Socail icons

google-plus.png    facebook.png        twitter.png 

Italian Pop Music

Beyond 'O Sole Mio' - a walk through the history of Italian pop and rock music


Italian pop-rock music in brief


Mina and Adriano Celentano, two of the most famous 
representatives of Italian pop music


Some Americans seem to equate Italian music with O Sole Mio and Funiculì Funiculà. Meaning no disrespect to these great songs, Italy has a popular music tradition that provides strong competition to popular and rock music from other countries such as the United States and England.

I would divide Italian popular music into four different categories, overlapping to some extent.

  • Melodic music
  • Italian Rock
  • Singer-songwriters (Known as "cantautori" )
  • Original style


Melodic Music

Italian music has seen many changes over the past forty years. I still remember  the songs that characterized my youth: Volare, by Domenico Modugno, Sapore di Sale, Abbronzatissima!, Fatti mandare dalla Mamma, Azzurro. We are talking about the lighthearted Italian 1960s. Any Italian who was around at the time will never forget other iconic songs of the time, such as Vengo anch'io - no tu no!,  by Enzo Iannacci, a dentist-come-songwriter. This was the period when wild young stars like Mina, Rita Pavone, Adriano Celentano, Gianni Morandi first appeared.

The period of the 1960s and 1970s sees the great success of the Italian "cantautori", singer songwriters. Gino Paoli, Luigi Tenco, Bruno Lauzi and Sergio Endrigo can be counted among the most representatives. 


Lucio Battisti
Lucio Battisti is an icon of Italian pop music


No one has however reached the popularity of Lucio Battisti. He alone, among Italian singers, could be compared in popularity to the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel: the majority of Italians between the age of 15 and 60 is very likely able to name and sing at least one of his songs. Most of Battisti' lyrics were penned by Mogol: often romantic and  usually non-political, the duo Battisti-Mogol produced, in fact, the perfect "date" music.

After the middle of the 70s, when young Italians became more politically conscious and expected music to reflect such a change, Battisti lost some of his audience only to gain it once again in the 80s and 90s.Young Italians still play Battisti songs and I consider his albums 'the top' in Italian music.

For anyone interested in Italian Music, the Best of Battisti is an absolute must buy. La canzone del sole, Il mio canto Libero, La collina dei Ciliegi, Aqua Azzurra acqua chiara, and many many other songs are the best of the best.


Italian Rock

Melodic style gave way in the 70s to a new style of music. Woodstock with Jimmie Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, Credence Clearwater Revival, Eric Clapton and many others changed the story of music forever in England and the United States.

Italian rock singers and singer-songwriters of the 70s and 80s include

  • PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi)

  • Banco del Mutuo Soccorso 
  • I Nomadi
  • Edoardo Bennato 

They were followed more recently by Vasco Rossi, Ligabue and Zucchero.

In Italy, Italian rock gives US-style rock a run for its money in terms of popularity. At the end of 2004, Vasco Rossi gave a free concert with an unheard-of audience for an Italian singer of 300,000 spectators, that happily stood under the rain. His crowd was surpassed only by the free concert that Simon and Garfunckel gave in front of the Colosseum in Rome in the Summer of the same year 2004 where crowds reached more than 500,000.


Singer-Songwriters (usually politically influenced)

The first of the singer-songwriters is poet-singer Fabrizio De AndréWe could compare him with Bob Dylan, even though his work has been influenced much more by French poetry and chansonniers. De Andre' wrote wonderful songs like La canzone di MarinellaBocca di rosa and La guerra di Piero (an anti-war song that I had to study in my school, together with Bob Dylan "Blowing in the Wind").

There are also cross-over artists: Edoardo Bennato writes and sings rock songs, but with a clear political meaning even if he claims that "Sono Solo Canzonette" (They are just simple songs) as he does in one of his songs.


Italian music has produced, of course, many more artists than those mentioned above:

  • Singer songwriter Antonello Venditti: " Sotto il segno dei pesci" is probably his most famous album and "Roma Capoccia" his most famous song.
  • Poet and ballad singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori: "Rimmel" is probably his best album, but you can find most of its songs in the compilation "Il bandito e il campione", an album that contains also a few new songs.
  • Political singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini, who started his carrer with "Due anni dopo" (1970), "L'Isola non trovata" (1970)  and reached fame with "Radici" (1972) and  "Via Paolo Fabbri 43" (1976). I stopped following him for a while, th
    en I enjoyed his 1996's album "Amore, morte ed altre sciocchezze". A great live is Album Concerto (along with Nomadi, 1979) a double album with a collections of songs.
  • Lucio Dalla, from Bologna, began his career in a jazz band and proceeded to develop his own style. Towards the end of his career, he also created theatrical scores. 


Original styles

Italian music comprises excellent singers and performers, whose style models are french-cabaret / light jazz-oriented – such as the piano player Paolo Conte – inspired by blues – as in the neapolitan music of Pino Daniele – or even based on ancient, medieval-style music and folk songs, best seen in the violin music of Angelo Branduardi ('La pulce d'acqua'). Singer-songwriting has today embarked in new musical territory with Italian rap singers Jovanotti (who has eventually changed direction and went more melodic) and Fedez, or the highly intellectualized work of Franco Battiato. 

There has also been a revival of opera-like romantic singing, which reached its height with stars such as Andrea Bocelli, following the outstanding worldwide success of the song Caruso, by Lucio Dalla.


By Paolo Nascimbeni

Schedule for: 
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - 18:30
What do you think ?
Il Volo wins Sanremo 2015
Thursday, February 19TH, 2015 by FrancescaBezzone
  All is justified during the week of the most famous Italian music kermesse, this year won by well-known (at least in the US) trio Il Volo. After having been away from Italy for the good part of 15 years, this was the first Festival di Sanremo I somehow followed since the late 1990s: as all good, well loved traditions of Italy, I was happy to see very little has changed. Music is only one of the things keeping people hooked to the tv screen when it comes to Sanremo: it is controversy that makes us all interested, and this year we had plenty. Conchita Wurst as a guest...
The festival of Sanremo
Monday, February 02TH, 2015 by AnnaDe Filippo
     Music is very important for Italians, because singing is part of our own history and tradition. Traditional Italian music has had, since the 1950s, a most prestigious appointment followed by the entire country: the Festival di Sanremo.    The Festival di Sanremo is also known as Il Festival della Canzone Italiana, the festival of Italian music. It takes place at the famous theatre Ariston in Sanremo where, for a week, famous -and less so- Italian singers and performers propose original songs, newly written just for the occasion.   T...
Best Italian Music II
Friday, July 17TH, 2015 by FrancescaBezzone
More Suggestions about our best performers and songwriters   Here comes lifeinitaly second part of the best Italian music. Want to learn more about our classic stars and singer songwriters? Check out Best Italian Music I!    Vasco Rossi, one of Italian music pop icons (Oxfam Italia/flickr)   I Famosissimi   Vasco Rossi Il Blasco (as it is known among his fans) is a bit of an Italian phenomenon. When non-Italian friends of mine heard his music, they were left at best untouched: when compared to American rockers, Vasco may look and...
  Festivalbar is a music festival that used to be hosted every summer (from 1964 to 2007) in some of the most beautiful locations of the country and was broadcast every week on primetime tv. Maybe the use of the past simple "was" would be more appropriate while talking about it, as Festivalbar no longer takes place; nevertheless, the present simple "is"  is emblematic of the sense of nostalgia many feels for the event. Who doesn't know Festivalbar can't really understand what it represented to several generations of Italians, especially for those who had been teenagers in the70s,...
Roberta Gambarini
Friday, July 10TH, 2015 by admin
  What a wonderful way to wake up, I thought! I had switched on the radio to hear the clear, silky voice of a female singer performing "Easy to Love." The only problem was that I didn't know who was singing. I soon found out that it was the Italian jazz singer Roberta Gambarini.   It was probably always Gambarini's destiny to be a singer. Her parents even called her Roberta after their favourite movie, Roberta, which starred Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and featured Jerome Kern songs. These included one of Gambarini's parent's favourite songs, "Smok...
Eros Ramazzotti
Friday, July 10TH, 2015 by admin
Eros Ramazzotti, an Italian idol     Ramazzotti with US singer Anastacia, with whom he collaborated in 2006    Eros Ramazzotti is an Italian singer and songwriter born in 1963 in Cinecittà, a suburb of Rome. Eros's good looks and incredible musical talent have made him one of the best loved and successful pop singers in the world, having sold more than 60 million records worldwide. Eros comes from a working class background - his father was a house painter - and retained this humble nature throughout his career. For example,...
Tuesday, June 30TH, 2015 by admin
Jovanotti "OYeah" cover photo by Pierpaolo Ferrari   JOVANOTTI When Jovanotti, Italy’s iconic pop star, decided to break into the US market, he took an unusual route.  Rather than play the obligatory round of venues typical for a major Italian language artist, Jovanotti, an unabashed fan of New York City, took up residency in the Village and spent the summer of 2009 working out a mostly US-based band in the downtown club scene.   Also unusual is Jovanotti’s relationship with the Latin music world.  Unlike compatriots Laura Pau...
Zucchero Fornaciari
Saturday, June 27TH, 2015 by admin
      Zucchero     "blues is blues: it's full of soul" claims Zucchero, one of Italy's greatest musicians, in a recent interview. Zucchero's philosophy is that there is no distinction between Italian blues and American blues, or the blues of any other country - however, that is only one form of music Zucchero is devoted to. He has a vast love for classical music as well, having been greatly influenced by Puccini and Verdi in his youth. Since then, he has divided his attention between classical music and blues throughout h...
Malika Ayane
Saturday, June 27TH, 2015 by ancos
The talented Malika Ayane, the daughter of a Moroccan father and an Italian mother, was born in Milan on January 31st, 1984 and now brings her own unique vision to her art.   Malika Ayane (Alessio Campo/flickr)     How It began Malika began her singing career in 1995 as part of  the famous La Scala Theatre's choir. In 2005 the singer was featured on a commercial for YOMO yogurt, singing “Over the Rainbow,” but Malika wasn’t really noticed until the following year when Fernando Arnò's agency commissioned her to sing “Time Thief” for a DTC’s ad...
Elio e le Storie Tese
Friday, June 26TH, 2015 by ancos
What’s in a name? Well, in the case of the band Elio e le Storie Tese, which translates to Elio and the Tense Stories, the name indicates that the band is one of the most peculiar to appear on the Italian music scene in the last 30 years. Singer Stefano Belisari, aka "Elio,” and “Le Storie Tese,” the group of performers behind the leader, are talented musicians who are able to play many instruments with great skill. What is wonderful about this group is that their songs are nothing like normal Italian pop music. Instead, Elio and his motley crew create songs filled with wit, sarcasm,...