John Bensalhia profiles the Top 10 Best Selling Italian Music Artists and acts *
Mina, 150 million
The chameleon-like, three-octave range of Mina has helped to put her at the top of the pile. The ‘Queen Of Screamers’ this year celebrates her half-century in the business, and continues to make records to this day – with the album, Maeba out this year.
Mina’s distinctive, powerful range has earned her her nickname, with plaudits even coming from Louis Armstrong. She has run the whole range of musical styles including rock ‘n’ roll, straight-ahead pop, soul, blues and bossa nova. Among her well-known songs are the 1960 chart-toppers Il Cielo in Una Stanza and Tintarella di Luna and her 1967 version of Ma Se Ghe Penso.
But her turn in the spotlight hasn’t been without controversy. Some of the more prudish have labelled her as a ‘bad girl’ of the Italian music scene, with some of her songs touching on subjects such as sex, the devil and smoking. Her one-time dyed-haired, shaved eyebrowed image did nothing to dissuade these more conservative opinions, especially with Mina puffing on the odd cigarette in public.
But this controversy has done nothing to diminish Mina’s standing, nor has her retirement from public appearances in the late 1970s. She has worked with a number of wide-ranging artists including Seal, Adriano Celentano and Miguel Bose. Her albums continue to prove popular, and maintains a very strong fan-base to this day.
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Adriano Celentano, 150 million
Another of the legendary stalwarts of Italian music, Adriano Celentano has also been around since the late 1950s. Appropriately, his early music took inspiration from the rock ‘n’ roll influences brought to the world by the likes of Elvis. In true King style, Adriano also cut his early movie teeth by starring in films such as La Dolce Vita and Ragazzi del Juke-Box, and would go on to appear in a string of further big screen outings until the 1990s.
But it’s also the music that counts, and from the 1950s to the early 2010’s, Adriano would release a number of well-regarded singles. These include the oft-covered 1966 Il Ragazzo Della Via Gluck, and the amusing Prisencolinensinainciusol, which used lyrical nonsense to explore other people’s perception of how singers communicate their music.
This multi-talented singer has also explored other avenues of entertainment including TV hosting, comedy, dancing, and on top of this, he also formed his own record label Clan Celentano.
Patty Pravo, 110 million
The story of Patty Pravo is a metaphorical tale of riches to rags and riches again. Starting with great success in the mid-1960s, Patty would find fame and fortune with songs such as Ragazzo Triste, Sto Con Te, and her 1968 Number One smash, La Bambola.
The number ones and success would continue into the next decade, most notably with 1973’s Pazza Idea and Come Un Pierrot (from the following year). Both of these songs came from chart-topping albums, the respective Pazza Idea and Mai Una Signora. The late 1970s would also bring success with 1978’s Pensiero Stupendo, which came from the controversially-received TV show, Stryx, which, with its devillish and hellish themes, wasn’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea.
Regrettably, Pravo fell out of favour the following decade, but a triumphant return to form at 1997’s Sanremo Festival with the song …E Dimmi Che Non Vuoi Morire brought critical acclaim and chart success. The new millennium brought fresh success for Patty, with the likes of Che Uomo Sei and Una Donna Da Sognare. Patty’s chart hit singles and albums have continued into the mid-2010s, and following her second autobiography, it can’t be long until she releases a fresh batch of music.
Luciano Pavarotti, 100 million
Nessun Dorma. The keystone song that sums up the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
The voice of Luciano Pavarotti made this version of the aria the definitive one for many, but was only a fraction of his long and successful career until his untimely passing in 2007.
Pavarotti was part of the Three Tenors, along with Spaniards Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. The trio would cement their popularity with a performance the day before the 1990 World Cup Final at the Roman Baths of Caracalla. Global appearances would await at destinations such as Los Angeles, Vienna and Vancouver, to name but a sample.
Pavarotti’s successful career began in the 1960s, appearing in a Reggio Emilia performance of La boheme as Rodolfo. Gradual success would appear as he played in operas such as La Traviata and Rigoletto around the world, before his 1966 breakthrough as Tonio in Donizetti’s La Fille Du Régiment at the Royal Opera House. The following decade would see Pavarotti’s popularity increase with memorable performances in La fille du régiment and another run in La Bohème.
Sales of his recordings would soar in the 1990s and 2000s, as Pavarotti would collaborate with a string of artists from the rock and pop world such as U2, Vanessa Williams and Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries. He would tour regularly to rapturous audiences, right up until his worldwide farewell tour in 2004.
