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.

3 January 2019

Renato Carosone – singer-songwriter

Composer revived popularity of the traditional Neapolitan song


Renato Carosone wrote such classic songs as  Tu vuo' fa' l'Americano and Mambo Italiano
Renato Carosone wrote such classic songs as
 Tu vuo' fa' l'Americano and Mambo Italiano
Renato Carosone, who became famous for writing and performing Neapolitan songs in modern times, was born Renato Carusone on this day in 1920 in Naples.

His 1956 song Tu vuo’ fa’ l’Americano - 'You want to be American' - has been used in films and performed by many famous singers right up to the present day.

Torero, a song released by him in 1957, was translated into 12 languages and was at the top of the US pop charts for 14 weeks.

Carosone studied the piano at the Naples Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella and obtained his diploma in 1937, when he was just 17. He went to work as a pianist in Addis Ababa and then served in the army on the Italian Somali front. He did not return to Italy until 1946, after the end of the Second World War.

Back home, he had to start his career afresh and moved to Rome, where he played the piano for small bands.

Carosone's Tu vuo' fa' l'Americano featured in a 1958 movie starring Totò
Carosone's Tu vuo' fa' l'Americano featured
in a 1958 movie starring Totò
He was asked to put together a group for the opening of a new club and signed Dutch guitarist, Peter van Houten and Neapolitan drummer, Gegè di Giacomo, with whom he launched the Trio Carosone.

When Van Houten left to pursue a solo career, Di Giacomo remained with Carosone and they recruited more musicians to form a new band.

The band was popular both in Italy and abroad during the 1950s and the songs Carosone composed, many inspired by his native city, achieved high sales after being recorded.

In 1957, Carosone and his band started off a US tour with a concert in Cuba and finished off with a triumphant performance at Carnegie Hall in New York.

In 1960, Carosone made the shock announcement that he was retiring. He was at the height of his career and his decision caused uproar. It was even suggested that he had received criminal threats, but nothing was ever proved. Away from the music business, Carosone took up painting.

He made a comeback in 1975 in a televised concert. He then performed in live concerts and at the Sanremo Music Festival, continuing to make TV appearances until the late 1990s.

Carosone retired from the music scene in 1960 but made a comeback at the 1975 Sanremo Music Festival
Carosone retired from the music scene in 1960 but made
a comeback at the 1975 Sanremo Music Festival
His biggest hits, such as Tu vuo’ fa’ l’Americano, Mambo Italiano and Torero were written in collaboration with the Neapolitan lyricist Nicola Salerno, who was known as Nisa. They developed a perfect understanding and it was said that after just a few words from Carosone, Nisa could write a funny story based on them.

Carosone's original version of Tu vuo' fa' l'Americano was performed by him in the film Totò, Peppino e le fanatiche (directed by Mario Mattoli, 1958). The song was featured in the 1960 Melville Shavelson film It Started in Naples, in which it was sung by Sophia Loren. It was also performed by Rosario Fiorello in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley.

The melodies of Carosone, influenced by jazz and swing, helped revive the popularity of Neapolitan songs, which he presented in a modern manner.

Carosone died in 2001 in Rome at the age of 81 and was buried in the Flaminio Cemetery in the city.

Carosone's boyhood home in Naples was in a street close to the historic square, Piazza Mercato
Carosone's boyhood home in Naples was in a street close
to the historic square, the vast Piazza Mercato
Travel tip:

Carosone lived as a child in Vico dei Tornieri, in the historic centre of Naples near Piazza Mercato, which is now a lively commercial area, but was once the setting for the city’s important executions. He studied the piano at the Naples Conservatory, which has been housed in a monastery next to the Church of San Pietro a Majella since 1826. The church and monastery are in Via San Pietro a Majella, which leads off the top of Via dei Tribunali.

The Cimitero Flaminio in Rome, where Carosone was buried, is the largest cemetery in the city
The Cimitero Flaminio in Rome, where Carosone was
buried, is the largest cemetery in the city


Travel tip:

Carosone was laid to rest in the Cimitero Flaminio in Via Flaminio in Rome, which is also known as Cimitero di Prima Porta, and is the largest cemetery in the city. Prima Porta is a suburb of Rome on the right bank of the Tiber. An important marble statue of Augustus Caesar was discovered in the area in 1863.

More reading:

The classic songs of Cesare Andrea Bixio

Giambattista De Curtis - the man behind Torna a Surriento

Why Totò is still regarded as Italy's finest funny man

Also on this day:

1698: The birth of poet and librettist Pietro Metastasio

1929: The birth of film director Sergio Leone

1952: The birth of politician Gianfranco Fini

Watch Renato Carosone and his musicians perform Tu vuo' fa' l'Americano





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