Italy is a true footballing giant. Second only to Brazil in terms of the number of times they’ve lifted the World Cup trophy, their’s is a tumultuous past – but one that has produced some of the most dramatic moments ever seen on the world stage.
Musically Italy has plenty to offer too. Although it is probably best known internationally for its classical (and modern classical) offerings, it has produced plenty of important and influential artists, composers and producers of all genres over the past few decades – and we’ll be looking at a few of them below…
Having won two out of the three pre-war World Cups, the Italian team suffered a tragic loss in 1949 when almost the entire Serie A-winning Torino A.C. team was killed as their plane crashed into a hill near Turin. With the national team heavily dependent on Torino players, this was not only a massive blow to national morale, but also resulted in an unsuccessful couple of decades for Italian football. The Azzurri didn’t make it past the group stages in a single World Cup competition throughout the Fifties and Sixties – although they were crowned European champions in ’68.
However, thanks to the rise of Italian cinema in the 1960s, a certain composer from Rome was becoming incredibly famous throughout the world. With films such as A Fistful Of Dollars and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, director Sergio Leone was leading the Spaghetti Western revolution, with the soundtracks provided by the great Ennio Morricone. As the films became hugely successful and iconic, so did the music. Morricone’s talents didn’t go unnoticed by the sporting world – he later provided the official song for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
By 1982 the Italian team was back to its best. Having finished in second place in 1970 and making it to the semi finals in 1978, España ’82 saw 40-year-old goalkeeper Dino Zoff leading the Azzurri to their third World Cup victory, largely thanks to striker Paolo Rossi, who won both the Golden Ball, awarded to the tournament’s best player, and the Golden Boot.
This era also saw a new wave of Italian music making waves around the world, spearheaded by synth pioneer and Godfather of Italo disco Giorgio Moroder. He changed the face of electronic music forever as he redefined disco with Donna Summer in the late Seventies, before going on to produce some of the biggest hits of the Eighties such as Berlin’s blockbuster ballad ‘Take My Breath Away’ and Irene Cara’s Eurodance smash ‘Flashdance… What A Feelin’’. However, although these projects resulted in huge commercial success for Moroder, it was arguably his lesser-known work that has proven to be the most influential.
While Italia ‘90 was memorable for many reasons – Gazza’s tears, Roger Milla’s hips, Frank Rijkaard’s phlegm and Rudi Voller’s perm – the football itself was not one of them. The tournament became defined by the overly defensive style of play and the lack of goals, with the hosts being knocked out on penalties in the semi final by Argentina, who went on to lose to West Germany in the final in Rome.
However, while the quality of the football on show might have been dismal, the music was anything but. Luciano Pavarotti’s 1972 version of ‘Nessun Dorma’, the incredibly rousing aria from Puccini’s opera Turandot, was used by the BBC as their official World Cup theme. A huge surge in popularity followed, with the song reaching #2 in the UK charts, and a new sporting anthem was born.
1990 also saw the release of the first English language album from Italian superstar Zucchero Fornaciari. The imaginatively-titled Zucchero Sings His Hits In English was an amalgamation of two of his most successful albums, Blue’s and Oro incenso e birra. It also featured his biggest international song, ‘Senza Una Donna (Without A Woman)’, a duet with Paul Young that became a Top 10 hit all over Europe in 1991. Zucchero has gone on to become one of the biggest Italian exports of recent years, selling more than 50 million records worldwide.
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Want to dig a little deeper? Listen to a collection of Italy’s finest exports using the player below.