From Bon Jovi to Sinatra, many of today’s millennials are unaware of the talent Italian Americans brought to the music industry. With a culture like no other, it’s no wonder why Italian Americans have made such an impact in the music scene through the years. Some of these artists almost gave up on their dreams, fought in the war, fought on the streets, fought in the ring, and all risked everything they had to become the people they came to be.
25. MORGANA KING
You may know her as Carmela Corleone from “The Godfather”, but Morgana King , born as Maria Grazia Morgana Messina in Pleasantville , NY had one of the nicest voices you could listen to in the late 50’s, and early 60’s. Her debut album “For You, For Me, For Everyone” was released in 1956. In 1964 she received a Grammy award nomination for best new artist. Her classic songs include “Corcovado”, “Taste of Honey”, “A Song For You”, “Walk On By”, and many others.
24. LOU CHRISTIE
The MGM recording artist was Born as Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco in Glenwillard, PA. The single “Lightnin’ Strikes” reached number one in the country in 1966. Later in the spring, Christie released his beloved classic “Rapsody in the Rain”. He was soon dropped by MGM and signed with a smaller label named Buddah Records, recording a hit that reached number ten in the country titled “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”. Other Hits include “Two Faces Have I” , ” The Gypsy Cried”, “Outside the Gates of Heaven”, and “How Many Teardrops”.
23. JULIUS LA ROSA
Brooklyn boy and proud Italian-American, Julius La Rosa served our country in the Navy when he enlisted at age 17 and sang in his Navy choir. If you don’t know his famous Italian-American hit song that reached number two in the country “Ehh Cumpari”, then I’m surprised you are even reading this article.
His first two big hits came in 1953 with “This is Heaven”, which reached number 21 in the country, and “Anywhere I Wander”, which reached number 4. One of my personal favorites of his, “Domani (Tomorrow)”, reached number 13 on the billboards and has been rereleased on many Italian American compilation albums including the classic “Mob Hits”. Other hits include “Lipstick and Candy and Rubbersole Shoes”, “Suddenly There’s a Valley”, “Mobile”, “My Lady Loves to Dance”, “Torero”, and “Three Coins in the Fountain”.
22. JIMMY DURANTE
“Thumpidy, Thump Thump, Thumpidy, Thump Thump” may be how most people remember the humble and happy New York City born James Francis Durante for his classic rendition of “Frosty the Snowman”. Jimmy dropped out of school in only the seventh grade and started out as a television and radio personality. His biggest hits include “Young at Heart”, “Umbriago”, “September Song”, “One of Those Songs”, and “Make Someone Happy”.
21. FRANKIE AVALON
Yeah millennials, we all know it’s the guy from “Grease” who sings “Beauty School Dropout”, but the Philly born Francis Thomas Avallone, was much more than a singing angel in the clouds. Frankie started out with “RCA Victor” in 1954 and in 1959, his songs “Venus” and “Why” became number one hits. “Why” was the last number one hit of the 1950s. Avalon had more than thirty top 100 hits from 1958 to late 1962, including “Don’t Throw Away All Those Teardrops”, “Ginger Bread” , “A Boy Without a Girl”, “I’ll Wait for You”, “Just Ask Your Heart”, and many others.
20. NANCY SINATRA
With that last name you know you’re going to break in easily if you want a career in the music world. The beautiful talented Nancy Sinatra born in Jersey City, NJ proved that her last name wasn’t all she was offering very quickly with her. Although her first single by her father’s label “Reprise Records” titled “Cuff Links and a Tie Clip” in 1961 went unnoticed, it wasn’t long until her big hit came in 1966 with “These Boots Are Made for Walking”.
One of her most well known songs is a duet with her father called “Something Stupid”, if you haven’t heard the song that’s something really stupid, and you should listen to it because it’se a beautiful song. Other hits include “Sugar Town”, “Jackson”, “How Does That Grab You Darling”, et cetera.
19. VIC DAMONE
Frank Sinatra once said, “Damone had the best pipes in the business”, and he was certainly right. The Brooklyn singer, born Vito Rocco Farinola, released his first two hits, which reached number 7 in the country, in 1947, “I Have But One Heart” and ” You Do”.
