Renato Carosone

Renato Carosone, born Carusone (Naples, January 3, 1920 - Rome, 20 May 2001), was a singer-songwriter, pianist and composer, almost the symbol of the Neapolitan song in the world.


Renato CarosoneRenato Carosone was born from Carolina and Antonio Carusone, the eldest of three children (the other two being Olga and Ottavio), and lived as a child in the Vico dei Tornieri, close to the Marina of Naples, a few steps from the Market Square; in his autobiography he wrote that the area was the ragged, beautiful and noble heart of Naples. He began studying music at the behest of his father and in 1937 he graduated in piano at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella. When his mother died prematurely, Renato helped his father to raise the family trying any type of job. With his brother and sister he formed the first Carosone trio, to the delight of relatives and people in the neighborhood.

At 17 Carosone left, hired as a pianist and conductor, for Italian Eastern Africa with a company of artists, and when the company dissolved, he remained in the area of Massawa and Addis Ababa for nine years, serving in the army during the Second World War on the Italian Somali front. He played in various ensembles, met his future wife (with whom he had a son, Pino), and in 1946 returned to Naples. Against the expectations of his father, he moved to Rome, where he gained a good reputation in the music sector.

On 28 October 1949 he founded the "Trio Carosone" with Dutchman Peter Van Wood - among the first to play the electric guitar in Italy - and imaginative Neapolitan drummer Gegè Di Giacomo. The Trio inaugurated the Shaker Club of Naples, attended by the U.S. military and the new rich. When in 1952 Van Wood decided to leave the trio to move to America, the band widened first as a quartet and then as a sextet with guitarist Franco Cerri (later replaced by Alberto Pizzigoni), bass singer Claudio Bernardini (later replaced by Piero Giorgetti) and saxophonist Riccardo Rauchi. The group widened to include saxophonist Gianni Tozzi Rambaldi, clarinetist Tonino Grottola and guitarist Raf Montrasio, often joined also by percussionist Aldo Pagani.

The reputation of the group increased in the fifties, during the seasons at the "Bussola", which opened in Focette, Versilia, on June 4, 1955. Between 1954 and 1958 the seven 33 rpms of "Carosello Carosone" were released, the largest collections of his irresistible compositions. During the concerts, which were true shows, as the first "Canta Napoli", there were dialogues and sketches, to finish with the involvement of the public.

The first commercial success was Maruzzella (1954). The following recordings, especially those composed together with the Neapolitan lyricist Nisa (aka Nicola Salerno) - 'O suspiro (1956), Torero (1957, which was for two weeks top in the U.S. charts), 'O sarracino (1958) and Caravan Petrol (1958) - conquered the charts in Europe and North America. In 1956 the group went on a memorable American tour starting from Cuba, including Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and on January 5 1957 the Carnegie Hall in New York.

On September 7, 1960, at the time of greatest popularity, Carosone suddenly decided to retire from the stage ("to get out of the limelight - he would say later - while I was still alive"), to the shock of his fans. He came back only a few times, the first in 1975 at the Bussola (a celebrated local in Versilia) and then only at galas in his honor, as the Sanremo Festival in 1989. His Naples applauded him for the last time on the occasion of New Year's party in 1998.

Away from the public scene, Carosone spent the last years of his life devoting himself to painting. He died Sunday, May 20, 2001, at his home in Rome, where he is buried in the Flaminio cemetery. His lifetime musical partner, drummer Gegè Di Giacomo, died aged 87 at his home in Poggioreale, Naples, on 1 April 2005.

Some famous songs

His music

A long musical history, beginning as a child when he followed his father, a theatre impresario and musician: "Papa was playing the mandolin and guitar. Thanks to him, I began to study the piano." Then came the long parenthesis in Africa. Carosone was nine years in the Italian colonies, making a living as a pianist in nightclubs. There his acquaintance with jazz began, and once back in Naples after the war, he felt an urge to contaminate the old songs with the new rhythms from overseas. He wanted to offer the public, with irony, "the ability to have fun, to dance to the sound of our melodic heritage, rearranged in a modern manner".

The melodies of Carosone, borrowed from jazz and swing, are mixed with the most diverse rhythms. He also revived the Neapolitan songs, from Anema e Core to Luna rossa, as well as Italian and international songs, from Ciribiribin to Johnny Guitar and experimented with new instrumental techniques, recording on tape, speed changes, overlays, in addition to the musical tastes of parody and rhythm introduced in the U.S. by Spike Jones in the early fifties.

Recent Developments

  • In 2010, the Australian duo of house music Yolanda Be Cool released an electro-dance remake of Tu vuo' fa' l'americano as We No Speak Americano that became a worldwide hit during the summer in Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and other countries.
  • Currently a musical is being produced on Renato Carosone, who is to be impersonated by Sal da Vinci, aka Michael Salvatore Sorrentino, Neapolitan singer and actor born in New York on April 7, 1969.

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