I'm not claiming to be any kind of authority on Italian music, "anzi" a
s the Italians would say; I'm just a foreigner who's been living here for a few years who listens to far too much radio. However this morning I read an article in the Guardian, titled Sounds of Italy - day one: a history of Italian pop in 10 songs. For me the article contains many surprises, the most pleasant one being the inclusion of Simone Cristicchi and his Studentessa universitaria. Ever since I discovered him in Urbino thanks to that song, I've always thought of him as being an excellent storyteller. And after reading that article I was inspired to compile my own list, covering the history of Italian music in 10 songs, according to me.
Mina's regarded as one of Italy's greatest singers. Her first single dates back to 1958, and she's still going strong. Over the years she's released an impressive 112 albums in Italy, and collaborated with many artists from Lucio Dalla to Giorgia and even Mick Hucknall! The song I've chosen is actually a cover in Italian of a song by Gene McDaniels.
Al Bano - Nel sole (1967)
This might be more what comes to mind when people abroad think of Italian music. Al Bano (born Albano Carrisi) has been releasing singles since 1965, solo and also with his then-wife Romina Power (everyone knows Felicità, right??). Most recently he's remembered for his Sanremo entry from last year, Amanda è libera, which earned him 3rd place in the festival.
Rino Gaetano - Ma il cielo è sempre più blu (1975)
Gaetano was one of the biggest artists of the 70s, but his life was tragically cut short when he was killed in a car accident in 1981 at 30 years of age. It was only this morning I heard his Mio fratello è figlio unico on national radio, much to my surprise; and an instrumental part of his song Gianna's currently used on a yogurt advert. He also played the part of the Fox in the 1981 film version of Pinocchio.
Raffaella Carrà - Tanti auguri (1978)
Raffaella Carrà is a national treasure. She had a string of hits in the 70s and 80s, and performed on many tv shows during those years. Recently she performed at the Concerto per l'Emilia, which was held on June 25th in Bologna to raise funds for the areas affected by the earthquakes, and broadcast on Rai 1. Last year she co-presented Italy's coverage of Eurovision, and currently her 1971 song Tuca tuca can be heard in Vodafone's summer adverts.
Vasco Rossi - Albachiara (1979)
Like him or loathe him, Vasco is one of the biggest figures in Italian music. He's an old rocker who seems to have been around for absolutely forever and even after threatening to retire last year he doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. His first album was released in 1978 when he was 26 years old; and his most recent release is L'altra metà del cielo, an album containing his songs re-written for a ballet, which was performed at the Scala theatre here in Milan (yes, I'm deadly serious).
Antonello Venditti - La notte prima degli esami (1984)
This song recounts a rite of passage for Italian teenagers, that of their last night before the start of the Maturità exams, the Italian equivalent of the British A Levels. The last night before the exams for many is a night not to be spent studying, but to be shared with friends. The song was also the inspiration for the film of the same title which was released in 2006.
Lucio Dalla - Caruso (1986)
Dalla sadly passed away on March 1st this year, but remains one of the most influential Italian songwriters of all time. Caruso was his biggest hit, and covered by many foreign artists in translated versions. He was a trained jazz musician and experiemented with different genres of music.
Jovanotti - Penso positivo (1994)
I regard Jovanotti as Italy's best showman of recent years. Not only that, he's a very talented songwriter. He's also another one of those artists who have been around for years but is as popular as ever. His first album, Jovanotti for President was released in 1988, two years after I was born. In recent years he's moved away from his rap roots, releasing many ballads, and his Safari album of 2008 was influenced by world music and contained collaborations with some international artists. His latest album, Ora, was released in January last year, and in the few years I've been here I'd never seen an album gain so much success.
Eiffel 65 - Blue (1999)
This could open a whole other discussion of the success Italo dance has had abroad. I'm ashamed to admit that until recently I didn't know that the producers behind Eiffel 65 were Italian, because the only song of theirs I knew was Blue, and when I was 13 years old the producers' nationality didn't cross my mind. Slowly I've been discovering that behind some songs from my early teens, what Italians could very well call tormentoni, were Italians.
Caparezza - Vieni a ballare in Puglia (2008)
Italian rap is a curious thing... I always find it interesting making comparisons between Italian and English language rap. I've covered Caparezza in the past and I think he's one of the best examples of current Italian rap, because of how he treats political and social issues. Legalize the premier, as the title would suggest, criticises Berlusconi and his lifestyle; when the album containing the single was released he was still in power. Goodbye malinconia deals with emigration from Italy, and the reasons behind this mass emigration.