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Amore is Mark Rotella’s celebration of the “Italian decade”—the years after the war and before the Beatles when Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett, among others, won the hearts of the American public with a smooth, stylish, classy brand of pop. In Rotella’s vivid telling, the stories behind forty Italian American classics (from “O Sole Mio,” “Night and Day,” and “Mack the Knife” to “Volare” and “I Wonder Why”) show how a glorious musical tradition became the sound track of postwar ...
Amore is Mark Rotella’s celebration of the “Italian decade”—the years after the war and before the Beatles when Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett, among others, won the hearts of the American public with a smooth, stylish, classy brand of pop. In Rotella’s vivid telling, the stories behind forty Italian American classics (from “O Sole Mio,” “Night and Day,” and “Mack the Knife” to “Volare” and “I Wonder Why”) show how a glorious musical tradition became the sound track of postwar America and the expression of a sense of style that we still cherish.
Rotella follows the music from the opera houses and piazzas of southern Italy, to the barrooms of the Bronx and Hoboken, to the Copacabana, the Paramount Theatre, and the Vegas Strip. He shows us the hardworking musicians whose voices were to become ubiquitous on jukeboxes and the radio and whose names—some anglicized, some not—have become bywords for Italian American success, even as they were dogged by stereotypes and prejudice.
Amore is the personal Top 40 of one proud son of Italy; it is also a love song to Italian American culture and an evocation of an age that belongs to us all.
“What a beautiful thing is Amore! Rotella knows these singers like family, and he writes with a passion that turns each of their songs into a grace note about the uphill climb of Italians in America.” —Anthony DePalma, author of City of Dust
“Amore brings to mind nothing less than Martin Scorsese's documentaries on movie history. Rotella is an impassioned student of Italian-American culture whose personal journey through the music of his heritage is a work of art itself.” —David Hajdu, music critic for The New Republic
“In this lively anecdotal history, full of engaging profiles and nice autobiographical touches, Mark Rotella explores how a whole wave of hugely talented Italian-American singers dominated the pop charts in the 1940s and 1950s with sounds that have set a standard ever since.” —Morris Dickstein, author of Dancing in the Dark
“This book is a box of candy for those who love American popular songs, as I do—and those interested in the fate of Italian culture on American soil. In Amore, Mark Rotella has looked through the kaleidoscope of his attractive prose at a major postwar phenomenon—the emergence of Italian American music for a mass audience. What he finds here will delight readers, who will demand a soundtrack for this highly entertaining volume.” —Jay Parini, author of The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Last Year
“By seamlessly blending personal memoir and historical insights into Italian American singers—all against an ever-changing America—Mark Rotella has produced a book that is big-hearted and flat-out beautiful.” —Wil Haygood, author of In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.
“Rotella explains the magic of the music; the charisma of Caruso, the charm of Columbo, the nonchalance of Como, the presence that was Prima and the singularity that was Sinatra . . . This is a book for Italian Americans, music lovers, and anyone who enjoys a good read.” —Paul Paolicelli, author of Dances with Luigi
Here's a welcome switch: an Italian-American writer who discovers his ethnic identity not in food or gangsterology, but in the golden age of Italian-American singing, a period of almost twenty years when the sons (and some daughters) of immigrants dominated the American airwaves. Sure, we all know about Frank, Dean, and Tony. And Mark Rotella neatly summarizes the ups and downs of their phenomenal careers. But he also takes us way beyond the superstars, into the lives and hit songs of the many lesser-known, sometimes forgotten talents. Pierino Como, Francesco LoVecchio, Alfredo Cocozza, Alfred Cini, Giovanna Babbo, and Louis Scaglione all charted hits, and some made names for themselves on TV and in the movies. Of course, they were known by their stage names: Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Mario Lanza, Al Martino, Joni James, and Lou Monte.
