Rocco Granata and His Surprise International Hit “Marina”

Introduction to Rocco Granata

Rocco Granata (born in Figline Vegliaturo, Italy in 1938) is an Italian-born Belgian accordionist, singer-songwriter, and later a record producer. The son of a coal miner, Granata played accordion and led a band called “The International Quintet” who toured all around Belgium. His only claim to international fame was his late 50s and early 60s music era single “Marina,” originally released by his German label Electrola. In Belgium and Germany, “Marina” became a million-selling hit; it also landed a place on the US Billboard Top 40 for several weeks. He toured much of Europe as well as one time in the United States, performing for large halls and festivals. Granata later became a successful record producer and an occasional TV personality.

Story of Rocco Granata

Italian-Belgian singer and songwriter Rocco Granata was born on August 16, 1938 in Figline Vegliaturo, Italy. He is also best remembered as an accordionist. 10-year old Granata and his family migrated to Belgium. With the permission of his father who was a coal miner, Granata gave up school to work at a Vespa shop as a mechanic and as well to perform with his band The International Quintet during weekends.

Granata and his surprise global hit “Marina”

Aside from singing sentimental Italian ballads, “Manuela” was one of the songs which became a real crowd pleaser. Later, his friends helped him to get the song recorded but since the recording business was still new to him, he wasn’t aware yet that a single record should need  another song for the flip side. So he came up with “Marina” for the B-side.

After “Manuela“/”Marina” single was released in 1959, people soon grew to like the B-side more than the A-side. Eventually, “Marina” rose to become an unexpected success globally, charting very well in the United States and Europe; it even topped the Belgian and German music charts in 1960.  In Germany alone, it sold over one million copies and gained gold disc status. While in the US, “Marina” peaked at #31 on the Billboard Hot 100  also that same year.

During his heyday, Granata embarked on a series of tours, including a performance at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York. Also in New York, he cut his first LP along with a live orchestra. Several artists such as Marino Marini, Ilham al-Madfai and Louis Armstrong also went on to record their own versions of “Marina.”  A movie was released and named after the hit single as well.

After finishing a series of tour engagements, he returned to Europe and performed there, particularly in Germany where most of his releases became hits. In the mid 1960’s, Granata began producing for Belgian artists in his own label Cardinal Records. Around that time, he also founded a music publishing company called Granata Music Editions.

Granata’s later career

A dance version of “Marina” was re-recorded by Granata in 1990 which made a return to the European charts, mainly in Italy and Germany. In 2002, he was given the ZAMU Lifetime Achievement Award by the Belgian music industry. In 2013, Granata’s early life was featured in a movie which was also called Marina. Throughout his career, he has released about 65 albums.