At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Gianni Morandi – actor and pop singer

Veteran entertainer has sold 50 million records 


Gianni Morandi has been in the music  business for 55 years
Gianni Morandi has been in the music
business for 55 years
The singer Gianni Morandi, a Sanremo Festival winner and Eurovision Song Contest contestant who has sold more than 50 million records and had a simultaneous career as a successful TV and film actor, was born on this day in 1944 in a mountain village in Emilia-Romagna.

Morandi, whose longevity has brought comparisons with the British singer Sir Cliff Richard, is still performing today at the age of 73. In fact, he had an unlikely hit this year when he teamed up with 23-year-old rapper and web star Fabio Rovazzi.

Morandi, whose pop-ballad style still has a big following, showed his versatility and willingness to indulge in self-mocking humour this year by co-starring with Rovazzi in an electro-pop track and video called Volare that went to No 1 on iTunes Italy and attracted 2.5 million views in less than 24 hours.

He has also appeared in his 11th TV drama series, having a few months earlier seen the release of his 18th movie.

His birthday is being marked today with a late-evening special on Italy’s Canale 5 television station called Amore d’Autore, which celebrates the public and private life of one of Italy’s best-loved entertainers.

Morandi on stage in 2016: He still performs regularly
Morandi on stage in 2016: He still
performs regularly
Morandi was born in Monghidoro, now a village of almost 4,000 people that sits on a ridge in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines some 840m (2,750ft) above sea level, about 41km (25 miles) south of Bologna.

As a young man he sold drinks and confectionary at his local cinema and worked as an assistant in the workshop of his father, Renato, a cobbler.  Renato was an active member of the Italian Communist Party and Morandi recalls that part of his daily routine was to read aloud passages from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and reports from the party newspaper L’Unità.

But they were also a family who sang to entertain themselves and it was when his father arranged for him to sing at family festivals sponsored by L’Unità that Morandi enjoyed his first commercial success, collecting a princely 1,000 lire as his appearance fee.

In 1958, his rendition of Domenico Modugno’s Sanremo winner Nel blu dipinto di blu – more commonly known as Volare – earned him a place at a singing school in Bologna and after winning good reviews at a number of festivals he released his first single in 1962, with backing from Ennio Morricone’s orchestra.

With a recording contract from RCA, he had a juke-box hit and his first chart success later in the same year before releasing his first album in 1963. 

Throughout the 60s, he was a star of the Italian pop scene. His 1964 single In ginocchio da te (Kneeling before you) was at the top of the Italian singles charts for 17 weeks, selling more than one million copies, and was followed by several more number one successes.

Morandi performing at the Eurovision Song Contest in Amsterdam in 1970
Morandi performing at the Eurovision Song
Contest in Amsterdam in 1970
He courted controversy while at the early peak of his fame by recording a protest song against the Vietnam War which the television networks refused to promote yet which still reached number one in the chart.

Ironically, his career was then interrupted by compulsory national service.

When he returned to civilian life, he was chosen to participate for Italy in the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest in Amsterdam, in which he finished eighth behind the young Irish singer Dana’s entry All Kinds of Everything, but thereafter his career went into a decline.

He enjoyed a revival in the 1980s, started by his success as an actor in TV dramas, and by 1987, when he won the Sanremo Festival with Si può dare di più, he was again popular and an album recorded with his friend, the singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla, was very well received.

Since then, Morandi has become something of an icon in the entertainment world in Italy. His concert tours, often marathon affairs lasting more than a year and packing in hundreds of dates, would sell out months in advance, and he has fronted many TV shows.

In 2013, his two Gianni Morandi – Live concerts at the Arena di Verona were broadcast live on Canale 5 with an average audience of 6 million.  Cher and Ennio Morricone were among the artists who made guest appearances.

Morandi (right) in one of his earliest TV dramas, in 1966
Morandi (right) in one of his earliest TV dramas, in 1966
Morandi has been married twice – for the first time, from 1966 to 1979, to Laura Efrikian, the daughter of an Armenian conductor, with whom he had three children: Serena (1967), who sadly died after only a few hours, Marianna (1969) and Marco (1974). He has five grandchildren.

In November, 2004 he married Anna Dan, his partner of 10 years and the mother of his son, Pietro, and the couple moved into a renovated house in the regional park of Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi dell'Abbadessa.

Morandi owes his enduring physical fitness to a passion for marathon running. He has raced in 10 marathons, including New York (twice), Berlin, London, Paris, Milan and Bologna.

Away from the entertainment business, he is a lifelong fan of Bologna Football Club, which he helped saved from bankruptcy in 2010 before being appointed honorary president later in the same year, a position he held until the club was sold to an American consortium in 2014.

The Chiostro della Cisterna in Monghidoro
The Chiostro della Cisterna in Monghidoro
Travel tip:

Occupying a ridge between two river valleys, Monghidoro has historically been a place of strategic importance going back to the time of the Ostrogoths and Lombards in the eighth and ninth centuries and remained so in the Second World War, when it was liberated from the Germans by Allied forces in October 1944. Because of the challenging nature of nearby terrain, it was also a stopping-off place for travellers seeking a passage between the Po Valley and central Italy. Notable sights include the Chiostro della Cisterna, an elegant cloister in the centre of the village that is all that remains of a 16th century Olivetan monastery. The cultural heart of the village, in the summer it hosts concerts, plays and exhibitions.  The elegant Piazza Armaciotto De Ramazzotti has a romantic atmosphere created by lanterns, which take the place of street lights.

Typical scenery in the Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi dell'Abbadessa regional park near Bologna
Typical scenery in the Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi
dell'Abbadessa regional park near Bologna
Travel tip:

The Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi dell'Abbadessa regional park, situated just outside the city of Bologna to the southeast, is an area of striking natural beauty characterised by a series of gypsum outcrops creating a landscape of cliffs, caves, rocky hillsides, enclosed basins, chalky ridges and hidden valleys interspersed with rich greenery.  The area has been subjected to intensive mining over the centuries but all activity ceased in the 1970s and the area is now popular with walkers and caving enthusiasts.















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