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Dean Martin Songs: 10 of the Swingin’ Singer’s Best Tunes, Ranked

The King of Cool is calling for you to jazz up your playlist with these smooth selections!

Comedian Red Buttons once quipped of Dean Martin and his songs, “Let me put it this way: If Dracula bit him in the neck, he’d get a bloody Mary!” While Martin did admit that he enjoyed his cocktails, he long asserted that his boozy, lazy image was more the stuff of legend. “Down deep, [people] know I’m not a lazy guy. If there’s ever a benefit [and] somebody calls me, Frank [Sinatra] and I are always there,” the philanthropic entertainer said in a 1983 interview. “Could I be where I am today if I were lazy and if I were a boozer?” he continued, insisting that “family is always first. I don’t have fun all the time. I work! And the only reason I work is to provide for my family.”

Daughter Deana Martin, one of his eight children, can attest to that. “Sure, he would go on the road, but not a lot, because he loved to be home,” she told Closer Weekly of her devoted dad. “We could set the clock by him because we knew when he would walk in through the backdoor.” That included the benefit work her dad spoke of. “My father was generous with his time. He would go anywhere for anyone,” she said.

Born Dino Paul Crocetti, the son of an Italian immigrant, Martin proved to be a hit with audiences from his early days performing in nightclubs and films with comedian Jerry Lewis. His days running around with the Rat Pack (Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford) and starring in films such as 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven helped the star earn his nickname of the King of Cool, reportedly coined by none other than Elvis Presley. His Dean Martin Show variety series was a hit in the’60s and ’70s and further showcased both his comedic and musical talents.  

Dean Martin Songs: Dean Martin sitting at piano
Dean Martin (1960)Silver Screen Collection / Contributor / Getty

There were even some Christmas Dean Martin Songs that charted, including “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let it Snow!,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and “A Marshmallow World.” “I see people walking and suddenly they’re all smiling and going, ‘Isn’t that Dean Martin?’” Deana says of the joy she gets hearing his music play in stores during the holiday season. “It just warms my heart, it really does,” she adds of the bittersweet feeling, as her father died on Christmas Day in 1995 at the age of 78.

Martin, who started singing in a local spaghetti parlor, was sometimes criticized for choosing too ethnically gimmicky material and not taking his singing career seriously enough. Still, his raw talent was undeniable. “He possessed one of the richest and most seductive voices of his generation, as fetching as his leading-man good looks,” according to music critic-historian Ted Gioia, author of The Jazz Standards. “Of American singers of his day, only Nat King Cole had a more serene and comforting way of articulating notes.… Martin’s phrasing was assured and he seemed never to go off pitch.”

In the end, 40 of Martin’s singles hit the Billboard charts — with seven reaching the top 10 — and 11 of his albums were certified gold. “I wouldn’t change one thing. Not one thing,” the entertainer said of his career roughly a decade before he passed, and we feel the same way about these Dean Martin songs that just get better each time we hear them.

Here, we take a look at 10 of his best.

10. “Mambo Italiano” (1955)

The singer’s cover of Rosemary Clooney’s 1954 hit is one of his songs that’s sometimes scrutinized for its novelty elements, still it unsurprisingly remains popular to this day. Reportedly — and fittingly — written on a napkin in an Italian restaurant by songwriter Bob Merrill, the lyrics play fast and loose with its rapid-fire delivery of Italian words that are strung together as delicately as if they were by mozzarella. But it’s all in good fun, and both Italy’s Carla Boni and Renato Carosone scored with their own spirited versions back home.

9. “Come Running Back” (1966) Dean Martin songs

For 1966, this was quite the banger! The tune, which peaked at No. 35, features an almost aggressive group of backup singers shouting the song’s title/chorus, though they it uniquely balances out Martin’s trademark laidback delivery.

His seemingly nonchalant manner also deliciously pairs with the subtle “told-you-so” themed lyrics, penned by Dick Glasser: “If you realize that you were wrong to say goodbye, don’t allow your foolish pride to let true love go by. Baby, come running back to me…Back to the arms that long to hold you forever and ever, my love.”

8. “Little Ole Wine Drinker, Me” (1967)

“Dad thought he was the Marlboro Man. He loved country,” Deana said of her father, who trotted to No. 38 on the charts with his version of the Charlie Walker song (which was also covered by Robert Mitchum and Lefty Frizzell).

