SONG: Volare (Nel blu dipinto di blu)
ARTIST: Domenico Modugno
Listen to it here:
“Nel blu, dipinto di blu,” which translates roughly to “In the blue-painted sky” is the real name of the song more popularly known as Volare. This song was written by the singer Domenico Modugno and his writing partner Franco Migliacci.
Migliacci began working on the lyrics of this song in 1957, and was inspired by two paintings by Marc Chagall. The story goes that he was waiting for his co-writer Domenico Modugno to show up at his house so they could go to the beach together. Migliacci got bored waiting and started drinking wine. He got drunk, fell asleep, and had vivid dreams of the two Chagall reproductions he had hanging on his wall (for art aficionados, they are “Le coq rouge” and “Le peintre et la modelle.” ) This inspired him to start writing a song about a man who dreams of painting himself blue and being able to fly. Later that night, he and Modugno got to work on the song itself.
Here’s something interesting that I had no idea – in 1958 the Eurovision Song Contest was already around. That year, this song was the Italian entry into the competition where it took 3rd place out of 10 entries. The combined sales of all the different versions of this song exceed 22 million copies worldwide, which makes it one of the most popular Eurovision songs of all time. Watch the Eurovision entry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DPAb9-Stmo
The song itself is a ballad in which Modugno describes the feeling he has when with his lover; a feeling that to him resembles flying. It starts with a surreal sounding prelude before it moves into the melody that many are familiar with.
It was released as a single in February of 1958 and spent five weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100. This made it the number one single for the year. This song’s popularity endures and is considered the most played Italian song in Italy, as well as in the world.
Domenico Modugno was born in Bari, Italy in 1928 as the youngest of four children. His show business life started early, and he had roles in several films while still in school. His first brief foray with fame came at age 19, when his song “Lazzarella,” sung by Aurelio Fierro came second in a Neapolitan music contest.
This was only the beginning for Modugno. The following year, 1958, Modugno participated in the Sanremo Music Festival, where he presented his brand new song, Nel blu dipinto di blu. The song won the contest at the festival, represented Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest, received two Grammy Awards, and sold over 22 million copies worldwide. Modugno used the money he gained from this song to buy a Ferrari, which he then totaled in an accident.
In 1959, Modugno followed up his Sanremo Music Festival win with yet another victory, this time with his song “Piovere” and a few years later, he won once again with “Addio…., addio….” He went on to represent Italy at Eurovision, and to act in 44 movies.
In 1984, Modugno’s life took a turn. He suffered a severe stroke and remained partially paralyzed. This forced him to abandon his artistic career and devote himself to his rehabilitation. From that point on, Modugno became a defender of the rights of disabled people, and in 1987 he was elected congressman for Turin in the Italian Parliament (in the Radical Party, a liberal-social political group).
Modugno died at the age of 66 in 1994 from a heart attack.
In 1959, at the 1st Annual Grammy Awards, Modugno’s recording became the first ever Grammy winner for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Ah, formaggio! Oh man. I don’t really know what to make of this. First of all, is that glockenspiel? Tinkly weirdness. The drummer with cha-ch-ch-cha high hat sounds like a high school jazz band. Modugno has a nice enough voice, very pleasant to listen to, but that’s about it. Pleasant voice, cheese orchestra, annoying ear worm of a song. I’m hoping this song was considered novelty and not something to be taken seriously. To all my Italian friends, I’m sorry.
Well, as soon as we start with the tinkly piano and harp, it’s pretty clear that we’re in for some grade a cheese. And if you’re looking for cheese, this song does not disappoint. From the way Modugno articulates his words, to the strings, organ, and harp, to the return of the triplety piano, this is just pure cheese. Dominico Modugno’s voice is nice and kind of powerful, but ultimately forgettable. This song, though, is not. It gets firmly lodged in your head for hours. So, if you’re listening along, you’re welcome. Now you have it too.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
The Gypsy Kings have a pretty well known version of this:
This song sure does lend itself well to the “lounge singer” treatment from Dean Martin:
Now a palate cleanser. Phew, still cheesy, but much better. Thanks Ella!
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: