1958 Dean Martin – Volare
In the US, a song typically gets recorded and released and competes for sales. For some reason, Europeans love having song competitions where artists perform new songs and compete for prizes. One such competition in Italy was the Sanremo Music Festival. The festival was first held in 1951, and it is still held annually.
Domenico Modugno was an Italian who began acting in films in the mid-fifties. He also wrote and sang music, and in 1957, a song he had written came in second in the festival. He and Franco Migliacci then co-wrote the song Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu for the 1958 festival. Domenico and fellow actor and singer Johnny Dorelli presented the song in the January 1958 festival and won first prize. As a result, the song was Italy’s representative in the Eurovision Song Contest in March, where it came in third.
Domenico quickly recorded the song, and the multiple versions of the song sold over 22 million copies. Despite the lyrics being entirely in Italian, his single version reached the charts in the US in August and hit #1 on the US Hot 100 two weeks later. The single also won two Grammy awards in the US.
Another Italian also recorded the song: Dean Martin. Dean had already had a top ten hit earlier in 1958 when his single Return To Me reached #4. While that song was mostly in English, he did sing a few lines in Italian. His version of Domenico’s song used English lyrics written by Mitchell Parish for the first and last verses with the original Italian lyrics in the middle of the song. Dean’s record company released his version in August as Volare, and the single peaked at #12 a month later.
Domenico competed in the 1959 festival and won for the second consecutive year. His song that year was Piove. The single spent one week at #97 on the US Hot 100 and then disappeared. It was Dominico’s last appearance on the US chart.
Dean Martin’s singing career also seemed to dissolve after his hit with Volare. It was six years before he reached the top forty again, but Everybody Loves Somebody hit number one in 1964 despite the competition from the British Invasion.
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