Volare (song)

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"Nel blu dipinto di blu"
Single by Domenico Modugno
B-side "Vecchio frak", "Nisciuno po' sapè", "Strada 'nfosa", "Lazzarella"
Released 1 February 1958
Format 7" 45 rpm record
Genre Pop
Length 3:34
Label Fonit Cetra, Decca Records
Italy "Nel blu, dipinto di blu"
Eurovision Song Contest 1958 - Domenico Modugno.png
Domenico Modugno at the Eurovision Song Contest 1958
Eurovision Song Contest 1958 entry
Country Italy
Artist(s) Domenico Modugno
Language Italian
Composer(s) Domenico Modugno
Lyricist(s) Domenico Modugno, Franco Migliacci
Conductor Alberto Semprini
Finals performance
Final result 3rd
Final points 13
Appearance chronology
◄ "Corde della mia chitarra" (1957)   
"Piove (Ciao, ciao bambina)" (1959) ►

"Nel blu dipinto di blu" (English: In the Sky, Painted Blue), popularly known as "Volare" (to fly), is a song recorded by Italian singer-songwriter Domenico Modugno. Written by Franco Migliacci and Domenico Modugno, it was released as a single on 1 February 1958.[1]

Winning the 8th Sanremo Music Festival, the song was chosen as the Italian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in 1958, where it won third place out of ten songs in total. The combined sales of all the versions of the song exceed 22 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular Eurovision songs of all time and the most successful Sanremo Music Festival song ever.

It spent five non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in August and September 1958 and was Billboard's number-one single for the year. Modugno's recording subsequently became the first Grammy winner for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1958.

The song was later translated in several languages and it was recorded by a wide range of performers, including Bobby Rydell, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Jerry Vale, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Dalida, Gipsy Kings, Chico & the Gypsies, Deana Martin and Barry White.

Background and composition[edit]

Writing[edit]

Franco Migliacci started working on the lyrics of the song in June 1957, inspired by two paintings by Marc Chagall. He had planned to go to the sea with Domenico Modugno, but while waiting for Modugno to show up, Migliacci started drinking wine and eventually fell asleep. He had vivid dreams, and when he woke up, he looked at the Chagall paintings (reproductions) on the wall.[2] In "Le coq rouge" was a yellow man suspended in midair, while in "Le peintre et la modelle", half the painter's face was coloured blue.[3] So he started penning a song about a man who dreams of painting himself blue, and being able to fly.[2][4] Later that same night, Migliacci discussed his lyrics with Modugno, and for several days they worked on the song, tentatively entitled "Sogno in blu" (Dream in blue).[5]

Much later, in 2008, Franca Gandolfi recalled that her husband, Domenico Modugno, after a storm forced open his window, had the idea of modifying the chorus of the song, introducing the word "Volare", which is now the popular title of the song.[2]

Musical style and lyrical content[edit]

Modugno's "Volare" was the Billboard Hot 100 single of the year 1958.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The song is a ballad[6] in a dramatic chanson style, in which Modugno describes the feeling he has, which resembles flying when with his lover. The song opens with a surreal prelude which the cover versions often left out: "Penso che un sogno così non ritorni mai più. Mi dipingevo le mani e la faccia di blu; poi d'improvviso venivo dal vento rapito, e incominciavo a volare nel cielo infinito." ("I think that a dream like that will never return; I painted my hands and my face blue, then was suddenly swept up by the wind and started to fly in the infinite sky.")

The English lyrics were written by Mitchell Parish. Alternative English lyrics were written in 1958 by Dame Gracie Fields, and they were used in most concerts she performed in from then until her death in 1979. She often changed the words to suit her performance and age.

