Sunday, June 2, 2013

Invasion of Italian Music in Brazil - 1963-1967

It all started with 2 songs: Nico Fidenco's 'Legata a un granello di sabbia' and Emilio Pericoli's 'Al di là'. The latter was featured in the US travelogue 'Rome Adventure' sound-track. Between late-1963 and early 1966 - Brazil radio waves were flooded with Italian hits... one on top of the other.

Brazil has had a great influx of Italian immigration since the 1880s. The Brazilian Emperial government knew that Slavery of African-Brazilians was at the end and it advertised in Italian newspaper looking for people willing to migrate to South America. Italians came in the hundreds of thousands. My own grandfather - from Belluno, in Northern Italy - arrived in Brazil on 1st October 1888, the very year slavery was abolished.

As mentioned before Italian Music had different phases in Brazil. First there were the big tenors and operatic stars like CarusoBeniamino GigliTito Schippa who started with the phonographic industry. Then came the 1940s tenors.

After WWII, the USA made a point of awashing Italy with millions of dollars to counterpoint the so-called 'Communist threat'. The Italian Communist Party - the largest party in the Peninsula was on the verge of forming a national government when they were thwarted by the U.S. dollar influx. 

The US dollars and the latest technology helped the Italian recording industry modernize and by the late 1950s studios like the RCA Italiana in Rome were state-of-the-art and among of the most modern in the world second only to the US's. 

There was a mini Italian invasion in Brazil after Domenico Modugno won the 1958 San Remo Festival with 'Nel blu dipinto di blu'. By 1961, Italians were out-of-sight in Brazil again nowhere to be seen.

But in mid-1963, Italians were back with a vengence and this time they really meant business. Nico Fidenco's 'Legata a un granello di sabbia' was actually released in 1962 and so was Nico Fidenco's first album but the real 'invasion' started in mid-1963.

'Al di là' with Emilio Pericoli went to #1 in October 1963. It was straight from the sound-track of Warner Brothers's production 'Rome adventure' called 'Candelabro Italiano' in Brazil.

Early in 1964, Sergio Endrigo went to #1 with the plaintive 'Io che amo solo te' staying at the top of the charts for more than 4 weeks only to be knocked off from the top by Rita Pavone's 'Datemi un martello' which re-wrote hit parade's history being on top for 2 months.

1964 and 1965 were years when Italian hits would play on the radio most of the time. Italian movies were very popular too. Sergio Endrigo and Rita Pavone visited Brazil and were immensely popular, especially Pavone, who took the whole country by storm when she appeared on Brazilian TV o 25th June 1964 and was back in April 1965.

Talking strictly of Italian records which went to Number One in that period they were:

1. 'Al di là' - Emilio Pericoli (October 1963)
2. 'Io che amo solo te' - Sergio Endrigo (March 1964)
3. 'Datemi un martello' (If I had a hammer) - Rita Pavone (May 1964)
4. 'Una lacrima sul viso' - Bobby Solo (August 1964)
5. 'Cin cin' (Cheat cheat) - Richard Anthony (October 1964)

6. 'Amore scusami' - John Foster (January 1965)
7. 'Se piangi, se ridi' - Bobby Solo (May 1965)
8. 'Io che non vivo senza te' - Pino Donaggio (July 1965)
9. 'Il mondo' - Jimmy Fontana (November 1965)

Now, there were quite a few songs that went Top Five in that period. Here's the list:

1. 'Legata a un granello di sabbia' - Nico Fidenco (July 1963)
2. 'Roberta' - Peppino di Capri (December 1963)
3. 'Sapore di sale' - Gino Paoli (February 1964)
4. 'Abbrozzatissima' - Edoardo Vianello (February 1964)
5. 'Se mi vuoi lasciare' - Michele (March 1964)

6. 'Annamaria' - Sergio Endrigo (April 1964)
7. 'Scrivi' - Rita Pavone (July 1964)
8. 'O mio signore' - Edoardo Vianello (August 1964)
9. 'In ginocchio da te' - Gianni Morandi (September 1964)
10. 'Sul cucuzzolo' - Rita Pavone (October 1964)

Even French singers started selling records in 1965 and 1966, especially Alain Barrière, Charles Aznavour, Christophe, Herve Villard and Michel Polnareff.

