter Benny Mardones dies at 73, fans say he was the 'ultimate showman'
Benny Mardones had fought a long battle with Parkinson's disease in the latter stages of his career after being diagnosed in 2000
Benny Mardones, the singer-songwriter of the two-time Top 20 hit from the 1980s, 'Into The Night', died at the age of 73. Benny, a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a degenerative nervous system disorder in 2000.
"Benny died peacefully in his home in Menifee, CA on June 29, 2020, with his loving wife at his side. He died from complications of Parkinson’s disease," said his friend and record producer, Joel Diamond. "Life has a beginning and an end for all of us, but one thing that will always be said of Benny Mardones is that he definitely squeezed the tube-of-life completely dry."
Benny Mardones aka Ruben Armand Mardones was born into a Chilean immigrant family on November 9, 1946, in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up in Baltimore and joined the Navy after high school, serving his country during the Vietnam war. After being discharged, he moved to New York in 1969 to become a singer-songwriter and was hired by Joel Diamond as a staff writer for MRC Music, the publishing division of Mercury Records.
Diamond and his assistant Tommy Mottola, who later became the head of Sony Music, were impressed when Mardones first sang a cappella in their office. “One of the best voices I’d ever heard, outside of Daryl Hall,” Mottola exclaimed. Along with his writing partner Alan Miles, Benny Mardones went on to write songs for stars such as Brenda Lee, Chubby Checker, Tommy James, Barbara Jean English and Three Dog Night.
He eventually signed his own recording contract with White Whale Records and later Columbia Records. He started the opening for folk-rock legend Richie Havens' tour in 1977 and released his debut album 'Thank God For Girls' in 1978. After getting signed by Polydor Records, Mardones began writing with Robert Tepper and soon released his signature power ballad, 'Into the Night', in 1980, which went on to become a chart success story thrice, securing over eight million cumulative plays.
'Into The Night' reached No. 11 on the charts when it was first released on his 1980 album 'Never Run, Never Hide'. After being re-released in 1989, the song once again hit the Top 20 on the Billboard chart, putting the singer-songwriter in rarefied company. A ballad version was also released in 2019, when Joel Diamond produced a re-recording of 'Into The Night' that charted on Billboard for an unprecedented third time.
Mardones fell into substance abuse issues after his initial success with 'Into The Night' and the song would remain his only major chart hit. In the mid-1980s he entered recovery and moved to Syracuse, New York. He went to play at local venues for decades, with his last concert being at Turning Stone Resort Casino in 2017. Mardones was well known for his Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend shows at Pfohl’s Beach House in Sylvan Beach during the 1990s and 2000s.
“It was almost like a cult following,” said Jerry Kraus, a radio announcer for 96.9 FM WOUR as he reminisced about Mardones in 2019. “He was just the ultimate showman. He could walk into a room and make friends with everybody instantly, had a smile that would light up the room, and the gift of gab to go along with it.”
Soon after this death, tributes have been pouring in for the talented singer-songwriter. One fan tweeted, "Benny Mardones had such a strange and fascinating career. Writer for Brenda Lee and Tommy James. One-hit wonder twice with the same song ("Into the Night"), at the beginning and the end of the '80s. Enduring local live legend of Central New York."
Paul Stanley of Kiss fame tweeted, "So sad to hear of the passing of Benny Mardones. A lovely guy, always warm to me and a great voice. Benny lived hard and the last decade was cruel. My condolences to his family."
Another fan tweeted, "I saw Mr. Mardones at the Roy Orbison Tribute at the Universal Amphitheater, he did play 'Into the Night'. He may not have had the huge career that you would hope for, but he was a talented man. He sang the "mess" out of that song. Show-stopping! The man will be missed."
Julian Tepper, the son of Robert Tepper, posted, "My dad’s dear friend and songwriting partner #bennymardones has passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s. Benny is the inspiration for the character Uncle Billy in 'Between the Records', and, as was true of him in life, is a real scene-stealer. RIP Benny."