In 2003 the UTNE Reader ran a short piece on Italian songs in American pop music. These are a few of the titles they mentioned. I’ve always been partial to “Volare,” which means “to fly.” I usually think of the Dean Martin version, but Modugno did it first.
- Domenico Modugno: “Volare” (1958);
- Dean Martin: “On an Evening in Roma” (1959), “That’s Amore” (1953)
- Louis Prima: “Just a Gigolo/I Ain?t Got Nobody” (1956).
- Rosemary Clooney: “Mambo Italiano” (1954).
- Sergio Franchi: “Funiculi, Funicula” (1962).
- Ray Gelato and the Giants of Jive: “Buona Sera Signorino” (1993).
- Frank Sinatra: “Isle of Capri” (1957).
- Connie Francis: “Al Di La” (1962).
- Jay and the Americans: “Cara Mia” (1965).
Here’s “Mambo Italiano,” a very silly song written by Bob Merrill in 1954 for the American singer Rosemary Clooney.
“Mambo Italiano” is a late example of an American novelty song in a tradition started during World War II by the Italian-American jazz singer Louis Prima, in which nonsense lyrics with an Italian-American sound are used in such a way as to present a benignly stereotyped caricature of Italian-American people as likable, slightly brash, pleasure-loving folk.
And as a bonus here’s Dean Martin with “Volare.”