Italian Pop Music

A Walk Through the History of Italian Popular Music
A Walk Through the History of Italian Popular Music

..... Beyond 'O Sole Mio'

Italian singers / Italian music in brief

Mina and Adriano Celentano

Some Americans seem to equate Italian music with O Sole Mio and Funiculi Funicula.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 (that overlap to some extent).

  • Melodic music
  • Italian Rock
  • Singer-songwriters (Known as "cantautori" )
  • Their own styles

Melodic Music:

Italian music has seen many changes over the past forty years. In the 60s, I still remember songs that characterized my youth, like Volare sung by Domenico Modugno, Sapore di Sale, Abbronzatissima!, Fatti mandare dalla mamma a prendere il latte, Azzurro ( Adriano Celentano ). Any Italian who was around at the time will never forget "Vengo anch'io - no tu no!" written and sung by Enzo Iannacci, a dentist who became song writer.  This was the period when wild young stars like Mina, Rita Pavone, Adriano Celentano, Gianni Morandi first appeared.

Adriano Celentano:

With more than 70 million records sold, Adriano Celentano in a 40 years carrer tried out many style of music from Melodic to rock & roll to rap

Italian music continued in the 70's along several tracks. On one track. we have more 'melodic' music with singers like Gino Paoli, Luigi Tenco, Bruno Lauzi and Sergio Endrigo.

Lucio BattistiOne melodic singer has a track all his own.Lucio Battisti, alone of Italian singers, could be compared in popularity to the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel Most Italians between the age of 15 and 50 will know and be able to sing many of his songs. The texts written by Mogol were often romantic and non-political, and in fact, perfect "date" music.After the middle of the 70s, when young Italian began to expect music to be related with politics, he lost some of his audience only re-acquire them again in the 80s and 90s continuing through today.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, Mare Nero, La collina dei Ciliegi, Aqua Azzurra acqua chiara, and many many other songs are the best of the best.

Italian Rock

The melodic style gave way in the 70s to a new style of music. Woodstock with Jimmie Hendrix, Crosby Still Nash Young, 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 (Canto Nomade per un prigioniero politico)
  • I Nomadi
  • Eduardo Bennato (who can also be included in the political singer-songwriter category).

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

Italian rock gives US-style rock a run for its money in terms of popularity in Italy.  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 Colossem in Rome in summer 2004 where crowds reached 500,000+ (It could not go any higher simply because Rome run out of space).

Singer-Songwriters (usually politically influenced)

The first of the singer-songwriters is poet - singer Fabrizio De Andre' We could compare him with Bob Dylan. De Andre' wrote wonderful songs like 'La canzone di Marinella', 'Bocca di Rosa' and 'La Guerra di Piero' ( an anti-war song that I had to study in my school together with Bob Dylan 'Gone with the Wind').

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

See the community for music video of the following performers

Other originals current in Italian song are:

  • Singer songwriter Antonello Venditti " Sotto il segno Dei pesci" - Was his probably 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 the songs in Rimmel in the compilation 'Il bandito e il campione' - album that contains also a few new songs; and
  • Political singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini started his carrer with Due Anni Dopo (1970) and L'Isola Non Trovata (1970)  and reached fame with   Radici (1972),  Via Paolo Fabbri 43 (1976) -I did not hear for a while than I liked his recent album Amore Morte ed altre sciocchezze (1996 ) - Consiglio: Album Concerto (with Nomadi) (1979) a Double Album with a collections of songs.
  • Lucio Dalla from Bologna began his career as a player in a jazz band and proceeded to develop his own style which now includes even theatre musical scores.

Their own style

Italian light music comprises excellent singers and players whose style models are french- cabaret / light jazz-oriented, such as the piano player Paolo Conte, or inspired by the blues, as in the neapolitan music of Pino Daniele, or even based on ancient medioeval - style music and folk songs, best seen in the violin music of Angelo Branduardi ( La pulce d'acqua ) . Singer-songwriting has today embarked into new musical territory with Italian Rap singer Jovanotti, and his Franco Battiato.

There has also been a revival of vocal romantic singing which reached its height with stars such as Pavarotti and Boccelli, following the outstanding worldwide success of the song Caruso, by Lucio Dalla.