The Untold Truth Of Benny Mardones

Many of us have a favorite one-hit wonder, that unique track whose memory brings a smile and maybe even a "Whatever happened to –?" web search in an idle moment. That phrase — "one-hit wonder" — is sometimes used as a term of derision. "One and done," "no staying power," "a lucky break," and for some artists, no doubt it's a heartbreaker. But for others, that one hit can be a career-wide ride. And for a very few others, that one hit is a return ticket to the top of the charts.

One such individual was Benny Madrones. Entertainment Weekly reports that he was born Ruben Armand Mardones on November 9, 1946, in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Savage, Maryland. Like many young men of that time, he served in Vietnam, and when he returned from the conflict overseas, headed for New York and a career behind and around the microphone.

Madrones first earned his way as a staff songwriter for Mercury Records, recruited by record producer Joel Diamond to pen tunes for artists like Brenda Lee and Tommy James. Madrones not only wrote songs, but would also perform the demo of the tune, which eventually led to taking the stage himself. He toured as the opener for Richie Havens and recorded a solo album in 1978, says Billboard. It was less than a hit. And then he released an album that was.

The first time was the charm, and so was the second

In 1980, Mardones' album Never Run, Never Hide, included a singular track. Call it luck, call it fate, but "Into the Night" (posted on YouTube) was a monster hit. Co-written by Madrones and Robert Tepper, performed by Madrones — he credited Luciano Pavarotti and Teddy Pendergrass as vocal influences — the single peaked at No. 11 in September that year.

And that was it. At the time, anyway. Madrones tragically fell victim to substance abuse and dropped out of the industry. In time, he cleaned up, and nine years later, one of those "Where Are They Now?" segments ignited interest in the track and its singer/co-composer. In 1989 Madrones re-recorded his signature hit and again broke onto the charts, this time reaching No. 20 on Billboard's Hot 100 list.

Madrones continued to perform until 2017, even after a diagnosis of Parkinson's in 2000. USA Today reports his friend, Joel Diamond, honoring Madrones with these words: "[O]ne thing that will always be said of Benny Mardones is that he definitely squeezed the tube-of-life completely dry."

Entertainment Weekly wrote that Mardones died at his home in Menifee, California, from complications of Parkinson's on June 29, 2020.