In 1949, he reached number one with “You’re Breaking My Heart”, number six with “Again”, and number ten with “My Bolero”. Other top ten hits include “Tzena Tzena Tzena”, “My Heart Cries For You”, “My Truly Truly Fair”, “Here In My Heart”, “April in Portugal”, “Ebb Tide” (That doesn’t mean eat tide when listening to the song), and “On The Street Where You Live”. Damone has recorded so many classics throughout his career that he eventually earned a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
18. LOUIS PRIMA
Louis Leo Prima was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and formed a small jazz group in the 1920’s. Prima loved his heritage and would reference it in a lot of his music, making him so unique and fun to listen to! Prima soon started recording in 1934, and his hit song “In a Little Gypsy Tea Room” reached number four in the country. In 1944, he recorded the classic Italian American favorites “Angelina”, and “Oh Marie”.
In 1945, his song “Bell Bottom Trousers” would reach number six on the billboards. Along with his classic hit “Bouna Sera”, some of his other hits include, “Wonderland” ,”When You’re Smiling”, “Robin Hood”, “I’ll Walk Alone”, “The Lady in Red”, and “Oh Babe”.
17. LADY GAGA
This fashion crazy, but incredibly talented singer adores her Italian-American heritage. From an album with Tony Bennett to a dedicated performance for Frank Sinatra, this woman is one of the best artists in today’s music scene. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born in Manhattan, NY.
Her first two hits include “Poker Face”, and “Just Dance”. Shortly after, she released hits “Alejandro”, “Telephone”, and “Bad Romance”. In 2011 she released her album “Born This Way” which has sold millions all around the world. She has won six Grammys and continues to dominate the music scene till this day. Other hits include “Judas”, “Million Reasons”, “You and I”, and “The Cure”.
Marone! I really don’t feel like typing about Madonna Ciccone but I have to put her on the list, right? Oh how time will go by so slowly while I write this just like her hit song “Hung Up”. With a resume of over 600 award nominations and almost 300 wins, including seven Grammys, one cannot doubt her status as pop star legend.
Her biggest songs include “Crazy For You”, “Beautiful Stranger”, “Oh Father”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “Who’s That Girl”, “I’ll Remember”, “Ray of Light” and “Get Together”. Okay, thats it. I have officially had enough of Madonna for the day.
15. FRANKIE LAINE
The Chicago born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio, known as “America’s number one song stylist”, was constantly on the top 100 billboard from 1947-1969. In 1949, he had his first two number one hits with “Mule Train” and “That Lucky Old Sun”. In 1950, he recorded another number one hit called “The Cry of the Wild Goose”.
In 1951, his song “Jezebel” reached number two on the charts, along with ‘Rose, Rose I Love You” and “Jealously” both reaching number three. His other top ten hits include “Shine”, (No its not a song by Billy Batts about Tommy DeVito’s shine box), “Hambone”, “Hey Good Lookin”, “Sugar Bush”, “High Noon”, “I Believe”, “Tell Me a Story”, “Hey Joe”, and “Moonlight Gambler”. Frankie Laine is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
14. JON BON JOVI
Jersey boy John Francis Bongiovi has always been a fan favorite who filled up Giant’s stadium over the years, along with his contemporary Bruce Springsteen who’s somehow Italian, but not enough for me to put on this list (sorry Bruce fans). Most famous for his songs “Living on a Prayer” and “Bed of Roses”, Jon has been one of the most popular touring artists for the past 30 years. He has won a Grammy, along with countless other accolades . Other hits of Bon Jovi’s include, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “Wild in the Streets”, “This Ain’t a Love Song”, and “It’s My Life”.
13. JERRY VALE
Most known for his songs and appearances in Martin Scorsese movies such as “Goodfellas” and ‘Casino”, Jerry Vale was born as Genaro Louis Vitaliano in the Bronx, New York. A singing legend heard in Italian American kitchens across the country, you might recall your mother reciting one or more of his most famous hits, such as, “Al Di La”, “Pretend You Don’t See Her”, “Old Cape Cod”, “Inamorata”, Mama”, “I Have But One Hear”, “and “Love Me The Way I Love You”. Vale will always be an Italian-American favorite.
