The carefree pleasures of Italian Music

It’s just not possible to offer a thumbnail sketch of a country as culturally vast as Italy is. Its legacy has left archaeological footprints that lead back many thousands of years. The Colisseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa are only hard acts to follow, however, until you’ve seen Anita Ekberg beckoning Marcello Mastroiani to join her in a drunken frolic in Trevi Fountain in “La Dolce Vita,” one of the most famous movie scenes ever, but Italian music is a kooky collage of history and influences. 

Sixties singer Gino Paoli’s “Sapore di sale” possesses elements of American pop music as well as jazz, though jazz horns in Italian pop music emote the ancient winding alleys of Rome more than the bop of New York or New Orleans streets. The song’s title translates to “The Taste of Salt,” which reminds you of the pleasure that even the subtlest tastes can unleash in this land shaped like a fine leather boot. 

“Piccolisima Serenata” by Rennata Carasone calls up a kooky moment in a Fellini film. There’s something about it that lends itself to being watched on a screen. Its melody dances across your head like a lighthearted jingle in television commercials back in the fifties. You imagine you’re in an open top vintage convertible flying along the shimmering coastline of the Italian Riviera in perfect weather. 

Nat King Cole’s voice is as grand as the grandest relics of Rome. His velvety resonance and gentle cadences epitomize romance, so few are as suited as he is to perform “Arrivederci Roma,” an ode to the iconically important Italian capital. As carefree as Italian pop is, it can also sound moonstruck and touching. Anyone who has ever heard Nat King Cole sing a Christmas carol, however, knows he’s the king of sentimental journeys. 

Ricchi e Poveri hail from Genoa, a scenic port city in the northwest of Italy. The band was created in 1967 and has undergone a transformation or two, but is still together, a resilience that the adamantly walking bassline in “Sara perche ti amo” expresses so well. 

“Try an enchilada with the fishy baccalà and then a hey cumpa. I love a how you dance a rhumba, but take a some advice, paisano. Learn how to mambo,” Renata Carasone advises in “Mambo Italiano,” which kind of sums up what a delightful mishmosh of everything but the kitchen sink Italian pop is so succinctly that it’s hard to believe anyone else could express it better.