The Washington Post

Celebvocate: Dominic Chianese, Uncle Junior of ‘Sopranos,’ brings music to nursing homes

Dominic Chianese, best known as Junior on “The Sopranos,” sings for the residents of the Methodist Home in Washington (Amy Mendoza/American Health Care Association)

Event: A musical performance to kick off National Nursing Home Week.

Setting: The Methodist Home in upper Northwest Washington.

Bona fides: Six seasons as mob boss Uncle Junior on “The Sopranos”; a new role on “Boardwalk Empire”; past stints as tavern singer and nursing-home worker.

What he wants: To raise funds for his nonprofit Joy Through Art, which aims to bring live music and theater into nursing homes.

How he looked: Almost unrecognizable with a white goatee instead of Junior’s thick specs — but you’d know the 81-year-old’s Bronx-tinged baritone anywhere.

What he did: Played guitar, sang oldies (“Summertime,” “Jambalaya,” “You Are My Sunshine”) for residents and lit up the entire room. When a man in a wheelchair began harmonizing, the delighted actor (“That’s a gift. We should go on tour!”) coaxed him through a solo of “Danny Boy.”

Backstory: In the early ’80s, Chianese left acting for a job in a nursing home, where he realized how much live music boosted residents’ spirits; his late-career success enabled him to start the nonprofit organization. “Thank God for ‘The Sopranos,’ ” he told us. “This is my calling.”

Video: Dominic Chianese performs for National Nursing Home Week

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