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Italian-American Crooners Speak the Language of Love
Part 1 of 5: Colombo, Sinatra and Martin
by Cookie Curci
Before the CD and YouTube came along, there was recorded music... hard to believe if you are under 30 years of age, but the Italian singer was put on recordings over 100 years ago. When Enrico Caruso was recorded on the gramophone in Milan, Italy in 1903. The European recording, made by a gramophone/typewriter company, brought the great tenor's voice into thousands of homes. Later, he recorded "La Donna e Mobile" on a ten-inch Victor Co. disk and became a household word in America.
The popularity of the romantic Italian singer reached a peak in the 1930s, with the stylistic recordings of the wildly popular Russ Colombo, known as "The Romeo of Song." Born Ruggiero Eugenio di Rodolpho Colombo, (1908-1934) the handsome singer was idolized by millions of women, who, today, some 68 years later, still remember their idol. His delcet tones and sex appeal set the stage for the following decade of romantic crooners. Colombo's accidental death in 1934, at age 26, left a cult of grieving fans. Among his most beloved songs: "All of Me" (1931) and "Time On My Hands" (1931).
Several years later, a young, Italian kid from Hoboken, NJ, came along and set a new standard for the Italian crooner. Francis Albert Sinatra (1915-1998) may have begun as just another Italian singer, but after a career that spanned some 60 years, he holds the crown as the most popular singer of all time. He showed us it was possible for a man to sing like an angel and still hold his own in a brawl. Sinatra's smooth, almost causal way of turning a phrase, and his own, unique style of interpreting lyrics was greatly imitated by his fellow singers, but never duplicated. The Sinatra style was a unique blend of defiant tough-guy and gentle lyricist. His W.W. II recordings, "I'll Be Seeing You" and "I'll Never Smile Again" topped the charts week after week and spoke to the thousands of young men and women tragically separated by the war. Sinatra's music touched the heart of a generation in a way no other singer ever has.
Dino Paul Crocetti, (a.k.a. Dean Martin 1917-1995) was born to Italian immigrants, Gaetano and Angela Barra-Crocetti. Like many young Italian-Americans, the young Dino spoke only Italian until he started school at age 5. His early endeavors gave no indication that he had a musical future. He was a steel mill worker; an amateur Boxer (kid Crochet) and a croupier in a local speak easy. He later changed his name to Dean Martin and at age 18 made his first public appearance singing "Oh Marie" and the rest is crooner history. Dean Martin's warm, romantic, "Everybody Loves Somebody" type of attitude, endeared him to a generation who loved a good time and good music. His recording of "That's Amore" remains one of America's most played tunes. Few of us can hear this happy song without feeling just a bit better afterwards.
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