Death of Peter Nero: Remembering the Grammy-Winning Pianist and Philly Pops Conductor

Death of Peter Nero

Death of Peter Nero: Grammy-Winning Pianist , Peter Nero, passed away at the age of 89. His daughter, Beverly Nero, confirmed the news, and the services will be held privately.

Nero was widely recognized for his exceptional talent and his long-standing role as the conductor of the Philly Pops orchestra. He had a remarkable ability to interpret pop songs through various musical genres, including classical, jazz, swing, Broadway, and blues. Nero’s distinctive sound defied categorization, and although some referred to it as “middle of the road,” he took pride in his success and the popularity he garnered.

Recruited by concert promoter Moe Septee, Nero founded the Philly Pops orchestra in 1979 with the aim of rivaling the renowned Boston Pops orchestra led by Arthur Fiedler. While not achieving the same level of prominence, Nero’s orchestra consistently filled venues in Philadelphia, thanks to his lively performance style and warm stage presence.

Nero’s repertoire often featured Broadway tunes, Hollywood themes, and the works of George Gershwin, which were showcased in the Philly Pops’ inaugural concert. He also ventured into Motown hits and explored the music of diverse bands such as Procol Harum. Nero even released an album dedicated to disco and ’70s love songs.

In the 1970s, Nero faced challenges incorporating new material into his performances, especially rock songs, as many rock groups prioritized sound over musicality. However, he continued to evolve and adapt his music to captivate audiences.

Nero served as the conductor of the Philly Pops for over three decades, stepping down in 2013 due to financial constraints faced by the orchestra.

Earlier in his career, Nero encountered difficulties under the name Bernie Nerow, particularly during his time in New York and Las Vegas. However, he found success in his late 20s while performing in New York’s club circuit. Recognizing his potential, he was signed to RCA by Stan Greeson and adopted the name Peter Nero. This marked the beginning of a fruitful period, with numerous club shows, radio and TV appearances, and the release of multiple albums under RCA over the course of a decade.

Death of Peter Nero

Nero’s remarkable talent was acknowledged with Grammy Awards in 1961 for Best New Artist and in 1962 for Best Performance by an Orchestra or Instrumentalist for his record “The Colorful Peter Nero.” His 1963 album, “Hail the Conquering Nero,” achieved success on the Billboard pop album chart, peaking at No. 5 and featuring popular tracks like “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” and “Mack the Knife.” Nero also charted with his rendition of the “Theme from ‘The Summer of ’42’,” which reached No. 21 on the Billboard pop singles chart.

In addition to his performances, Nero composed the score for the 1963 film “Sunday in New York,” starring Jane Fonda, and even made an appearance in the movie.

Born as Bernard Nierow in 1934, Nero grew up in Brooklyn, showcasing prodigious talent from a young age. He began piano lessons at the age of 7 and by 11, he could play Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major from memory. Nero earned a scholarship to study at Juilliard, won several talent contests, and graduated from Brooklyn College.

Nero’s spontaneous approach to song selection characterized his performances as he would choose songs on the spot rather than following a predetermined set list. This inclination for mixing styles and genres carried over to his work with the Philly Pops, where he delighted audiences with diverse and unexpected program choices.

Peter Nero’s musical contributions, both as a performer and conductor, have left an indelible mark on the industry. His innovative interpretations, blending classical and jazz elements with popular music, will be remembered as part of his enduring musical legacy.

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