"Funiculì, Funiculà" (IPA: [funikuˈli ffunikuˈla]) is a Neapolitan song composed in 1880 by Luigi Denza to lyrics by Peppino Turco. It was written to commemorate the opening of the first funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius. It was presented by Turco and Denza at the Piedigrotta festival the same year. The sheet music was published by Ricordi and sold over a million copies within a year. Since its publication, it has been widely adapted and recorded.
"Funiculì, Funiculà" was composed in 1880 in Castellammare di Stabia, the home town of the song's composer, Luigi Denza; the lyrics were contributed by journalist Peppino Turco. It was Turco who prompted Denza to compose it, perhaps as a joke, to commemorate the opening of the first funicular on Mount Vesuvius in that year.[a] The song was sung for the first time in the Quisisana Hotel[b] in Castellammare di Stabia. It was presented by Turco and Denza at the Piedigrotta festival during the same year and became immensely popular in Italy and abroad. Published by Casa Ricordi, the sheet music sold over a million copies in a year.
Adaptations and unintentional plagiarism
German composer Richard Strauss heard the song while on a tour of Italy six years after it was written. He thought that it was a traditional Neapolitan folk song and incorporated it into his Aus Italien tone poem. Denza filed a lawsuit against him and won, and Strauss was forced to pay him a royalty fee. Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov also mistook "Funiculì, Funiculà" for a traditional folk song and used it in his 1907 "Neapolitanskaya pesenka" (Neapolitan Song). Cornettist Herman Bellstedt used it as the basis for a theme and variations titled Napoli; a transcription for euphonium is also popular among many performers. Modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg arranged a version for ensemble in 1921.
Over the years the song has been performed by many artists including Erna Sack, Anna German, Mario Lanza, Beniamino Gigli, The Mills Brothers, Connie Francis, Haruomi Hosono (with lyrics translated into Japanese), Fischer-Chöre (with lyrics translated into German), The Grateful Dead, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Il Volo.
“Funiculì, Funiculà” is whistled by the Barbra Streisand character in the 1972 film What's Up, Doc? as she crosses the street following the pizza delivery guy into the Bristol Hotel before the first hotel-lobby scene.
During the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of the Disney film Fun and Fancy Free, Donald Duck and Goofy sing "Eat Until I Die," a song expressing their longing for food, set to the melody of "Funiculì, Funiculà."
In 1960, Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman wrote a new set of English lyrics to the melody of "Funiculì, Funiculà" with the title "Dream Boy". Annette Funicello included the song on her album of Italian songs titled Italiannette and also released it as a single, which became a minor hit.
In 1933 Arthur Fields and Fred Hall published a parody of "Funiculì, Funiculà" titled "My High Silk Hat."  This parody has been republished several times, including in the 1957 Gilwell Camp Fire Book.
In 2001 a video parody of the song was released by VeggieTales as "Larry's High Silk Hat".
The 2004 video game Spider-Man 2 features a humorous instrumental version that plays during pizza delivery missions; this has become an internet meme. The 2018 video game Spider-Man has an orchestral rendition playing outside of a pizzeria as a reference to this.
In episode 2 of the first season of the Japanese anime Hozuki no Reitetsu, one of the young characters sings a version of the song with Japanese lyrics, believing it's "a sales jingle for demon underwear." The main character Hozuki gives a lecture on the song's actual origins, telling them: "…that song was originally a canzone from Southern Italy."; "The 'Funiculi Funicula' you speak of are rhythmic shouts."; "Apparently it was a promotional song for the Mountain Railway." A picture of a train on a mountain track is shown with Mario as the train conductor.
The melody was used for "The Grape Escape Board Game" commercials, which aired in the US in 1992.
Original Neapolitan lyrics
In Turco's original lyrics, a young man compares his sweetheart to a volcano, and invites her to join him in a romantic trip to the summit.
Traditional English lyrics
Edward Oxenford, a lyricist and translator of librettos, wrote lyrics, with scant relationship to those of the original version, that became traditional in English-speaking countries. His version of the song often appears with the title "A Merry Life".
Some think the world is made for fun and frolic,
And so do I! And so do I!
Some think it well to be all melancholic,
To pine and sigh; to pine and sigh;
But I, I love to spend my time in singing,
Some joyous song, some joyous song,
To set the air with music bravely ringing
Is far from wrong! Is far from wrong!
Harken, harken, music sounds a-far!
Harken, harken, with a happy heart!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Joy is everywhere, funiculì, funiculà!
Ah me! 'tis strange that some should take to sighing,
And like it well! And like it well!
For me, I have not thought it worth the trying,
So cannot tell! So cannot tell!
With laugh, with dance and song the day soon passes
Full soon is gone, full soon is gone,
For mirth was made for joyous lads and lasses
To call their own! To call their own!
Harken, harken, hark the soft guitar!
Harken, harken, hark the soft guitar!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Hark the soft guitar, funiculì, funiculà!
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