Song contests[edit]

Sanremo Music Festival[edit]

In 1958, the song participated in the selection process for the eighth Sanremo Music Festival, held in 1958. The jury charged with selecting the entries to the competition was going to reject "Nel blu dipinto di blu", but in the end it was one of the 20 admitted songs.[7]

On 31 January 1958, the song was performed for the first time, during the second night of the eighth Sanremo Music Festival, by Domenico Modugno and Johnny Dorelli.[8] It was Dorelli's first appearance on the Sanremo Music Festival. According to his team-partner, Dorelli was so nervous that he had to be punched by Modugno to be persuaded to perform on the stage.[9]

After being admitted to the final,[10] held at the Sanremo Casino on 1 February 1958, the song was performed again, and it won the contest,[11] beating the song "L'edera" by Nilla Pizzi and Tonina Torrielli, which came in second place.[10]

Dorelli's performance didn't have a big impact on the audience,[5] while Modugno's is now considered to be the event which changed the history of Italian music.[12] During his performance, Modugno opened his arms, as if he was going to fly.[5] This contributed to making it the most successful Sanremo Music Festival song,[13] and marked a change in the way of performing, since Italian singers were used to standing with their arms on their chest, without moving on the stage.[7]

Eurovision Song Contest[edit]

Domenico Modugno with conductor Alberto Semprini at the Eurovision Song Contest 1958.

Following the first place at the Sanremo Music Festival, the song was chosen to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest 1958, which took place on 12 March in Hilversum, Netherlands. Domenico Modugno was chosen as the interpreter.

The song was performed first on the night, preceding the Netherlands' Corry Brokken with "Heel de wereld".[14] Due to a transmission fault, the song was not heard in all countries transmitting the event, so it was performed at the end as well, before the voting took place.[15] At the end of the voting, it had received 13 points, placing 3rd in a field of 10.[14] Despite this, it became one of the most successful songs ever performed in Eurovision Song Contest history.[16]

It was succeeded as Italian entry at the 1959 contest by "Piove (Ciao, ciao bambina)", also performed by Modugno.[17]

Commercial success[edit]

The song became an instant success in Italy, selling more than 20,000 copies in its first 12 days. As of February 2013, according to RAI's estimates, the single had sold 800,000 copies in its domestic market.[1][18] Following the results obtained in Italy, the song was also released in the United States and in the rest of Europe. In the United Kingdom, Modugno's single was released on 23 August 1958, together with eight other versions recorded by international artists.[1] The single obtained global acclaim,[16] becoming an international hit.[13]

In the United States, the single debuted at number 54 on the very first Billboard Hot 100, on 4 August 1958, and the next week it climbed at number two, marking the biggest jump to the runner-up spot in the chart's history.[19] On 18 August 1958, it topped the Hot 100, becoming the second song to reach the top spot on the chart, after Ricky Nelson's "Poor Little Fool".[20] The song later completed a run of five non-consecutive weeks at the top of the chart,[21] selling 2 million copies in the United States during 1958[22] and becoming Billboard's Song of the Year.[20] "Nel blu dipinto di blu" was the first non American, Canadian or British single to achieve this honor in the rock era, and it was the only one until 1994's "The Sign" by Swedish group Ace of Base. It is also one of the only two songs by Modugno charting on the Hot 100, together with "Piove (Ciao, ciao bambina)", which peaked at number 97.[20]

In the United Kingdom, the single debuted at number 15 on 6 September 1958, and the following week it rose and peaked at number ten on the UK Singles Chart.[23] It also peaked at number two on the Norwegian VG-lista Topp 20 Singles and on the Dutch Mega Single Top 100.[24]

The song's popularity endures, and in 2004, according to the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, it was the most played Italian song, in Italy as well as in the whole world.[25] Moreover, the combined sales of all the recorded versions of the song exceed 22 million units.[13][26]

Awards and accolades[edit]

Awards[edit]

Picture of a Grammy Award, a trophy that features a golden gramophone on a black marble block. The award belongs to Jacob Bronstein, who won it in 2007 for Best Spoken Word Album.
Modugno won two Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1959 for "Nel blu dipinto di blu".