12. JIMMY ROSELLI
The Neopolitan singer Michael John Roselli was born in Hoboken, NJ. He grew up with a tough life; his mother died two days after he was born and his dad abandoned him. His aunts and grandfather took care of him who spoke no English. He grew up down the street from Frank Sinatra and joined the army in 1944. He got his first break in 1954 when he appeared with Jimmy Durante. His first song, probably his most famous, “Male Femmena” put him on the map, and his first album “Showcase: Jimmy Roselli”, sold over three million copies. His only song to reach the top 100, however, was “There Must be a Way”. He will always be a legend in the Italian American community. Other favorites include “My Heart Cries For You”,’ “O Surdato ‘Nnammurato”,”Anema E Core”,”Just Say I Love Her”, “All the Time”, and more.
11. BOBBY DARIN
Walden Robert Cassotto was born in East Harlem, NY. The legend began his career writing for Connie Francis and started dating the pop singer until her strict Italian American father held Darin at gun point to stay away from his daughter. His hit single came in 1958 with, “Splish Splash”, which sold over one millions times. In 1960 he won a Grammy for best new artist and for his song “Mack the Knife”. In 1990 he solidified his legacy when he entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some of Darin’s other hits include “Dream Lover”, “Things”, “You’re the Reason I’m Living”, “Yellow Roses”, and my personal favorite, “Beyond the Sea”.
10. PERRY COMO
Pierino Ronald Como was born in Canonsburg, PA and noticed his singing talent while working as a barber. “Mr. C “, as some called him, had one of the most peaceful and relaxing voices you could listen too. If you can’t fall asleep at night, just listen to one of my favorite songs of his, “It’s Impossible”, because its impossible to stay awake to it, (not because it’s bad, but because it’s just too peaceful).
In 1958 he won a Grammy for “Catch a Falling Star”. Some of his fun hit songs include my favorites, “Round and Round”, “Papa Loves Mambo”, and “Magic Moments”. Other amazing hits include, “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes”, “Tie the End of Time”, “Long ago”, “If I Loved You”, “I’m Gonna Love that Girl”, “Dig You Later”, “Prisoner of Love”, “Surrender”, “Chi-Baba Chi-Baba”, “Some Enchanted Everything”, “A You’re Adorable”, “If”, “No Other Love, “Wanted”, “Hot Diggity”, and way too many more to name.
9. LOU MONTE
We all know Lou Monte as the funny Italian guy who sings “Dominic the Donkey” during Christmas time and the “Lazy Mary” at the New York Met games. Louis Scaglione was born in the city of Manhattan, served in the army, and grew up in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, which he referenced in his first big hit from 1954, “Darktown Strutters’ Ball”. In 1962, his Italian American classic, “Pepino the Italian Mouse” sold over one million copies and was awarded a Gold disc. Lou Monte will always have a place in ever true Italian Americans’ hearts. Other classics by the Calabrese singer include “Pepino’s Friend Pasquale”, “Please Mr. Columbus”, “What Did Washington Say”, “Calypso Italiano”, Shaddup Your Face”, “Roman Guitar”, “Bella Notte”, “Remember this Gumba”, and “Tici Ti-Tica To-Tici Ta”.
This wanderer was born in the Bronx, NY as Dion Francis DiMucci. He started out with a single called “The Chosen Few”, which he pre recorded seperate with a group named “The Timberlanes” who he had never met. Dion said the sound of the group was “Too wonder bread”, so he went back to the Bronx and found some neighborhood guys to form Dion and the Belmonts.
Their first hit came in 1958 with “I Wonder Why”, the classic song we all know from the opening of “A Bronx Tale”. They would soon release the hits “No One Knows”, “A Teenager in Love”, and “Where or When”. The famous song “The Wanderer” reached number two on the charts in the U.S. and “Runaround Sue” reached number one. Other top ten hits include “Lonely Teenager”, ” Lovers Who Wander”, “Ruby Baby”, “Little Diane”, “Donna the Prima Donna”, “Drip Drop”,”The Majestic” and “Abrahman, Martin, and John”.
7. AL MARTINO
You may know him as Johnny Fontane in “The Godfather”, but Jasper Cini was born in Philadelphia, PA to parents from Abruzzo, Italy. He grew up admiring family friend and singer Mario Lanza. After serving and getting injured in the Navy during the Iwo Jima invasion , he began his singing career and took the stage name Al Martino. His first number one hit came immediately in 1954 with the masterpiece, “Here in My Heart”. The song is full of beautiful emotion and high range vocals that could not have been handled better than by any other singer but Al Martino.
