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How did Joni James die? 1950s pop star, 91, had recorded more than 40 albums

Dubbed 'the Queen of Hearts', she was famous for her singles 'Why Don’t You Believe Me?' and 'How Important Can It Be?'
Joni Jones performing 'You're My Everything' Live in 1996 (Photo by YouTube@Alan Eichler)
Joni Jones performing 'You're My Everything' Live in 1996 (Photo by YouTube@Alan Eichler)

Joni James, who was famous as the ‘Queen of Hearts’, died on February 20 at a hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida. She was 91. The unfortunate news of her demise was first shared by her family to a reputed publication. The late singer shot to fame with her singles ‘Why Don’t You Believe Me?’, ‘How Important Can It Be?’ and a cover of Hank Williams’ ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’, among others. In her illustrious career, the popular singer from the 1950s recorded more than 40 albums selling over 100 million records.
The news of James’ death comes days after the legendary actor and comedian Louie Anderson died on January 21. He was admitted to the hospital days earlier after being diagnosed with cancer but sadly could not make it. Bob Saget is another icon that Hollywood lost on January 9. Speaking of celebrity deaths, Betty White died at 99 of natural causes on December 31, 2021. Chick Vennera, DMX, Jay Black, and Jeanette Maus are other public figures who passed away last year leaving their loyal fans devastated.
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James was 22 when she had her first chart-topper. Her version of “Why Don’t You Believe Me?” spent three weeks at the top in December 1952, starting a run of eight Top 20 singles in 1952-53 including the Top 10 hits “Almost Always” “Have You Heard?” and a cover of “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” In fact, “Why Don’t You Believe Me?” was used in the 1981's Porky’s. Backed by the Ray Charles Singers, “How Important Can It Be?” reached No. 2 and went gold. The song was used in Curtis Hanson’s 1997 film L.A. Confidential, and she re-recorded it for a 2009 compilation album.

She married her musical arranger/conductor Tony Acquaviva in 1956 and went off the grid to take care of him. He died in 1986, and James began recording and touring again. She later was married to Bernard Schriever from 1997 until his death in 2005.

Joni James (Photo by Twitter@@silverscreenin)

How did Joni James die?

The news of James' death was shared by a family member to The Washington Post. They recently shared a detailed obituary online where the family revealed that Joni “passed away peacefully”. A specific cause of the death was not provided. James was born in Chicago in 1930. She was one of the siblings amongst six kids in the house. Her father died at the age of 36 when she just 5 years old. Her mother then raised the kids alone during the Depression.  James is survived by her son, Michael Acquaviva, her daughter, Angela Kwoka, her brothers, Angelo Babbo and Jimmy Contino, her sisters, Clara Aerostegui and Rosalie Ferina, and two grandchildren.
The online obituary posted by her family read, “Most importantly Joni will be remembered for being a passionately devoted wife, a beloved mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and a tender loving friend to her many loyal and cherished fans who she considered her friends. In her later years Joni’s passions were her faith, music, her fans, family and her loyal companion “Baby”, her dog. Speaking of her music in an interview with New York Daily News in 1966, she said, “I always sang from the heart” adding, “I always sang about life and how it affected me. I’m Italian. Italians are passionate people.”

‘RIP the greatly underrated Joni James’

Social media users paid their heartfelt tribute to the legendary crooner as one of the users said, “In Memoriam of my friend and idol Miss Joni James who passed on February 20-2022. Joni, always in my heart -until we meet again.” Another posted, “RIP the greatly underrated Joni James, whose crystal-clear voice was unmistakeable hers.” One stated, “Oh no! She was a bit risqué for my tastes but what a talent! RIP.”  The next one added, “I just wanted to say goodbye to joni James. shes been in my record boxes for many many years.” As, another concluded, “R.I.P. POP SINGER JONI JAMES. YOU WILL BE MISSED.”