PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Peter Nero, a Grammy-winning pianist who interpreted pop songs through classical and jazz forms and served as the Philly Pops’ conductor for more than three decades, has died. Nero was 89.
Nero died Thursday at Home Care Assisted Living Facility in Eustis, Fla., according to his daughter, Beverly Nero, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Services will be private.
Nero colored his renditions of pop songs — from Cole Porter and George Gershwin to the Beatles and Bob Dylan — with classical, swing, Broadway, blues and jazz melodies. He often called his sound “undefinable” and was not offended when others called it “middle of the road.” (He once told a newspaper, “Middle of the road and doing great business.”)
Recruited by Philadelphia concert promoter Moe Septee, Nero started the Philly Pops orchestra in 1979, the year Arthur Fiedler died. Fiedler is credited with virtually inventing the modern version of the pops orchestra in Boston, and Nero hoped to rival it in popularity.
“I’d like to beat the pants off them,” Nero said at the time.