Tag Archives: Frank Sinatra

Italians in America ~ Ann Scavo (Anncruise)


‘Amore’: Italian-American Singers In The 20th Century

American singer and actor Frank Sinatra sits at the piano. Getty Images
American singer and actor Frank Sinatra sits at the piano.
Getty Images

Apparently, Dean Martin didn’t much like the song “That’s Amore,” but in 1953 it became one of his biggest hits. It’s a song that seems to capture a moment in pop history when nearly every hit was performed by an Italian-American singer. The story of “That’s Amore” and the songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and others is told in a new book called Amore. Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz recently spoke with the author, Mark Rotella, about Italian singers in 20th-century America.

“That’s Amore” came from a movie called The Caddy, starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; it’s about an Italian man who plays a golf pro and is followed by a faithful caddy. In the movie, when the two return to Italy and are greeted by their Italian family, they break into this song. When we hear it today, it sounds like a caricature of Italian culture. But, Rotella says, it served as an introduction to Italian culture for many Americans.

“It was one of the more obvious ones,” he says. “There were Italian singers before, but this led to other kitschy songs, like Rosemary Clooney’s ‘Mambo Italiano,’ and so many other songs that came after that were kind of kitschy but were also really pop and kind of fun.”

Rotella’s book isn’t just about Italian-American singers. It’s also about a turning point in 20th-century America when Italian entertainers started to be seen as American entertainers. Rotella says that there was a Golden Age of entertainment that started around 1947.

“This is when second- and third-generation Americans of Italian decent were coming of age,” he says. “This is post-war; it was a time of optimism. This era was basically the end of the big band and the beginning of the solo voice, and this lasted through the ’50s, up until I’d say 1964, with The Beatles.”

This was happening during a period when there was a great deal of discrimination against Italians in America. For example, this excerpt was taken from a profile on Joe DiMaggio from Life Magazine in 1939.

“Although he learned Italian first, Joe now speaks English without an accent. … Instead of olive oil or smelly bear grease, he keeps his hair slicked with water. He never reeks of garlic and prefers chicken chow mein to spaghetti.”

These kinds of comments were acceptable in mainstream dialogue, and yet a few years later, Italian singers would dominate the pop charts.

“This is the time when so many singers were now seen on TV,” Rotella says. “They were good-looking. They had a certain sensibility, a certain attitude that was open and charming.”

Rotella says that nearly every singer he interviewed named Enrico Caruso as an influence. Caruso was the first pop artist to sell a million copies of his music, offering his recordings on flat discs for the RCA Victor Vitrolas of the time. Rotella says that this shaped the way music was sold for years to come.

“They sold so much, this really defined how music was recorded and on what medium,” Rotella says. “It was going to be Victor on the flat plastic records.”

One of the singers Rotella includes in his book is none other than the king of the golden age of Italian-American music, Frank Sinatra. Rotella calls Sinatra’s song “Fly Me to the Moon” a metaphor for all of the breakthroughs that Italian singers achieved.

“When you hear the song, it’s optimistic,” he says. “It’s kind of dreamy, forward-thinking, but it’s tough. He says, ‘fly me to the moon,’ but it’s almost as if he’s there already. This is coming at a time when music was going to change. It’s the tail-end of the success of the Rat Pack. It was at this time that almost total assimilation of Italians had happened. In ways, I feel like after this [song], there were so many Italians that followed him. Not necessarily performing Italian music; we wouldn’t necessarily know them as Italians today. This song of reaching the moon seemed to me to be every immigrant’s dream of assimilating.

(Note:  videos were added to this article ~Marie)



Descendants from Sicilian village keep their heritage alive in America

People from Sciacca, Agrigento congregating outside the local church before leaving for America.
People from Sciacca, Agrigento congregating outside the local church before leaving for America.

Between 1880 and 1920 over four million Italians were recorded as entering the United States.  About three-fourths of these immigrants went through the Ellis Island immigration station with the majority being males between the ages of 24 and 45.

The island of Sicily and the region around Naples, both in the south, accounted for over half the Italians who moved to the U.S. looking for a better life.

According to manifest documents from the ships, so many Sicilians reported ‘Sciacca in Agrigento’ as their home village that immigration inspectors used “ditto” marks to record this information.

Many of these Italians settled in Little Italy neighborhoods all over the country, the most famous being in New York.

Discrimination between Italians in Little Italy was rampant.

Being fiercely provincial and proud of their own regions, the Italians from Naples, Calabria and Bari looked down on Sicilians, particularly those from Sciacca.

Given their humble beginnings, their descendants were taught to be proud of their Sicilian heritage.

Baseball legend Mike Piazza’s father’s family comes from Sciacca, and though he doesn’t speak Italian, the former Mets catcher is fiercely proud of his roots.

“I feel a strong tie to Sicily, since my heritage is there. My grandfather Rosario came from Sciacca, to the United States and my father grew me up following the Italian tradition. I think it’s in our DNA to strive to work hard and persevere,” Piazza said.

“One thing that was present in me was my father’s distinct love of his Italian heritage and Sicilian ancestry.

I can’t tell you how many times my father would say “Amuni a monjare, beddu”, and “mezza mortu”.

He would also take a strong stand against negative Italian American stereotypes saying that they “don’t represent the real Italians”.

Piazza also said he travels to Sciacca regularly. “It’s something I have great pride in knowing how proud my father and grandfather would be if they could see me here.”

Mike Piazza: A proud descendent of Sciacca.
Mike Piazza: A proud descendent of Sciacca.

Musician Jon Bon Jovi is another who is descended from emigrants from Siacca. In 2013, Bongiovi Sr. gladly shared his family’s pasta sauces – the recipes for which originated in Sciacca and were passed down through three generations.

Cartoon artist, director and producer Joseph Barbera, who formed Hanna-Barbera with William Hanna, is another who is descended from emigrants from Sciacca. Both his parents were born in Sciacca and he grew up speaking Italian.

Alicia Keys is another who has found out about her large extended Italian family. Her great-grandfather Michiele was from Sciacca.

Mike Marino, most famous for his hilarious segment about an Italian president from New Jersey, is another who is descended from emigrants from Sciacca.

As his grandfather once said: “YOU MAY LEAVE SICILY – BUT SICILY NEVER LEAVES YOU.”


How Sciacca looks today
How Sciacca looks today





Four Presidents, a Mountain and an Italian Chief Carver: the Long Forgotten History of Luigi del Bianco


Luigi del Bianco working at Mount Rushmore
Luigi del Bianco working at Mount Rushmore
Everyone knows Mount Rushmore, with its iconic representations of four of the most important presidents of US history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, F.D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. As a child, I remember being fascinated by their stoney, gigantic faces and I often wondered how someone could have made them look so perfect and lifelike; as you would expect from a  5 year old, I thought a single sculptor spent his entire life carving the mountain on his own,  with his scalpel in one hand and a hammer in the other, failing to understand that a project of such  a magnitude had very likely involved hundreds of people through a number of years.
Even if I had known that then, I certainly would not have been aware of the essential role of Italy in the creation of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, because its recognition came only in very recent times, when a previously unknown Friuli Venezia-Giulia migrant, Luigi del Bianco, was recognised as chief carver of the monument.
Bringing justice to Luigi
History tells us that, between the 4th of October 1927 and the 31st of October 1941, 400 people worked on the sculpting and carving of Mount Rushmore. They were led by Gutzon Borglum and his son, sculptors and artists of Danish descent.
Among those 400 workers, in 1935 made his appearance Luigi del Bianco, from Meduno, in the north eastern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, who had studied carving in Venice and Vienna before trying his luck on the other side of the ocean and emigrating to the United States.  Del Bianco’s name became known among historians and specialists of Mount Rushmore when his own grandson, Lou del Bianco, and his late uncle Caesar, began a strenuous campaign to have the role of their own ancestor in the making of the Mount Rushmore Memorial recognised.
It was the Italian Luigi del Bianco the artist who gave to America's timeless stone presidents their life-like features and immortal gaze.
It was the Italian Luigi del Bianco the artist who gave to America’s timeless stone presidents their life-like features and immortal gaze.
Because Caesar and Lou both believed Luigi had been more than a simple worker at the site, they set on a quest: demonstrating it to the world. It was Caesar, son of Luigi, who started the amazing adventure in the late 1980s, when Rex Allen Smith published “The Carving of Mount Rushmore:” here, the name of his father never appeared. Caesar was gutted.
More than 20 years later D.J. Gladstone, the author of the ultimate work on del Bianco, “Carving a Niche for Himself” (2014), would say that talking about Mount Rushmore without mentioning Luigi del Bianco was the equivalent of talking about the Yankees without mentioning Joe DiMaggio: but how much research, work and perseverance was behind such a statement. The research, work  and perseverance of Caesar and his nephew  Lou, who explored libraries, unearthed documents and campaigned for recognition, refusing to let their relative fall into oblivion.
After Caesar’s death in 2009, Lou took up his mission in full and it’s also thanks to his relentless  efforts that Cameron Sholly, current director of the Midwest region for the National Park Services, accepted to reassess Luigi del Bianco’s role in the inception and creation of Mount Rushmore. Shelley came to the conclusion that  del Bianco’s grandson was right: Luigi had been, indeed, the main carver at the site, the artist who gave to America’s timeless stone presidents their life-like features and immortal gaze.
Who was Luigi del Bianco?
Chief carver at Mount Rushmore, of course, but his life held much more than that. He was born in 1892 aboard a ship near Le Havre, in France, while his parents had been returning to Italy from the United States. The family, as said, settled in the North East of Italy and it’s there that 11 year old Luigi started studying carving and understood how talented he was. Still an adolescent, he had travelled to the US for the first time and settled with relatives in Vermont: there, he became known as a skilful carver. After returning to Italy to serve his country during the First World War, he was in Vermont once more and then settled in Port Chester, where his family still resides today.
While in Port Chester, del Bianco met Borglum, with whom he began to work: it was the beginning of the collaboration who was to bring him to South Dakota and to Mount Rushmore where, as chief carver, he became responsible of refining the presidents’ facial expressions. According to The Times, he spent a particularly long time sculpting Lincoln’s face and his eyes, whose pupils were made more vibrant by inserting wedges of granite in them. He worked at Mount Rushmore from 1935 to 1941, when he returned to Port Chester. Here he died in 1969, at the age of 78, because of silicosis, a disease caused, tragically, by the same thing that gave him so much joy in life: stone.


