Italian Pop in the '60s

From sentimental sugary tunes to dark political folk-pop.

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Italian Pop in the '60s
Italy at that time has just come out of years of huge unemployment because of postwar aid and a ruined economy from Allied and Axis destruction of Italy’s major cities. Big money brought by foreign aid and the country's agricultural power lead to the fast development of Italian industry. This period was called 'Il Miracolo Economico' (the Economic Miracle). The conflicts in Vietnam and around the world raised the demand for steel that Italian industry was producing. The raise in production was also caused by the massive amount of available labor that had been around since the '50s.

While Europe was all over The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones, Italy swayed to the sentimental sounds of homegrown pop.

Naturally, Italian music was greatly influenced by the beat boom.

But to be fair, a few European bands scored massive hits by covering Italian songs. For example, Dusty Springfield’s most successful single was a cover of 'Io che non vivo (senza te)' by Pino Donaggio.

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'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me' reached #1 the UK and #4 US charts.


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From 1961 to 1965, teenagers-oriented music was a mix of pop, twist, and French yé-yé influences. This started to change around 1965. The easy reception of powerful medium-wave foreign stations like Radio Luxembourg, Radio Montecarlo or Radio Koper had a great impact on the musical taste of Italian teenagers, allowing them to stay updated to the latest British trends. Another huge trendsetter was The San Remo song festival that later inspired the Eurovision.

Fred Buscaglione

Even though the singer died in a car accident when his pink Ford Thunderbird collided with a truck in the early hours before dawn in Rome in February of 1960, his legacy inspired musicians influenced by the early forms of rock and roll scene who started to revolutionize the Italian popular music panorama from the early 60s.
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Gino Paoli

According to Paoli, the lyrics of 'Il cielo in una stanza' came to him while lying on a brothel bed, he thought, 'Love can grow at any moment at any place.' Mina's single release of the song topped the list of annual sales in Italy and reached Billboard Hot 100. Later it was featured in the 'Goodfellas' movie.
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'Il cielo in unastanza'success was followed by 'Sapore di sale' (1963), arranged by Ennio Morricone and believed to be his most famous song. In the same year, he attempted suicide by shooting himself in the heart (the bullet is still inside his chest).
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Her first Italian #1 hit was the up-tempo "Tintarella di luna" ("Moon Tan"). Later she topped the list of annual sales in Italy and reached the Billboard Hot 100 with Gino Paoli’s 'Il cielo in una stanza'.
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Sonia e le Sorelle

Bosses of the Italian ‘La voce del padrone’ label liked the look of the sisters and offered them a recording contract in 1964. Big things were expected for the group when they took part in the 1966 Cantagiro contest. Their song, ‘Lo faccio per amore’ has become one of their most popular and enduring releases.The band had made some great beat tracks, however, they achieved only modest success.
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Bruno Lauzi

The singer was born in Asmara, then part of the Italian Eastern Africa. In the 1960s he moved to Genoa, where he became part of the local music scene. His biggest hit at that time was 'Ritornerai' (1963).
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Orietta Berti

A win at the 'Un disco per l’estate' in 1965 with 'Tu sei quello' gave the singer her first big hit, reaching number two in the charts. It also marked a change in style – big ballads were in, pop was consigned to B-sides. Orietta’s popularity afforded her a place at the Sanremo Festival in 1966, where she performed 'Io ti darò di più,' which made it to the final but didn’t win.
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Fabrizio de André

In 1960, De André released a number of successful songs which made him famous. Many Italians consider him the most influential musician of the postwar years. He introduced a new wave of darker, more political folk-pop to the public. His hits, including 'La Guerra di Piero,' took anarchism and pacifism into the charts and are still a rallying point for the Italian left.
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Caterina Caselli

In 1965, Italian record label released her song called 'Sono qui con voi,' which was a cover of the famous blues song 'Baby please don’t go.' The song attracted radio attention but failed to provide a breakthrough hit.
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However, it prompted the label to enter the singer in the 1966 San Remo song festival, with the song 'Nessuno mi può giudicare.' It didn’t win at the festival, but it went to #1 in the Italian charts and remained on the top spot for nine weeks.
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Little Tony

Little Tony & His Brothers first appeared at the Sanremo Festival in 1961 when they performed the song '24 000 baci' with Adriano Celentano. They had the second place. But one of his biggest hits was the song 'Cuore matto' that he performed in 1967 at Sanremo Festival. It remained #1 in the charts for nine weeks and sold more than two million copies.
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The 1960s was the decade that produced many enduring Italian acts, who are still being listened to today. I think it’s fair to say that Italian genes runs throughout the history of contemporary pop.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Jeez, recording engineers really loved reverb and echo chambers here in Italy in the 60s. Just imagine what happened in the 80s, when they put their hands on those big Lexicon Reverb units
    Hey!the correct spelling is "il miracolo economico"! Btw , nice to see my country here on UG! Thanks!
    So you know, we're not just PFM and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso lol Nice list, anyway!!
    Ahahah can't believe to see these songs and videos here on Ultimate Guitar. I'm used to see them in TV here in Italy.