Slim Whitman, the singer known for the 1952 hit “Indian Love Call,” died Wednesday (June 19) in Jacksonville, Fla. He was 89. His death from heart failure was confirmed by his son-in-law.
The sweeping falsetto vocals of “Indian Love Call” helped the single sell 1 million copies, as well as reach No. 2 on the country chart. It also became a Top 10 pop hit.
In addition, the single “Rose Marie” reached the Top 5 on the country chart in 1954; a 1970 remake spent 11 weeks at No. 1 in England. Whitman joined the Grand Ole Opry cast in 1955. Between 1952 and 1954, Whitman earned eight Top 10 hits for Imperial Records. He landed his final Top 10 singles in 1971 with “Guess Who” and “Something Beautiful (To Remember).”
Born as Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr., the singer grew up in the Tampa, Fla., area and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After being discharged, he started playing clubs in the Tampa area and attracted attention from Colonel Tom Parker, who helped him land a record deal with RCA Records.
Whitman’s first Top 10 country single, 1952’s “Love Song of the Waterfall,” was rediscovered after being used in the 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In 1979, Whitman experienced another unexpected return to the spotlight thanks to a telemarketing campaign, with sales reportedly in the millions.
In the 1990s, Whitman remained a popular touring act in Europe and Australia. “Indian Love Call” also played a comical role in the 1996 film, Mars Attacks!. Last year he released his final album of new material, Twilight on the Trail.