Through the years, dozens and dozens of artists have rerecorded the song and no one has come close to touching Al’s version . One of Al’s most famous songs that would have women around the world going nuts for him came in 1966 with the beautiful love song, “Spanish Eyes”. In 1976, he released his disco version of the Italian American classic, “Volare”,which became an instant hit at the disco, (too bad we didn’t get to see John Travolta dance to that in “Saturday Night Fever”). Other hits by Al include “To Each His Own”, “I Have But One Heart”, “Take My Heart”, “Come Share The Wine”, “When You’re Mine”, “I Love You Because”, “I Love You More and More Every Day”. “Mary in the Morning”, “Speak Softly Love, “To the Door of the Sun”, “Once Upon A Time”, “Tears and Roses”, and “Painted Tainted Rose”.
6. FRANKIE VALLI
The Jersey boy himself Francesco Stephen Castelluccio was born in Newark, NJ and raised in Belleville, NJ. Growing up and working as a hair dresser, Frankie was always getting into trouble with Belleville buddy and founder of his group, “The Four Seasons”, Tommy DeVito. He released his first single “My Mother’s Eyes” in 1953 under the name Frankie Valley, until one of his girlfriends did the right thing and told him off for hiding his Italian pride and not using a vowel at the end of his last name.
He soon switched to Valli and formed “The Four Lovers”, after being introduced to writer/talent Bob Gaudio by neighborhood legend Joe Pesci. The group started performing at night clubs and signed a deal to perform backup vocals for Newark native Bob Crewe. They soon changed their name to “The Four Seasons” and released their first hit “Sherry” in 1962, with number one hits “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, and “Walk Like A Man” to follow. Other hits include “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, “My Eyes Adored You”, “Oh What a Night.”, “Swearing to God” “Fallen Angel”, “Grease”, “Dawn”, “Rag Doll”, “Who Loves You”, “Let’s Hang On”, “Bye Bye Baby”, and “Beggin”.
5. MARIO LANZA
There was no one who could belt a note like Mario Lanza! The legendary opera singer Alfredo Arnold Cocozzo was born, in Phillidelphia, PA. He made his opera debut at the Berkshire Music Festival in 1942. He soon adopted the stage name Mario Lanza, which was similar to his mothers maiden name Maria Lanza.
Lanza soon signed with RCA Victor Read Seal, and became their first artist ever to sell over two and half million records. His beautiful song “Be My Love”, has been known as one the greatest American opera songs of all time. If you haven’t heard it you should give it a listen. Lanza was going to be MGM’s singing Clark Gable until he started having heart problems and eventually passed on October 7th, 1959. Sadly some of the greatest leave us to soon, although Hollywood would never forget Lanza, as he received not one, but two stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Other beautiful songs by Lanza include “Granada”, “Ave Maria”, “Because You’re Mine” “Nessun Dorma”, “O Sole Mio”, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, “Danny Boy”, “I’ll Walk with God”, “Santa Lucia”, “Drink Drink Drink”, and a lot more. Lanza is amazing to listen to on Vinyl for the record.
4. CONNIE FRANCIS
Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero was born in Newark, New Jersey and graduated from Belleville High School. Connie was the top female vocalist of the 50’s and 60’s. However her first several singles with MGM did not go well. Connie was about to give up and accept a four year scholarship to New York University to study medicine, until her father pushed her to do her own cover of the classic song “Who’s Sorry Now”, Connie originally hated the idea to use such an old song, but her version reached number four in the country and number one in the United Kingdom. Connie soon became the pride of the MGM label. Her number one hits include “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool”, “My Heart has a Mind of it’s Own”, and “Don’t Break the Heart that Loves You”. She was the world’s first female pop star and recorded in nine different languages. Some of Connie’s fan favorites include “Vacation”, “Stupid Cupid”, “My Happiness”, “Frankie”, “Among My Souvenirs”, “Mama”, “Many Tears Ago”, “Where the Boys Are”, “Together”, “Granada”, “Forget Domani”, “Wishing it Was You”, “Baby’s First Christmas”, “Second Hand Love”, and more.
