- 1. Io Che Non Vivo (Pino Donaggio/Vito Pallavicini)
Io Che Non Vivo was one of the entries for the illustrious San Remo festival in 1965. The typical Italian romance and pathos shine through in the lyrics. The first sentence of the chorus: I can’t live an hour without you! There is a reason this song became a world wide hit in English. Dusty Springfield sang it in 1966, one year after its Italian original was released, and topped the charts in the UK under the title ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.’ Another memorable rendition is Elvis Presley’s version from 1970. Pino Donaggio, who composed and performed the song, was a Latin Lover on stage halfway through the sixties, but later, he mainly wrote film music, especially film scores, amongst others for the horror movie ‘Carrie’.
- 2. Uno Dei Tanti (Carlo Donida/Mogol)
In this big hit from 1961, Joe Sentieri craves the love of a woman who decides to choose someone who is rich instead. Apart from love, the singer has nothing to offer. But he is the man who truly loves her, he stresses in this song. Two years later, Ben E. King records it in English as ‘I Who Have Nothing.’ He sings Leiber’s & Stoller’s lyrics (the team behind many early Elvis hits) to the instrumental tape of Sentieri! The pain, desperation and loneliness of this dramatic song appeal to many artists. The song became world famous through the versions of Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones.
- 3. La Vita (Bruno Canfora/Antonio Amurri)
Elio Gandolfi sang this moving song in 1968 at the San Remo festival when he was only 17, but it gained popularity mostly because Shirley Bassey sang it as a special guest at the same festival in the same year. She attended the festival because she was living in Monaco at the time, not allowed to perform in the UK for two years as a tax evader. Norman Newell rewrote part of the lyrics so she could sing it in two languages, which resulted in a standing ovation every time she started the chorus in Italian. Later, Newell wrote the entire song in English and the song became a global hit. Shirley Bassey still sings the English version as her final encore.
- 4. Una Lacrima Sul Viso (Luno Lunero/Mogol)
This most romantic ballad ever was sang into history by Bobby Solo in 1964. He performed it at the San Remo festival, but didn’t win. Still, he scored a global hit with it, because he sounded as a crossover between Elvis and Roy Orbison, but in the most romantic language of the world. Frankie Laine covered the song in English as ‘For Your Love I’d Wait A Lifetime’. Helmut has always loved this song and that’s why he turned it into a one tile slow.
- 5. Bella Ciao
A controversial, much discussed, much used and just as often abused beautiful Italian Folk song from the 18th century. The origins of Bella Ciao are unclear, for whole fragments of the melody are identical to ‘Oi Oi Die Koilen’, a Yiddish Kletzmer Song. The first Italian version of Bella Ciao had completely different lyrics, apart from the words ‘Bella Ciao.’ It was sung by working class women in hard working conditions, during badly paid seasonal work. Later, it became the call to arms of Italian partisans in the second world war and recently it was used in La Casa De Papel, a Spanish tv series. The story is simple: someone is willing to die for their ideals and sings praise of reaching these ideals after death, having become a beautiful flower.
- 6. Piccolissima Serenata (Gianni Ferrio/Antonio Amurri)
Gianni Ferrio, famous for writing the lyrics of the world famous song Parole, Parole, sung by Dalida, wrote Piccolissima Serenata in 1957. The very first version, by Renato Carosone, dates back to 1957. Many then popular Italian artists covered it in the sixties. This disarming melody became known internationally as ‘Little Serenade’, in Tony Brent’s version from 1958. A sort of Kiss Me Quick, an ideal song to sing in the style of Elvis or Dean Martin.
- 7. Tarantella (Helmut Lotti)
Inspired by Italian gayety, Italian folklore, Dean Martin and the music from the Disney film Pinocchio, natural born crooner Helmut Lotti decided to write a song himself that would seamlessly complement the rest of the repertoire of The Italian Songbook. The result is a tongue in cheek crooned tarantella with the appropriate name ‘Tarantella’. According to some, this dance thanks its name to Tarente, a village in the South Italian region of Apulia, according to others to the tarantula and its poisonous bite. It is often danced at weddings, as you can observe in the film ‘The Godfather’. Whatever its origins, in this song Helmut is an easy prey for a stunning tarantula with a jealous boyfriend.
