Yes, love is overrated and inflated, but still, love is all we need; even if it’s just a dream, it’s worthy. Remember your first? Unforgettable. Love songs are not the same today. Neither is love, although there are love songs that never die, no matter how our current “modern” innovations have changed our social and emotional cores. Italians are experts in romantic love songs and here I bring you some artists and songs you might not be familiar with, but whose music you don’t want to miss.
In America, Italian-American singers Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Dean Martin gave us a glimpse of Italy with some weak versions of Italian songs that never really did justice to the beautiful authentic melodies made in the country of the ancient Roman emperors and poets, in Florence, Naples, Capri, or the outskirts of Pompeii.
In the 50’s, Domenico Modugno hit the American charts with “Volare” (To Fly), a catchy easy-going melody that has been covered by many artists afterwards, but Modugno was never heard again in the U.S. despite his other significant songs captured the classic Italian romantic style of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. “Dio, Como Ti Amo” (God, How I Love You), “La Lontananza” (The Distance) and “Il Maestro Di Violino” (The Violin Professor).
Another exceptional singer, Nicola Di Bari, with a hoarse voice never before accepted in the pop music world then (except Louis Armstrong‘s) won the San Remo Music Festival with the song “La Prima Cosa Bella” (The First Beautiful Thing) in 1970, and from that moment on his melodies filled the hearts of millions in Europe and Latin America. Songs such as: “Il Cuore E Uno Zingaro” (The Heart is Gypsy), “Un grande Amore E Niente Piu” (A Great Love And Nothing More), “Vagabond” and “Ad Esempio” (For Example) among others.
In the early ’60s, Rita Pavone recorded Trini Lopez‘ hit “If I Had a Hammer” (Datemi Un Martello) in Italian, with dynamic flavor and tempo, which still has people dancing and singing to its contagious rhythm. Also her ballads “Alla Mia Eta” (At My Age), “Cuore” (Heart) and “Sapore Di Sale” (Taste of Salt), are some of her most beloved songs.
Now, if you want energy, passion, and sexyness in Italian music, there’s only one name that encompasses it: Raffaella Carra (accent in the last a). Before Donna Summer and Madonna, Raffaella put the beat in the heart of Italy’s pop. Actress, dancer, and singer, she dominated at entertaining through decades of inordinate songs and variety shows. I first saw her video of “Male” (Bad) and I was hooked from then on. Among my favorite songs: “Rumore” (Rumor), “Tanti Auguri” (Best Wishes), and “Io No Vivo Senza Te” (I Don’t Live Without You”).
Some of the best songs were performed by three great balladeers: Massimo Ranieri, Sergio Endrigo, and Gianni Morandi. Ranieri, with a potent voice sang “Erba de Mi Casa” (Grass of My House), “L’Amore E Un Attimo” (Love Is A Moment), “Rose, Rose” (Red Roses) while Morandi sang an acclaimed version of The Turtles’ Eleanor (again!) titled “Scende La Pioggia” (The Rain is Falling), “Occhi Di Ragazza” (Girl’s Eyes) and his version of The Godfather‘s theme “Parla Piu Piano” (Speak Softer). On the other hand, Endrigo, with his calming, smoother voice sang “Teresa”, “Canzone Per Te” (Song For You), and “Lontano Dagli Occhi” (Far From Your Eyes).
After enjoying the talented female voices of Mina with “Parole, Parole” (Words, Words) and “Amor Mio” (Love Of Mine) and Gigliola Cinquetti’s “Alle Porte Del Sole” (By The Sun Doors) and “Non Ho L’Eta” (I’m Not Old Enough) in the ’60s and ’70s, a very refreshing voice, like spring rain, arrived in the ’90s: Laura Pausini. This young lady with her enchanting generous smile, flirty black eyes, and powerful sweet voice conquered charts and hearts. Her most exquisite melodies: “Seamisai” (If You Love, You Know), “Ascolta Il Tuo Cuore” (Listen To Your Heart), “Incancellabile” (Unremovable), “E Ritorno Da Te” (And I Return To You), and many others, you’ll love.
Notable Mentions: 1-Umberto Tozzi‘s “Gloria” (the original version) covered and popularized in English by Laura Brannigan. Hear also “Tu” (You) and “Ti Amo” (I Love You). 2- The band i Pooh‘s “Tanta Voglia Di Lei” (So Much Desire For Her). 3-Mario Tessuto‘s “Lisa Dagli Occhi Blu” (Lisa Blue Eyes). 4- I Santo California‘s “Tornero” (I Will Return). 5- Jimmy Fontana‘s “Il Mundo” (The World). 6- Ricardo Cocciante‘s “Bella Senza Anima” (Soulless Beauty) 7- Gianni Bella‘s “Non Si Puo Morire Dentro” (No One Can Die Inside) and 8- Emilio Pericoli‘s “Al Di La” (Beyond).
“Time To Say Goodbye”, as Andrea Bocelli’s first hit was translated, “Con Te Partiro” which actually means (With You I Will Go), we say “ciao Italy“. We leave with one of the best composer of movie scores ever, the man who gave a soundtrack to the American Western: Ennio Morricone. Enjoy his “Jill’s America“, the best of both worlds.
France might not have the same quantity of music as its neighbor, but the French feeling in romantic music has even influenced the Italians.
It’s impossible not to mention Mr. Charles Aznavour. He painted with songs his country’s essence like no one has for decades. Melodies that move you and inspire you to stop and think about life: “La Boheme” (The Bohemian), “Et Pourtant” (Therefore), “Isabelle” and others.
In the ’60s and ’70s, other voices joined him leaving us with the best their country could offer. Alain Barriere, in 1964, sang one of the first songs with the word life in the title: “Ma Vie” (My Life), a French blues ballad that sticks around your ears for its haunting melody. Then, there’s Salvatore Adamo with “Mes Mains Sur Tes Hanches” (My Hands On Your Hips”, “Ton Nom” (Your Name) and Herve Villard’s “Capri, C’est Fini” (Capri, It’s Finished). One notable mention: Joe Dassin’s “A Toi” (To You) and “Et Si Tu No Existais Pas” (And If You Exist No More).
That was French traditional, but there’s a group you might have heard before who have always resided in France and considered themselves French Gypsies: The Gypsy Kings. They don’t sing in French nor completely Spanish (although sound like it). Theirs is a mix of Andalucian-Gypsy unique in the commercial music world. Check: “Djobi, Djoba”, “Baila Me” (Dance me), “Inspiration”, “Vamos A Bailar” (Let’s Dance) and “Faena” (Chore).
Just like Aznavour in France, in Greece, Demis Roussos represented the flavor of his country with the songs he gave to the world. Although born in Egypt, of Greek parents, Demis’ family moved back to Greece in the ’50s. His career as a balladist took off in the mid-’70s in Europe when he began singing Greek melodies in English. His distinctively unique high pitch voice that contrasted with his corpulent body (he once weighted 320 lbs), his full grown beard, long hair, colorful and out of the ordinary tunics he wore on stage, gave him a mysterious and exotic aura. His songs can transport you back in time or fly you to his land, cradle of culture and civilization. Here are my favorite: “Velvet Mornings”, “When I’m A Kid”, “My Friend the Wind”, “We Shall Dance”, Someday, Somewhere”, “Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun” and “Goodbye My Love, Goodbye.”
Demis’ friend, Vangelis, also a Greek composer, has given us the music soundtrack of TV series like Cosmos and movies such as Chariots of Fire, Alexander, Conquest Of Paradise and Blade Runner among others.
Notable mention: Yanni‘s “Within Attraction” and “In The Morning Light” which take us away from Greece to our next destination.