During the 1st Grammy Awards, held on 4 May 1959 at Hollywood's Beverly Hilton Hotel, "Nel blu dipinto di blu" received two awards, for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.[27] The song is the only foreign-language recording to achieve this honor,[28] and it is the only song competing in the Eurovision Song Contest to receive a Grammy Award.[29]

In 2001, seven years after his death, Modugno was awarded with the Sanremo Music Festival Special Award, "given to the one who, [...] in 1958, with "Nel blu dipinto di blu", turned the Sanremo Music Festival in a stage of worldwide relevance".[30] During 2008's Sanremo Music Festival, Franco Migliacci and Modugno's wife, Franca Gandolfi, received the special Award for Creativity for the song "Nel blu dipinto di blu". The award was presented by Italian Society of Authors and Publishers' chairman Giorgio Assumma.[31]

Accolades[edit]

In 2005, a concert was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest. During the event, "Nel blu dipinto di blu" was ranked second on the list of the "all time favourite songs of the Eurovision Song Contest", behind ABBA's "Waterloo". ABBA's former member Benny Andersson, while receiving the prize, commented:

I myself voted for "Volare" but I am pleased that so many people voted for us.

― Benny Andersson[32]

In 2008, the 50th anniversary of the song was celebrated in Italy by releasing a postage stamp showing a man who is flying on a blue background.[33][34][35] During the 2010 Viña del Mar International Song Festival, the song, performed by Italian singer Simona Galeandro, was also declared the most popular song of the 20th century, winning the international competition of the contest.[36]

Plagiarism allegations[edit]

Immediately after the release of "Nel blu dipinto di blu", Antonio De Marco accused Modugno and Migliacci of plagiarising his 1956 song "Il castello dei sogni".[37][38] The song was not released, but it had been played during some concerts in the previous years.[37] As a response, Modugno sued De Marco for defamation,[37] and in July 1958 De Marco was convicted by the Milan court of justice.[39]

During the trial for plagiarism, De Marco claimed that he lost his sheet music in Rome, while registering his song with the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, suggesting that Modugno somehow found it[40][41] and plagiarised both the lyrics and the music of his composition.[37] However, the Rome court of justice absolved Modugno and Migliacci,[42] following the opinion of an expert who claimed that the two songs don't have any relevant similarity.[41]

Usage in media[edit]

  • In film: The 1980 comedy film The Hollywood Knights uses the song in a version performed by Newbomb Turk (Robert Wuhl). In the movie Absolute Beginners (1986) a radio broadcast a cover of the song performed, in Italian, by David Bowie (who also appeared in the film), though the song was not included on the soundtrack. The song was however included in the soundtrack once released on CD. The song was recorded by singer Vitamin C for The Lizzie McGuire Movie Soundtrack and can also be heard in the film while Lizzie and Paolo are roaming Rome, as well as in I cento passi while the family is arriving to a celebration. Kevin Kline sings an excerpt from this song in the movie A Fish Called Wanda. Andy Kaufman's alter ego, Tony Clifton, sings a particularly aggressive version of the song during his nightclub act in the 1999 film "Man on the Moon". The song opens and closes Woody Allen's To Rome with Love (2012). In the movie Room in Rome (2010), Natasha begins to sing this song while in the shower, then Alba joins her, both in the shower and in the singing. The lyrics are particularly relevant to the context.
  • TV: "Troubled Waters," an episode from the fourth season of Columbo, uses the song as the backdrop of a long segment in which the murderer prepares for the ensuing crime.
  • TV commercial: Italian-American tenor Sergio Franchi sang the song, with modified lyrics, while appearing as the television spokesman for the Plymouth Volaré in the 1970s.[43] He had covered the song in 1966 on his RCA Victor album, La Dolce Italy.