Then, in 1966, Brazilian music was back stronger than ever. MPB or Brazilian Popular Music was made up of national rhythms like samba and Jovem Guarda (Young Guard) represented Brazilian rock.

1967 saw the last of the Italians in the charts. Brazilians were getting more competitive. Amazingly enough I close this post with Luigi Tenco's last recording. When Luigi Tenco kills himself at San Remo in late January 1967, it was like the modern Italian music died alongside with him. That's how things worked out in the end.
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Nico Fidenco was the first to hit the Brazilian charts in late 1962.

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Emilio Pericoli's 'Al di là' was featured in the sound-track of 'Rome Adventure' (Candelabro Italiano). 'Sassi' sung by Gino Paoli was on the B-side.
'Tutta la gente' was Fidenco's 2nd hit in Brazil. 
Rita Pavone's EP contained 3 of her greatest hits up to that moment in July 1963: 'La partita di pallone', a rocker; 'Come te non c'è nessuno', a most beautiful ballad and 'Alla mia età', a teen-age lament. It also had 'Clementine Chérie' a rock based on Mozart's 'Turkish March'. Rita's compacto-duplo played in 9 out of 10 teen-dancing-parties around the country. 
Sergio Endrigo's 'Io che amo solo te', one of the most beautiful songs to come out of the Peninsula was released in late 1963, and became # 1 early in 1964.
 'Cuore' was an impressive recording and established Rita Pavone as a star; not only a rocker but a powerful ballad-singer too. 

Before 1963 was through, RCA Victor had released 2 albums by Nico Fidenco, one by Sergio Endrigo, one by Rita Pavone and 2 compilation-albums of Italian hits; 'Italia Moderna' and 'Alta Pressione'. Brazilians had never heard so much Italian music in their lives. 
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Peppino Di Capri's 'Roberta' was huge early in 1964. Peppino actually had his albums released in Brazil since early 1962, as part of the twist craze, but he never had a hit single so far. 'Roberta' changed that ant took him to the top making Odeon-EMI in the heart of the Italian Invasion.
Edoardo Vianello's double-sided hit 'Abbronzatissima' and 'Guarda come dondolo' (from the 1962's twist craze) were hot in the charts. 
It looked like Italy was the source of an inexhaustible string of beautiful melodies. 'Sapore di sale' was such a gem and went up the charts. Gino Paoli's 'Sassi' had been on the B-side of Emilio Pericoli's 'Al di là' released by Warner Brothers as part of the sound-track of  'Rome Adventure', but now he had a hit of his own.
Endrigo's 'Annamaria' EP had the very best: 'Io che amo solo te' - #1 as a single - one of the most beautiful Italian ballads ever written, 'Aria di neve' and 'Basta così', 2 songs about inadequacies and shortcomings in romance and 'Annamaria' a paen to the loveliness of his love interest. Nico Fidenco as well as Sergio Endrigo (and Edoardo Vianello on route to Argentina) visited Brazil and were well received by the paying public that went to see them at Teatro Record in São Paulo.
Michele's doube-sided hit 'Se mi vuoi lasciare' and 'Cosa vuoi da me' kept the public interested in all-things Italian. 
When Rita Pavone sang at Teatro Record and her 40-minute video-taped-show was broadcast by TV Record on Thursday night 25 June 1964... everybody knew that she had swept a whole country away. Rita Pavone was ubiquotous... she was everywhere... she had come and conquered. The Italian Invasion had been complete. 
Bobby Solo's 'Una lacrima sul viso' replaced 'Datemi un martello' at #1. 
Richard Anthony's 'Cin cin' went to #1 too.
Rita Pavone introduced 'Scrivi' for São Paulo audiences as her latest recording. It bombed in Italy but was all the rage in Brazil. 
Gianni Morandi belted out 'In ginocchio da te' and went all the way up in the charts. 
'Sul cucuzzolo' was Pavone's last hit for 1964 backed with 'Bianco Natale' (White Christmas). 