Watch it!

Watch for these winners on your PBS Channel.  These dates are From Detroit PBS.  Search or call your local station.

Frank Sinatra

Celebrate Ol’ Blue Eyes’ 100th Birthday with Italian Favorites 

On Saturday, Dec 12, we honor Sinatra’s 100th birthday with special Frank Sinatra: The Voice of Our Time at8pm ET. The night also features Italian-themed programming from Il Volo, Luciano Pavarotti, & Giada Valenti.

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Also scheduled for Detroit PBS and hopefully soon in your area.

Il Volo: Buon Natale Il Volo: Buon Natale Saturday, 12/12 at 6:30pm ET. Il Volo perform holiday songs in this concert featuring Panis Angelicus;Jingle Bell Rock; Let It Snow; It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year medley; and more.


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LynnK found this video from “Access Hollywood”

IL Volo: ‘Grande Amore’ Our Best Release Yet

December 6, 2015 

Italian pop trio IL Volo tells Access why “Grande Amore,” is the best work they’ve ever recorded.

access hollywood

Video  Here ⇒ http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1318783750001?bckey=AQ~~,AAABAY6g5IE~,g0_gr83Y4h1-VWYH1Kd03vYHLYmpEkg0&bctid=4645371887001


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I had to throw this video in, Gina I don’t know where you find these things!  Prepare to boogie ’cause you’re gonna love this guy!

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DID YOU KNOW????????

icon quest

Hi Everyone,

Here we are again with almost no news of Il Volo. We do know they are enjoying being home. Piero is doing the Disco scene. Ignazio seems to be here and there with his friends, it does look like he’s having a good time. We’re grateful this year that he is tweeting and sending photos, Last year we heard almost nothing from him during this time. Gianluca was in Rome for a day or so, Had his hair straightend and apparently did some shopping and was interviewed for a magazine article, otherwise he seems to be staying around home with his friends. His daily tweets are always welcome!

Here we go on another “Did You Know“. Remember, if you have any tidbits of your own, let us know!


Gianluca was so shy as a child he looked at the floor or wall when he sang?

Piero sang at weddings when he was young, to help pay for his music lessons. His family was willing to pay, but he wanted to help pay too?

Ignazio used to bother the neighbors, playing his drums constantly in his room?

Here are some Did You Know’s on some other Italian singers.

Did you know that Jerry Vale was born Gennaro Luigi Vitaliano in the Bronx, NY? Did you know that he shined shoes in a barbershop in NYC for extra money? He sang while he worked and his boss was so taken with his singing that he paid for his music lessons?

Jerry Vale

Do you remember some of his hits? “Al de La”, “Arrivederci Roma” and my favorite “You don’t Know Me”? You can still hear and see him on YouTube. He pesently lives with his wife in California.

Did you know Frank Sinatra was born an only child in Hoboken, NJ? Did you know he was expelled from High School in 1938 for his rowdy behavior? Did you know his father was a lightweight boxer who fought under the name of Marty O’Brien?

sinatra 2

It’s too hard to put all his hits here. My favorite has always been “My Way” written by Paul Anka!

Did you know that Mario Lanza was born Alfred Arnold Cocazza? He changed his name in 1942, his mother’s maiden name was Maria Lanza.

Mario Lanza

Some of his hits were “Drink Drink Drink” “I’ll Walk With God” and “Be My Love” He passed away at the young age of 38.

All of these great artists can still be seen and  heard on YouTube.

Did you know that The Appian Way (Via Appia) Remains of Appian Way near Quarto Miglio was built by the Romans in the mid 4th century BC?  It was the earliest and strategically the most important road in the ancient empire. It was used to transport military supplies and troops. At right is a portion of the Via Appia near Quarto Miglio.