With lyrics such as “I’m prayin’ for rain in California, so the grapes can grow and they can make more wine,” the song was a winking nod to Martin’s boozy persona, but it proves to be so much more than that as his vocals and deft phrasing on the track make this a real winner for him. (The killer harmonica is a bonus!)

7. “You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Loves You” (1964)

“You may be king, you may possess the world and it’s gold, but gold won’t bring you happiness when you’re growing old,” Martin croons on this hit, which he took to No. 25 on the charts. He previously released the song — co-written and first recorded by Russ Morgan in 1944 — in 1960 with a different arrangement by Nelson Riddle, but Martin still wasn’t done with the song yet (well, sort of): In 2007, a posthumous version with Martin, Shelby Lynne and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was included on the Martin compilation album Forever Cool, proving that the track was still hot even 12 years after his death.

6. “Return to Me”(1958) Dean Martin songs

This No. 4 Billboard hit was co-written by Carmen Lombardo (famed orchestra leader Guy Lombardo’s brother) and Danny Di Minno. A few years after he first released it, Martin returned to it for his 1961 album, Dino: Italian Love Songs. It’s a lush, hopelessly romantic song, and Martin exquisitely delivers such sweet lyrics as “Return to me, for my heart wants you only, hurry home, hurry home” to a lover he fears he’s hurt. At the end, he even pledges his devotion in Italian (perfetto!), singing, “Ritorna me, cara mia, ti amo. Solo tu, solo tu, solo tu, solo tu, mio cuore.”

5. “Volare (Nel Blu Di Pino Di Blu)” (1958)

Martin’s version of this Domenico Modugno original sold more than 1.5 million records when it came out, ultimately reaching No. 12 on the U.S. charts. Using some of the original Italian lyrics by Modugno and adding some in English, penned by Mitchell Parish, Martin’s take has flown high with fans both here at home and internationally: It even went all the way to No. 2 in the U.K. For a return to the full Italian flavor of the original, check out this gorgeous and soaring interpretation by singer Tiziano Ferro.

4. “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” (1960)

“How lucky can one guy be, I kissed her and she kissed me, like the fella once said, ‘Ain’t that a kick in the head?’” Though its arrangement is different from the one Martin performs in Ocean’s Eleven, this Nelson Riddle-arranged big band single really swings, as do Martin’s vocals. Though it never charted — ain’t THAT a kick in the head! — it’s become one of the most signature Dean Martin songs and has therefore been included on many of his greatest hits collections. “I think it’s still a big song because it’s a classic,” daughter Deana Martin has said, which is why she included her own version of it on her 2006 album, Memories Are Made of This.

3. “Memories Are Made of This” (1955) Dean Martin songs

Backed by the Easy Riders, the three-piece folk outfit that wrote this song, Martin rode this melancholy hit all the way to No. 1. The Easy Riders’ jaunty and catchy “sweet sweet” backing vocals add a ton of charm to the song, and Martin’s baritone is as solid as ever. It’s been covered by many, including Bing Crosby, Petula Clark, Anne Murray, the Drifters and Johnny Cash, among many others, and a Hungarian-language adaptation, “Honvágy-dal,” or “The Song of Homesickness,” even became an unofficial anthem of the Hungarian revolution, with its lyrics tweaked to be less romance-focused and more generally sentimental in honor of refugees.

2. “That’s Amore” (1953) Dean Martin songs

Sure, it’s silly and some rightfully argue it’s full of Italian-American clichés and stereotypes, but snap out of it! This classic tune proves to be as irresistible as the big pizza pie it mentions in its opening lines. Though it peaked at numero due on the charts, the song is as iconic a Martin record as they come. While it enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity when it was featured in 1987’s Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicolas Cage, it actually made its big-screen debut in the 1953 Martin-Jerry Lewis film The Caddy.

1. “Everybody Loves Somebody” (1964)

Topping our list of Dean Martin songs … “Everybody loves somebody sometime, everybody falls in love somehow…” This was a No. 1 megahit for Martin, who received his sole Grammy Award nomination for Best Vocal Performance for the album of the same name. Though he didn’t win, the song was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. The sweet song, written in 1947 by Irving Taylor and Ken Lane, also served as the theme to Martin’s popular, long-running TV show, and the words “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” even appear on the artist’s grave at LA’s Westwood Cemetery. Seems like everybody loves this song, all the time, and deservedly so.

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