Track listings[edit]

7" 45 rpm record (1958 – Fonit Cetra SP 30222)[44]
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Nel blu dipinto di blu"   Franco Migliacci, Domenico Modugno 3:34
2. "Vecchio frak"   Modugno 4:12
7" 45 rpm record (1958 – Fonit Cetra 15948)[45]
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Nel blu dipinto di blu"   Migliacci, Modugno 3:34
2. "Nisciuno po' sapè"   Modugno, Riccardo Pazzaglia 3:26
7" 45 rpm record (1958 – Fonit Cetra SP 30208)[46][47]
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Nel blu dipinto di blu"   Migliacci, Modugno 3:34
2. "Strada 'nfosa"   Modugno 3:44
7" 45 rpm record (1958 – Fonit Cetra SP 30223)[47][48]
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Nel blu dipinto di blu"   Migliacci, Modugno 3:34
2. "Lazzarella"   Modugno, Pazzaglia 3:11

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Discografia Nazionale della Canzone Italiana.[44]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1958) Peak
position
France (SNEP)[49] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[50] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[24] 2
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[51] 10
US Billboard Hot 100[21] 1

Recorded cover versions[edit]

1950s–1960s[edit]

Dean Martin was one of the first artists covering the song.

After the releases by Modugno and Dorelli and following the initial success of Modugno's one, many other versions were quickly recorded and released. The song was also translated in several languages, including French, Spanish, Dutch, Finnish and Portuguese.[52]

In 1958, Dean Martin included a half-English version of the song, with lyrics adapted by Mitchell Parish, on his LP This Is Dean Martin![53] and released it as a single, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart[54] and peaking at number three in Norway[55] and at number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100.[56] During the same year, several other versions of the song were released, but did not achieve the same success. A French version of the song, titled "Dans le Bleu du Ciel Bleu", was featured on Dalida's Les Gitans.[57] In the United Kingdom, Italian musician Marino Marini's cover peaked at number thirteen in October 1958,[58] and Charlie Drake's version reached number 28,[59] while The McGuire Sisters' version, also released in 1958 as a single, peaked at number 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US[60] and entered the Norwegian Singles Chart at number seven.[61] 1958's albums El alma de un pueblo by Cortijo y su combo[62] and The End by Earl Grant also included cover versions of the song.[63]

During the same year, several Italian artists released their own version of the song, including Fred Buscaglione,[64] Nicola Arigliano,[65] Nilla Pizzi,[66] Gino Latilla,[67] Marino Marini and His Quartet[68] and Claudio Villa.[69]

In 1960, the song was recorded by American singer Bobby Rydell, reaching number four on the Hot 100 during the summer of 1960[70] and number 22 in the UK.[71] In 1986, Rydell's version was featured on the soundtrack of Richard Wenk's horror film Vamp.[72]

Among the other artists covering the song soon after its release, Connie Francis included it in her 1959's Connie Francis sings Italian Favorites,[73] Chet Atkins covered it for 1963's Travelin',[74] Ella Fitzgerald recorded it for her 1964's Hello, Dolly![75] and Petula Clark sang it for the album The International Hits, released in 1965.[76] Instrumental versions of the song were included in 1959's The Poll Winners Ride Again! by Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne and Ray Brown,[77] in 1960's Have You Heard by Herman Foster,[78] and in 1961's Wonderland of Sound: Today's Greatest Hits, by Russian orchestral music conductor Andre Kostelanetz.[79]

Louis Armstrong performed "Nel blu dipinto di blu" live during the 1960s, and his performance was later included in some of his live albums.[80] During the years, Caterina Valente recorded different versions of the song, both in Italian and English.[81] In 1966, it was performed by the 101 Strings Orchestra for the record Italian Hits.[82][83]

1970s–1990s[edit]

David Bowie covered the song for 1986's film Absolute Beginners, directed by Julien Temple.