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'Amore scusami' sounded like an American ballad and took John Foster to # 1. The first Italian Number One of 1965.

Bobby Solo's 'Se piangi, se ridi' won at San Remo in February '65 and went to #1 in Brazil a few months later.

Pino Donaggion's 'Io che non vivo senza te' was the biggest Italian hit of 1965. 
Italian music was so big that even Brazilian acts started translating their songs into Italian. This is a tongue-in-cheek Ruperto da Vinci, DJ Helio Ribeiro's pseudonym, rendition of Jair Rodrigues' 'Deixa isso p'ra lá' (Lascia stà) and Paulo Marquez's 'Diz que fui por aí' (Sono andato via). 

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TV Tupi started showing Italian variety programme 'Studio Uno 1965' every Wednesday night in December 1965.
5 December 1965 - Rio de Janeiro daily 'Correio da Manhã' prints TV Tupi's ad about its broadcasting 'Studio Uno' - Italy's premiere musical variety show commanded by Mina and the German Kessler Twins. Rita Pavone was featured in the first programme singing 'Vila la papa col pomodoro' and 'La notte è piccola' with the stunning Gemelle Kessler - while Mina exuded glamour belting 'Un anno d'amore'. 

See the best selling recordings in Rio de Janeiro in the first week of December 1965: Pino Donaggio is at the top of the charts with 'Io che non vivo senza te', followed by Jimmy Fontana's 'Il mondo'. Trumpet player Nini Rosso is at #4 with 'Il silenzio'. Rita Pavone was out but Italians still dominated the charts... and now even the TV waves. 

Mina was paramount in 'Studio Uno 1965'. Even though Mina had missed the Italian Invasion of Brazil altogether - except for her single 'Un uomo per me' (He walks like a man) that had a bit of airplay in 1965 - she was big in the small screen and one could not but fall in love with such a talented lady. Mina was the only Italian act that conquered Brazil through the small screen without ever getting her feet in the country. Rita Pavone had worked hard on the stage of Teatro Record to be at the top. But Mina's reign was short-lived.

After a few weeks of 'Studio Uno' broadcasting on TV Tupi - there was a backlash from Brazilian journalists and DJs who filed an injunction against the TV station claiming their showing of a foreign-produced-show was taking employment from Brazilians. The judge sided with the journalists and variety shows from abroad were banned from Brazilian TV.

Italian cinema had been popular since the 1950s but now more and more Italian movies were shown on cinemas around town. Fellini, Pasolini, Antonioni, Luchino Visconti... all the brand names were revered by the press. Popular Italian cinema was also shown, like Toto and Alberto Sordi movies, Franco & Ciccio, Nino Manfredi etc.  

Around 1966, Italian illustrated weekly magazines as Oggi, Gente, L'Europeo, Epoca were being imported massively and would show up at newsstand at some parts of big Brazilian cities. Teen-age publications like Giovani and Big were seen for the first time. Everything Italian was of some interest for Brazilians who dreamed of being like them.

Novella - 18 September 1958; 'Settenote' May 1961
TV Sorrisi e Canzoni - 30 June 1963; 21 July 1963
Ornella Vanoni; 29 October 1965.
Antoine, Richard Anthony, Françoise Hardy, Mirelle Mathieu & Michel Polnareff - Giovani 1967.
Big - February 1967 - Luigi Tenco's 'Ciao amore ciao', his song-suicidal letter.
Brazil as seen by the Italians: Brasile


In 27 January 1967 Luigi Tenco sang his 'Ciao amore ciao' at the San Remo Casino theatre with all his might and soul. As soon as he was told his song had been discarded by the great panel he went up to his room and shot himself in the head. Brazilian TV Guide 'Intervalo' gave the news erroneously saying he had shot himself twice in the chest. That was the day Italian music died... while 'Disparada' with Jair Rodrigues was #1 in the singles' charts... 'California dreamin' by the Mamas & Papas was still riding high... and 'Revolver' by the Beatles span in the turntables all over the world...

3 February 1959 was the day the American music died... according to Don McLean's 'American pie' lyrics... that had been the day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & the Big Bopper died in a plane crash in Iowa. 27 January 1967 was the day the Italian music died...

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