Danny Aiello has always played a tough man in the movies. Yes, there were a few exceptions like in “Moonstruck,” but generally, he’s played quite a few tough guys. Now, Danny has released an album, and what struck me the most was how much his personally comes through his music. In this interview, we really get a chance to explore Danny’s emotional side, and in turn, you get to see the man behind the music.
DM) I heard that you’re a bit nervous and excited about the attention given your recent album. Haven’t you had similar experiences of going through the press junket and the such with your movies?
DA) It’s absolutely true, but it’s an entirely different situation for this. I’m playing a character, and when I’m being asked about it, I’m usually being asked about the character. If I stunk for some reason, you can always blame it on the character. An album is such a personal thing, though. It’s something that I always wanted to do. What kept me from doing it, quite obviously, was that I simply didn’t have the guts to go out before people as myself and do what it is that I love to do. This became more difficult because I finally achieved what I’ve been trying to achieve for a long time, which is make a record. It’s me doing me, and singing as me, and it’s not a character. Do you know what I’m saying?
DM) I understand. It’s refreshing to hear, though.
DA) Well, when I was on the stage at the Rainbow Room, once I was into it, I suppose a character came on the stage and said, “Lets just do what has to be done, and close the door behind us.” I did it and I must admit if I’m a judge of anything, I think I really scored that night. I sung about eight of the songs from the album, and I did some music from the past. I also didn’t want them to forget during that show, that I’m an actor and that’s what I do for a living, but in addition to that, this is something that I’ll continue to do for the rest of my life as well as act. I just wanted them to know where I came from and hopefully remember what I’ve started to do.
DM) I have to wonder though, why haven’t you started this sooner? Did you have to build the courage up?
DA) I really think it was that. Maybe I’m making too much of it. Maybe I didn’t want it bad enough. I guess I was like most people, I would sing in the privacy of my homes. In my case, I’d also sing for my daughters or at a guest at somebody’s function and they would ask me to sing, I would do it. I loved doing it. I would do it once or twice, but I never did it professionally. Maybe because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I don’t know.
I remember I was 12 years old I was taken to the Arthur Godfrey rehearsal for his show Talent Scouts in Manhattan. Now, Arthur Godfrey’s television show was tanemount to what American Idol is today. I was sitting there in an office outside, and I believe Momma was with me. Anyway, I was sitting there for about an hour. When my name was called, I was shocked. There were other opportunities, too, where the choreographer for the Milton Berle show wanted me to audition. I walked away from that, too.
DM) You just mentioned your mother as Momma. I’ve read that your mom was a very strong influence?
DA) Yes, my mother was the total influence. My father was fine, but he had another line. He was what we call a nomadic person; he was a wanderer. My mother was somehow able to get a steak for him because he was a steak home. That’s what it was in those days. Momma would wash his feet and do things like that. He was great in his own right, just not much of a family man. People have their reasons for doing things, it hurt not having a father at home, but I didn’t know it at the time.
DM) Your mother must have been a strong woman to have raised you on her own.
DA) My mother was like the pope. My mother was a great influence on me. Any talent that I have -anything that I have- that’s good comes straight from her. She was just loving to all people. Not only me. I remember when she was in the hospital and quite sick she had every medal imaginable on her. She’s say, “I don’t want to take any chances.” She was an amazing influence on me.
DM) Can one get over the death of a parent then?
DA) I call them path finders because they lead the path for you. Death can’t be so bad if mom went through it. It makes it easier for the child to follow.
DM) Do you bring your mother’s influence into your own parenting?
DA) I try to be a good parent. I’ve probably repressed my kids more than I should have, but I did that for good reasons. Sometimes protecting them overly. All I was concerned with was to get through that young life and hope that they become adults. I thought I was generous with them and did what they want. I never hit them, I yelled a lot, but I never laid a hand on them.