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Renato Carosone — The Father of Canzone Napoletana

Renato Carosone -- The Father of Canzone Napoletana

Introduction to Renato Carosone

Renato Carosone was an Italian singer and pianist who is now considered one of the finest figures in Italian music. He is now regarded as the father of the modern canzone napoletana — a traditional genre of music sung in the Neapolitan tongue — with other elements introduced such as jazz and swing. Carsone was born in Naples in 1920; when he was 17 he received a diploma from studying piano at a conservatory. He first started working in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as a pianist and, along with his band, he attained a great recognition. He returned to his home country after World War II, and had to re-start his career from scratch — in 1956 he scored a hit in Italy, “Tu Vo’Fa l’Americano.” During 1950s music scene Carosone was becoming more popular, not only in Italy but abroad as well, having embarked successful European and American tours. One of his pieces “Torero” (or “Torero-Cha Cha Cha”) became a Top 20 charting single in the US Billboard and #1 on the US hit parade. At the peak of his career, Carosone retired in 1960; but 15 years later he staged a comeback, performing in numerous live concerts as well as TV appearances particularly in Italy, until the late 90s. He died in 2001 in Rome. Carosone’s songs would be covered by other artists and as well as are featured in a few films, most notably in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley.


Renato Carosone: His career in a summary

Renato Carosone was born Renato Carusone on January 3, 1920 in Naples, Italy.  In 1937, the 17-year old Carosone graduated at the Naples Conservatory where he mastered his piano playing. Not long thereafter, he became a leader of a band whom he toured with across Africa and followed by a stint in Addis Ababa.

Carosone at the peak of his success

It started in 1949 when Carosone formed his own group the Trio Carosone, comprising the Dutch guitarist Peter Van Wood and Neapolitan drummer Gege Di Giacomo. The group later became a quartet, adding Hungarian Gypsy musician Elek Bacsik to play bass, guitar and drums. However, Van Wood and Bacsik left the group and went on their solo careers. The two remaining members, Di Giacomo and Carosone started to look for other musicians to continue what they have started.

By the 1950’s, Carosone’s career with his orchestra was filled with musical successes inside and outside Italy. In 1958, his single “Torero” (or “Torero-Cha Cha”) soared at #1 on the US Hit Parade and enjoyed its stay for 14 weeks. The song also reached the Billboard Top 20 pop chart at #18 and the British singles chart at #25. It was so successful that the song was even recorded in 12 languages. Thirty cover versions of “Torero” were recorded in the US alone.

Later years

In 1960, Carosone already retired from the music business which was quite early for he was still in the midst of his success. Because of the announcement, he even started to receive death threats but on the other hand, Carosone lived quietly away from the public eye, doing what he loved next, painting.  Fifteen years later however, he came back into performing and did a televised comeback concert. He continued to perform until the late 1990’s. On May 20, 2001, the 81-year old Carosne died in Rome, Italy.

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