In 1973, the song was featured on the self-titled album released in Germany by Italian singer Rita Pavone.[84] Another charting version of the song was released in 1975 by American jazz singer Al Martino, and included in his album To the Door of the Sun. His single peaked at number 33 in the US,[85] it reached number 3 on the Dutch Single Top 100,[86] and it was certified gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association.[87] Sergio Franchi recorded two compilation albums featuring this song, 1976's Sergio Franchi Sings Volare,[88] and 1977's Volare.[89]

In 1985, the Italian supergroup MusicaItalia released a cover version for the song as a charity single for Ethiopian famine relief. The group included artists such as Vasco Rossi, Fabrizio De André, Loredana Bertè, Lucio Dalla, Patty Pravo and Giuni Russo.[90]

Australian alternative rock band TISM recorded a version in the early to mid 1980s which was issued on their debut album Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance in 1988.

A version of the song by David Bowie was featured in 1986's British rock musical film Absolute Beginners.[91] During the same year, Dutch folk singer André Hazes included it in his Italian-language album Innamorato,[92] while in 1987 the song was recorded by American singer-songwriter Alex Chilton for the album High Priest.[93] In 1989, Gipsy Kings recorded an up-tempo version of the song, with lyrics partly in Italian and partly in Spanish. Their version topped the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart in April 1990[94] and became a minor hit in the UK, where it reached number 86.[95] It also charted in France and the Netherlands, peaking at number 16[96] and at number 26[97] respectively.

Barry White's album Put Me in Your Mix, released in 1991, also includes a cover of Modugno's hit single, simply titled "Volare".[98] In 1996, American polka band Brave Combo covered the song for the compilation album Mood Swing Music.[99] A piano cover of the song is included in 1997's Mambo Italiano by Stefano Bollani,[100] while Italian singer Al Bano released in 1999 an album titled Volare, featuring a cover of "Nel blu dipinto di blu".[101]

2000s–2010s[edit]

An English/Spanish salsa version is also sung by Son Boricua of Jimmy Sabater and Jose Mangual Jr. in 2000.

In 2001, Italian singer Mina released the album Sconcerto, entirely composed of Domenico Modugno Italian hits, includuing "Nel blu dipinto di blu".[102] Japanese-Brazilian bossa nova singer Lisa Ono also sang "Nel blu dipinto di blu" in her 2002's album Questa bossa mia.[103] Mina re-recorded the song in 2010, for a television advertisement.[104] It was also performed by Sanjeev Bhaskar in the film Anita and Me. In 2003, German Eurodance band Captain Jack released the song as a single from the album Cafe Cubar.[105][106] During the same year, Engelbert Humperdinck included a cover of the song in his album Definition of Love.[107] In 2005, a medley of "Nel blu dipinto di blu" and Modugno's "Piove (Ciao, ciao bambina)" was recorded live by Patrizio Buanne for his DVD The Italian Live in Concert.[108]

British Popera vocal group G4 opened 2006's album Act Three with a cover of the song[109] and during the same year, Claudio Baglioni included it in his double studio set Quelli degli altri tutti qui, together with other popular Italian songs.[110] In 2008, a new version was recorded by Gianni Morandi for the album Ancora… grazie a tutti.[111] Italian jazz singer Simona Molinari included a live version of the song in her debut album, Egocentrica, released in 2009.[112] A piano version of the song is also included in 2010's Golden Memories 2 by Iranian composer Fariborz Lachini.[113] In February 2010, a cover of the song performed by Italian singer Simona Galeandro won the international competition of the 2010 Viña del Mar International Song Festival.[114]

In 2011, a rock version of the song was included in Gianna Nannini's Io e Te.[115][116] One year later, a version of the song performed by Emma Marrone was included in the soundtrack of the Italian movie Benvenuti al Nord, directed by Luca Miniero.[117]

Deana Martin recorded Volare in 2009. The song was released on her album, Volare, in 2009 by Big Fish Records.

Other cover versions[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Poor Little Fool"
by Ricky Nelson
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
18 August 1958 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Little Star"
by The Elegants
Preceded by
"Little Star"
by The Elegants
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
1 September 1958 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"It's All in the Game"
by Tommy Edwards