In this Oct. 7, 2011 file photo, Oscar-nominated actor Danny Aiello is photographed in New York. The 78-year-old, most known for his role in Spike Lee's 1989 film "Do the Right Thing," released the album of rap and classic standards "Bridges" with rapper
NEW YORK (AP) — How does Oscar-nominated actor Danny Aiello communicate with his nine grandchildren? Through rap music.
The 78-year-old said his grandchildren love his singing but couldn't remember his songs until he added rap.
"They went crazy over it (and) now they know all the words to the entire songs," he said.
Aiello, nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for Spike Lee's 1989 film, "Do the Right Thing," recently released his new album, "Bridges." It's a collaborative effort with rapper-songwriter Damon Hasan, who has produced music for Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child and Jennifer Lopez.
Aiello, who has also appeared on Broadway, talks about his fourth album and shares his thoughts on contemporary rap and pop music.
The Associated Press: It seems like your grandchildren were a big part in the making of this album.
Aiello: I utilize my grandchildren as my barometer for my success ... so my feeling was that it would be wonderful for me to do classic standards and put rap to it because the children of today are loving rap; I'm talking all colors, all religions, all nationalities love rap.
AP: Do you have a new respect for rap?
Aiello: I'm not into gangster rap, you know. I'm not into that. I'd have to say the beat, if I didn't accept the beat I would be a complete idiot because the beat is exciting. But the words itself are somewhat, for the most part, offensive to me. ... But plain rap, I would say "yes." Shakira, the guy who raps behind her (Wyclef Jean), I like that. I can enjoy that.
AP: The song and video for "City of Lights" from "Bridges" has a semisexy vibe. Talk about that.
Aiello: I'm singing a very low register for myself, which is something I never trusted for myself. But when I heard it, I said, "Wow, that's kind of sexy. That's like a white Barry White" (laughs). ... I thought it was very cool, but when my wife saw (the video) she wanted to kill me because there are a lot of young chicks that are not necessarily naked because I wouldn't do that. ... I mean my wife was very upset. I said, "Listen, I'm too old to even be thinking about that. ... What am I gonna do? They'll look at me and run like a deer, so there's no threat."
AP: What do you get creatively in music that you don't get in acting?
Aiello: I've sung in movies ... singing in movies is quite easy because you're doing it as a character. ... But when you're on the stage singing as Danny Aiello, you are Danny Aiello ... so it's a little more frightening.
AP: Is it still frightening?
Aiello: I was terrified (before), and do you know how long that terror lasted me? Until the age of 70. I wouldn't sing onstage. I didn't have the guts to do it. ... When I was able to conclude in my own mind "I am able to do this," I became freer and freer. The more confidence you have, the more natural you become.
AP: How has your voice changed over the years?
Aiello: On the record I sound a lot younger than 142 years old (laughs). ... You may not be able to determine exactly how old I am by the records that I sing. But yes, there is a change in my voice. I remember when I was a little kid, I would sing in my house or the bathroom and I had a very, like soprano kind of voice, like a little girl. Then of course I grew out of that and came into this husky, Italian voice.
AP: Who are some of your favorite contemporary singers?
Aiello: Although mechanical, I liked Madonna for a time, her voice, and I love the way she performed. But there's a lot about her that I don't like. ... I did "Papa Don't Preach" (in 1986), which was a video with Madonna. It was the first real acting video that was kind of done, and I wasn't a fan of hers. ... But I did it, and it was Sean Penn who was a buddy of mine ... he asked me if I would play her father in the video, so because he did I said, "All right." But today, I love Celine Dion. I don't want to make myself corny, but I love a voice like that. ... I like Michael Buble. ... I think I like Britney (Spears), but it was a little mechanical, you know the noises that they make behind her, the echoes and so forth. I'm not into that.
AP: Who else?
Aiello: I like Fergie, some of the things she's done. But recently, I heard her singing and it was so, it was very aggressive and her voice was like "Argghh!" And there were other songs that she sung that I loved, but recently I heard a couple that I didn't like.