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.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Ivana Spagna – singer-songwriter

Dance track made 30 years ago still holds record


Spagna performing her 1986 hit Easy Lady
Spagna performing her 1986 hit Easy Lady
The singer and songwriter Ivana Spagna, whose single Call Me achieved the highest placing by an Italian artist in UK chart history when it reached number two in 1987, was born on this day in 1954 in the town of Valeggio sul Mincio, in the Veneto.

Often performing as simply Spagna, she has sold more than 10 million copies of her singles and albums in a career spanning 46 years, having released her first single in 1971 at the age of 16.

She began to sing professionally in the early 1980s, when she provided the vocals for a number of disco tracks lip-synched by other artists, and when she relaunched her recording career in her own right she met with immediate success.

The single Easy Lady, recorded in 1986 and which she tends to regard as her debut single as a professional artist, sold more than two million copies, as did Call Me, which was released the following year.

Spagna defied the expectations of her record company, who had misgivings about promoting an Italian singing in English under the stage name “Spain” but were pleasantly surprised by her popularity.

The cover for Spagna's UK success Call Me
The cover for Spagna's UK success Call Me
Call Me topped the European singles chart and reached No 13 in the Billboard dance chart in the United States.

In 1987, her first album, featuring both successful singles under the title Dedicated To The Moon, achieved a further 500,000 sales. She followed up with a dance-rock album, You Are My Energy, and another hit in the UK chart, Every Girl and Boy.

Supported by Sony Music, Spagna moved to the US in 1990, living in Santa Monica, working on her new disco-pop album No Way Out, which was geared to the US market.

After returning to Europe in 1993, recording her last European hit, Lady Madonna, in 1995, Spagna decided it was time to start singing in her native Italian.

Her big ‘break’ in that regard was to be chosen to sing Elton John’s song Circle of Life, in Italian, for the soundtrack of the Italian version of the Disney movie The Lion King. Released as a single, it was a big hit in Italy.

Encouraged by the TV host Pippo Baudo, she took part in several Sanremo Festivals, finishing third in 1995 with Gente Come Noi (People Like Us), which was another successful single in Italy.

Ivana Spagna as she was in 1969
Ivana Spagna as she was in 1969
Her first album in Italian, Siamo in due, sold more than 350,000 copies, which made it the best-selling album by a female singer in Italy in 1995.

Throughout her early career in particular, Spagna was guided by her brother, Giorgio Theo Spagna, who gave her piano lessons and wrote songs for her.  He and Larry Pignagnoli, the promoter and producer, joined forces with Spagna in the Opera Madre group as they set out to conquer the Italo Disco scene.

Pignagnoli, who also writes songs, has worked with Spagna for most of her career.

Today, Spagna is still recording and more recently returned to creating dance tracks. She has also written a book, Sarà capitato anche a te (It will have happened to you too), describing the premonitory dreams she claims to have experienced repeatedly during her life.

Tortellini di Valeggio
Tortellini di Valeggio
Travel tip:

Spagna’s home town of Vallegio sul Mincio, which can be found about 25km (16 miles) southwest of Verona, is famous for tortellini pasta, which it claims was invented there (although Bologna also makes that claim). Vallegio’s story is that the shape of the pasta parcels was inspired by the legend of Marco, a captain in the Visconti army, who eloped with a girl he originally took to be a nymph from the Mincio river, leaving behind a knotted gold silk handkerchief as a symbol of their love. The pasta shape is supposed to represent the knotted handkerchief.

The remains of the fortified dam, the Ponte Visconteo
The remains of the fortified dam, the Ponte Visconteo
Travel tip:

Each year on June 18, Vallegio sul Mincio stages a festival that not only celebrates tortellini but also the 650m (710yds)-long Ponte Visconteo, a fortified dam built across the Mincio by Gian Galeazzo Visconti in 1393. Two huge tables of 600m (656yds) each are assembled on the 25m (27yds)-wide bridge with seats for 4,000 diners, who are served local specialities including the tortellini, which has a filling of beef, pork and chicken flavoured with celery, carrot and rosemary and is served cooked in a broth, with butter and sage and a sprinkling of cheese.

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