3. TONY BENNETT
You know you are going to be a legend when Frank Sinatra tell’s you, that you’re his favorite singer, and that’s exactly what he said to Tony Bennett. The man with the golden voice, Anthony Dominick Benedetto born and raised in Astoria, Queens to Calabrese parents.
Tony was drafted by the Army in november 1944 towards the end of World War II. In 1950 Tony cut a demo of one of his biggest hits “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, and soon signed with Columbia Records. In 1951 he reached number one on the charts with his classic beautiful love song “Because of You. Within the next two years he had two more number ones with “Cold Cold Heart”, and “Rags to Riches”. He soon was requested by the producers of the broadway show “Kismet” to record “Stranger in Paradise”, (My favorite Tony Bennett song) , which reached number two in the country.
Recently Tony has toured and released an album with fellow Italian American pop star Lady Gaga. Other favorites include “I Wanna be Around”, “It’s Magic”, “I left My Heart in San Fransisco”, “Smile”, “Blue Velvet”, “I Won’t Cry Anymore”, “There’ll Be No Tear Drops Tonight”, “Just in Time”, “The Good Life”, “For Once in My Life”, and others.
2. DEAN MARTIN
“Everybody Loves Somebody” especially the “King of Cool”, Dean Martin. Dino Paul Crocetti was born in, Steubenville, Ohio. At age fifteen he started out as a boxer with the name “Kid Crochet”. He soon stopped boxing after breaking his nose and started singing at clubs until he was drafted into the Army in 1944. By 1946 he started performing comedy at night clubs with comic legend Jerry Lewis.
He soon released his first single “Which Way Did My Heart Go” with Diamond Records and was getting recognized all around for his unique and warm voice. Later Dean signed on with Capital Records and in 1953 he released one of his biggest hits of all time “That’s Amore”. If you don’t know this song, I’m surprised you’re reading this list. Like many artists at the time Dean was not happy at Capitol Records and so he left. Frank Sinatra left Capitol as well and started his own label “Reprise”.
Frank quickly signed his Rat Pack pal Dino, to a deal with Reprise. Dean’s only two songs to ever reach number one came in 1955 with “Memories are Made of This” , and in 1963 with “Everybody Loves Somebody”. Other Dino hits include “Sway”, “Houston”, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”,”Standing on a Corner”, “Return to Me”, “Innamorata”, “You’re Nobody Til’ Somebody Loves You”,”If”, “You Belong to Me”, “Mambo Italiano”, “On an Evening In Roma”, and how can I almost forget “Volare” among many others.
1. FRANK SINATRA
The Chairman of the Board lived life his way, even though he hated his hit song written by buddy Paul Anka entitled “My Way”. The Jersey boy, Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. Frank started out in the swing music era, and was performing at night clubs until he signed with Columbia Records in 1943. His first big song “You’ll Never Know” reached number two in the country. Frank was always floating around in the top ten hits for a couple years, until 1946 when he had two number ones with his songs “Oh! What It Seemed to Be” and, “Five Minutes More”. While with Columbia, Frank recorded one more number one titled “Mam’selle”, before he signed with Capitol Records.
His first and only number one with Capitol came in 1955 for his song “Learnin’ The Blues”. Though he had some amazing songs with Capitol, Frank was not happy with his freedom of music choice. Frank then took the matter into his own hands and decided to start his own label “Reprise Records”. His next and last number one came in 1966 with a song he absolutely hated and didn’t even want to record called “Strangers in the Night”, in which he won, one of his nine Grammy Awards.
There is no argument that the boy from Hoboken is one of the greatest singers and role models of all time. Some of his must listen to songs include “It Was a Very Good Year”, “Send in the Clowns”, “I Get a kick Out of You”, “New York, New York”, “Summer Wind”, “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Witchcraft”, “Something Stupid”, “Night and Day”, “Saturday Night”, “Luck Be A Lady”, “Dream”, “Young At Heart”, “Nice & Easy”, “This is the Night”, “Three Coins in the Fountain”, “Love and Marriage”, “Hey Jealous Lover”, “All the Way”, “Ive Got the World on a String”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “Chicago”, “High Hopes”, “The Coffee Song”, “Somewhere in Your Heart”, “Forget Domani”, “That’s Life”, “The World We Knew”, and about another couple hundred more.
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