- 8. La Villanella
Look at how beautifully she passes by, la Villanella, how beautifully she dances. We fall helplessly in love with her! This is the theme of the old folk song La Villanella. Subject is the adoration for a peasant girl from Northern Italy (South Tirol). Originally this is a typical Tiroler Walz, normally sung in three part harmony with very little accompaniment. The melody and fast succession of words in the chorus resembles yodeling rhytmically.
- 9. La Spagnola
This world famous classical song from 1926 about a Spanish Beauty was recorded by classical tenors like Beniamino Gigli (1939) and Mario Lanza, but it also reached the status of an evergreen in the world of light music. The Italian Eurovision song contest winner Gigliola Cinquetti sang it in 1973. Helmut sings a version with slightly less theatrical bravura, but with all the more emotion and romanticism, without the song losing any of its power and energy.
- 10. Grande Grande Grande (Tony Renis/Alberto Testa)
This gorgeous song from 1972 by Tony Renis became an international hit in Shirley Bassey’s 1973 version with the title ‘Never Never Never’. It was her only song ever to hit the charts in the United States. Just like ‘La Vita’, Norman Newell wrote the English lyrics. The song knows many lives: it became world famous in Julio Iglesias ‘ Spanish version (also ‘Grande Grande’) and appeared as a duet with Celine Dion and Luciano Pavarotti. The lyrics tell a beautiful yet painful story of the complexity of love. As an experience expert, Helmut could not stay behind with his version.
- 11. Al Di Là (Carlo Donida/Mogol)
Past everything, above everything, at the end of the world, that’s where you still are! This ultimate song for romantics like Helmut Lotti was written in 1961. That year, Betty Curtis won the San Remo Festival with it. A year later, Al Di Là was used in the American film ‘Rome Adventure’ and this wonderful ballad reached number 6 in the Billboard’s Pop Charts. What followed were countless covers by world stars like Connie Francis, Jerry Vale and Al Martino.
- 12. ‘O Marenariello
The young fisherman begs his love to come to sea with him and help pull the nets in the hot sunshine. This beautiful, sensual Napolitan serenade from 1893, completely in the sphere and style of songs like ‘O Sole Mio and ‘Torna A surriento’, was sung by all the famous tenors and became a world wide hit in Dutch as ‘Het Vissersmeisje’ from Tiritomba Singer Jospeh Schmidt, in the thirties of the previous century. There is no way Helmut Lotti could leave this untouched.
- 13. Torna A Surriento
This wonderful, dramatic, yearning Napolitan song from 1894 by the brothers de Curtis is one year younger than ‘O Marenariello’. Just like ‘Funiculi Funiculà’ and ‘Santa Lucia’ it became immensely popular amongst tenor repertory. The number of covers and performers is uncountable and Helmut’s previous performance of it includes Elvis Presley’s English language version, in a large classical accompaniment. In this Italian version, Helmut sings it more romantically and more sober, with an arrangement in typical Italian style: strings and mandolines, so we can pretend to be on a patio in Sorriento
- 14. Te Voglio Bene Assaje (Helmut Lotti)
Te voglio bene assaje, ‘I love you’. Those are the words that Lucio Dalla sang in his world hit ‘Caruso’, the song that kickstarted Helmut Lotti’s classical international singing career in 1995. Not surprisingly, Helmut got goose bumps when he heard the sentence ‘Te Voglio Bene Assaie’ pass in a beautiful song with the same title. He decided to turn this Napolitan serenade from 1839 into a story about unattainable love from the past. As fleeting as precious, like so many beautiful and happy moments in a lifetime. Italian romance about eternal longing.