In a way, the story begins in an earlier era with the first bestselling records cut by anyone in America: Enrico Caruso's early-20th-century renditions of the classic "Core 'ngrato" and "O Sole Mio." Russ Columbo was well on his way to an equally successful career with his romantic baritone when he died at an early age. So, it wasn't until the Forties that Italian-American singers really took off, from Sinatra's brilliant blend of Italian bel canto, Bing Crosby cool, and Billie Holiday blues to the irrepressible Louis Prima, whose antic performances relied on a crazy mix of Italian dialect scat-singing, deep southern call and response, and a general wildness that certainly inspired many rock and rollers of the future. Rotella, for his part, combines anecdote, autobiography, and interviews for this amazing tale of cross-cultural influence -- as Italian-American singers incorporated domestic styles, the American mainstream absorbed them musically and Italians in general into the culture at large. Rotella arranges his forty brief chapters by song title -- the soundtrack to both his childhood and the lives of his parents, and it's the perfect place to start downloading. Whether you begin with Julius La Rosa's "Eh, cumpari" or Jerry Vale's "Innamorata," you will find that the proof is in the singer and the song.
--Thomas De Pietro
Part One The Old Country
1 "I Have But One Heart" ("O marenariello") Vic Damone Damone, Vic 3
2 "Vesti la giubba" Enrico Caruso Caruso, Enrico 12
3 "Core'ngrato" Gilda Mignonette Mignonette, Gilda 26
4 "O sole mio" Enrico Caruso Caruso, Enrico 35
5 "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips" Nick Lucas Lucas, Nick 44
6 "You Call It Madness (but I Call It Love)" Russ Columbo Columbo, Russ 50
7 "Sing, Sing, Sing" Louis Prima Prima, Louis 59
8 "All or Nothing At All" Frank Sinatra Sinatra, Frank 67
9 "Night and Day" Frank Sinatra Sinatra, Frank 74
10 "Angelina" Louis Prima Prima, Louis 79
11 "I'm Gonna Love That Gal (Like She's Never Been Loved Before)" Perry Como Como, Perry 83
12 "Prisoner of Love" Perry Como Como, Perry 88
13 "Mam'selle" Frank Sinatra Sinatra, Frank 92
Part Two The Italian Decade, the 1950s
14 "You're Breaking My Heart" Vic Damone Damone, Vic 101
15 "That Lucky Old Sun" Frankie Laine Laine, Frankie 109
16 "Be My Love" Mario Lanza Lanza, Mario 116
17 "Here in My Heart" Al Martino Martino, Al 125
18 "Because of You" Tony Bennett Bennett, Tony 133
19 "Your Cheatin' Heart" Joni James James, Joni 141
20 "That's Amore" Dean Martin Martin, Dean 144
21 "Eh, cumpari!" Julius La Rosa La Rosa, Julius 151
22 "Darktown Strutters' Ball (Italian-Style)" Lou Monte Monte, Lou 156
23 "(The Gang That Sang) Heart of My Heart" Johnny Desmond Desmond, Johnny 162
24 "Sweet and Gentle" Alan Dale Dale, Alan 165
25 "I've Got the World on a String" Frank Sinatra Sinatra, Frank 169
26 "Just a Gigolo" Louis Prima Prima, Louis 179
27 "Innamorata" Jerry Vale Vale, Jerry 184
28 "Volare" Dean Martin Martin, Dean 191
29 "Mama" Connie Francis Francis, Connie 196
30 "Dream Lover" Bobby Darin Darin, Bobby 202
31 "Lightnin' Strikes" Lou Christie Christie, Lou 206
32 "I Wonder Why" Dion 212
33 "Sixteen Candles" Johnny Maestro Maestro, Johnny 221
34 "Mack the Knife" Bobby Darin Darin, Bobby 225
35 "It's Now or Never" Elvis Presley Presley, Elvis 228
36 "The Wanderer" Dion 233
37 "Walk Like a Man" Frankie Valli Valli, Frankie 237
Part Three Las Vegas
38 "Nice 'n' Easy" Frank Sinatra Sinatra, Frank 245
39 "Bye Bye Blackbird" Sammy Davis Jr. Davis, Sammy, Jr. 252
40 "Fly Me to the Moon" Frank Sinatra Sinatra, Frank 257
"Fly Me to the Moon" (Reprise) Tony Bennett Bennett, Tony 263
Excerpted from AMORE by Mark Rotella Copyright © 2010 by Mark Rotella. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted January 7, 2012
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