Toto Cutugno, 100 million
Speaking as a Brit, there’s a certain degree of poignancy to be had listening to Toto Cutugno’s celebration of the EU, Insieme: 1992. The song was self-penned and managed to win the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s part of Cutugno’s considerable repertoire, with a run of hit songs and albums going back to the mid-1970s.
This Sanremo Festival regular spawned a number of acclaimed songs such as Volo 504, Solo Noi, and one of his biggest, L’Italiano, which, following big success in 1983, was refired in 2006 when Cutugno performed the hit at a concert to celebrate Italy’s win at that year’s World Cup.
Andrea Bocelli, 90 million
Another on the list to – ah, dabble in opera – tragic blindness didn’t stop Andrea Bocelli from becoming one of the best-selling Italian music artists of all time.
His impressive resume includes a string of contributions to the top Italian operas such as Turandot, Tosca and Romeo and Juliet. Many of his own albums have paid some kind of tribute to all aspects of opera, whether it be Arias (he would release both Aria: The Opera Album and Sacred Arias) or interpretations of a specific musician’s works (2000’s Verdi). Bocelli has also branched out into covering film music and themes, and also reworkings of classic Christmas songs.
His unique and powerful voice has won him an army of admirers such as Celine Dion, Al Jarreau and Elizabeth Taylor. On top of this, he has received countless awards from around the world, such as Classical BRIT Awards, Telegatto Awards, and let’s not forget his very own star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
Umberto Tozzi, 75 million
The big time came a calling for successful singer songwriter Umberto Tozzi in the 1970s. His big break came in 1977 with Ti Amo, which was to go global with massive results in countries such as Sweden, Spain and Latin America. It was covered by American singer Laura Branigan, who would also enjoy success with another Tozzi composition, Gloria in 1982.
It’s this international appeal that has led Tozzi to sell so many records, as his success is maintained in the 21stcentury. Further appearances at the Sanremo Music Festival have kept his name in the spotlight, along with collaborations with musicians such as fellow singer songwriter, Raf, and French singer, Lena Ka.
Pooh, 75 million
The only band in this line-up, Pooh’s distinctive brand of prog pop has seen them right since their 1966 debut album, Per Quelli Come Noi. Their recent 50thanniversary was marked by a special reunion tour. This saw three of the extant 1960s and 1970s line-ups (Roby Facchinetti, Dodi Battaglia and Red Canzian) joined again by Stefano D’Orazio and Riccardo Fogli to a warm welcome.
If you didn’t get to see them, then try some of their classic albums from over the years, such as 1968’s Contrasto, 1973’s Parsifal, and 1983’s Tropico Del Nord.
Ennio Morricone, 70 million
Ennio Morricone is a curious one in this list, since his musical success comes from a string of classic soundtracks rather than conventional rock and pop or opera performances.
This Roman-born composer has written more than 500 classic scores for both film and TV, with music provided for the likes of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly; The Mission and For A Few Dollars More.
Not bad for a chap who started out playing jazz trumpet in local bands in the ’40s. Rising up the ranks by writing arrangements at RCA Victor and ghost writing scores for various movies and plays, by his peak of score-composing, Morricone would come up with a run of memorable compositions including Chi Mai, Man With A Harmonica and Gabriel’s Oboe. Even in his late 80s, Morricone continued to write scores for 2010’s movies such as Come What May and The Correspondence.
Laura Pausini, 70 million
The youngest on the list, but Laura Pausini has accomplished a wealth of success in her pop career that professionally began in 1993.
In fact, Laura had put together her very own demo album six years previous, but it was her 1993 Sanremo performance of La Solitudine that put her on the map, and with an achievement of a resulting Number One single in Italy, it was the start of a massively successful career.
It’s a career that has proven particularly successful both in Laura’s native country and also in Spain, where following a self-titled album sung purely in Spanish, the set became the best-seller in 1994. Laura has enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums in Spain since, to the point where she has appeared on a number of Spanish variants of worldwide music TV shows (see below).
Like many others in this list, it’s down to the voice, and Laura’s mature, powerful vocals held her in good stead for chart success. Other notable chart hits include Lettera, Gente, and Incancellabile. Due to her immense success as a singer, it’s little wonder that Pausini has been selected as a judge and mentor on the Spanish versions of The Voice and The X Factor.
* Sales figures, according to Wikipedia