Some news sent to us from Flight Crew member, Chris. Ignazio will be a guest singer at the concert of his friend Roberto Amade, a jazz musician on February 2nd in Marsala.  ignazio-1Thank you, Chris for the heads up!!

Before you send me letters (lol) I will be covering my favorite singer, Perry Como in my next column!!

Thanks everyone for your feedback, Enjoy!


Music Notes ~~ by Meheaton ~~ The North American Concert Tour ~ A Look Back

Il Volo Flight Crew  ~ We Are Love September  29, 2013 Music Notes   –    Myron Heaton


Tonight, September 29 in Wallingford, CT, marks the final concert of  Il Volo’s North American Concert Tour.   Borrowing from experiences of our friends who attended each of the concerts and my own experiences at several others, I thought I would review the whole adventure.


The concert venues ranged from classic theaters like the Chicago Theater, Heinz Concert Hall, Fox Theater and Radio City Music Hall  to large arena-style or open-air set-ups like Concorde or Toronto.   In terms of acoustics and environment, I would probably place the Chicago and Radio City Music Hall at the top of my list for choice places to perform for Il Volo.  RCMH has the added extra incredible history in New York that makes it extra special.   Earlier in the tour, my favorite place was the Comerica in Phoenix.

Technical Aspects

Il Volo brings its own sound equipment,  lighting equipment,  staging equipment (platforms, stairs, large screens and LED light curtain) and other decorations for the stage.  The sound system was very good quality, although sometimes balance between instrumental and singers needed some attention.  That can depend on the venue.

General lighting and special effects lighting was very good and very interesting most of the time.  Sometimes the follow spots were not “following” correctly, but they are local people who run those usually, not someone familiar with the blocking of the program.

I found the staging to be much more effective this year than last season.  The premise of three screens and stairs was still there but use of the round platform in the center and curved stairs really helped add class.  Beautiful stage work.  Also, the staging of the boys was much better this year with better usage of the stage space and more interaction with the audience as well as between themselves.  In most venues they were able to come out into the audience which is always exciting.

Artistic aspects

In regards to the music repertoire, I think we all agree that this is where Il Volo has no peer in this business.  They start with 200 hundred songs and narrow down to 40 of the best  and then refine to the 26 they actually use.  The boys choose, and all three must agree on each song.  They pick beautifully written, well crafted songs with beautiful melodies, great harmony and sweeping lyrical lines; songs with strong texts that say something. These songs receive great treatment with wonderful arrangements and beautiful orchestrations.  Humberto Gatica and Tony Renis oversee this part of the work, and they are very good at it.

This year’s North American tour saw some of the best of last year added to the best of this year:  this year’s “Luna Nascosta” with last year’s “Tous les Visages de l’Amour”,  and this year’s “Il Canto” along with “E Pie Ti Penso.”  And of course, the wonderful comparison/translation of “O Sole Mio” becoming “It’s Now or Never”  and  “Torna a Surriento” becoming “Surrender.”  The “accidental song”,  “El Triste,” was a great addition along with the great  “Il Mondo.”

The classic solos were so superb, displaying the power of Piero’s “No Puede Ser,” the emotion of Ignazio’s, “Caruso,” and the raw passion of Gianluca’s, “En Aranjuez con tu Amor.”   The new pop song solo this year, “Night and Day,” gave us Ginaluca’s taste of the great Cole Porter channeled through Frank Sinatra, and it was wonderful.

For the next tour starting in Guadalajara, the music will change a little bit. Some songs will be dropped and some that are in English or Italian will be in Spanish.

In singing and performance, this is another place where Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca have no peer.  They are called young men, but no; I’m going to make this point and say, ” teenage boys.”  In terms of maturity of the human voice  (35 years),  they are still teen voices to a certain degree, but that is what makes them so incredible.   They are not 35 year olds, but they sound like they are at least 25 or 30.  Such rich, full sound, great tonal control and fantastic breath support.  I cannot say enough about the wonderful singers and really fine musicians these guys are.

It is so wonderful that they have real talent.  They do not need “autotune” to sing in tune.  They can actually read music, not just guitar chords.  They can sing a capella and rule the day.  There is nothing fake about these gentlemen.  Then you add that to the wonderful personality and unique character each of them is and, oh my god!

This North American tour should have gone to some other Midwestern cities (that we have all discussed) during this tour because this series helped raise the standards of popular music in this country even to certain degree.  It really is hard to go back to listening to other groups of the current scene.

If I am pressed to make a choice, I would say that the Radio City Music Hall concert was their best and certainly the climax of this tour.

I will be anxious to hear from the concerts in Latin America.

Thanks, Myron! 

As always, everyone ask questions and discuss! 🙂