Salvatore ‘Toto’ Cutugno, the Italian singer who enjoyed worldwide success with hit song ‘L’Italiano’, has died aged 80.
The singer-songwriter garnered millions of loyal fans in Italy and around the world, primarily thanks to the cliché-ridden but nevertheless beloved 1983 hit ‘L’Italiano’, a pop song which sought to capture Italy’s national pride in its music, culture and customs.
The song never made a splash in the US or UK, but was hugely popular throughout Europe and even the Soviet Union, and laid the foundations for Cutugno to represent Italy at the 1990 Eurovision Song Contest, which he duly won.
Cutugno was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, but overcame the illness and went on to perform deep into his sixties.
In his seventies he receded from public life citing further health concerns, and died yesterday in Milan’s San Raffaelle hospital.
Toto Cutugno attends the 61th Sanremo Song Festival at the Ariston Theatre on February 17, 2011 in San Remo, Italy
The singer-songwriter garnered millions of loyal fans in Italy and around the world, primarily thanks to the cliché-ridden but nevertheless beloved 1983 hit ‘L’Italiano’
But the songwriter etched his name in the annals of history and vaulted himself to superstardom in 1983 when he released ‘L’Italiano’ (pictured in 1984)
Born on July 7, 1943, in Fosdinovo, a picturesque town in Tuscany, Italy, Cutugno’s journey saw him humble beginnings to becoming an international music icon is a testament to his talent, perseverance, and enduring themes of national pride and unification in his music.
In his teen years, Cutugno developed a particular skill as both a drummer and a songwriter, forming his own band and playing local shows.
In the late 1960s, he gained recognition as a member of the disco band Albatros, but was primarily seen as a songwriter for bigger stars including Johnny Hallyday, Joe Dassin and Dalida.
By 1980, he had cemented himself as a performer in his own right and won the Sanremo music festival – the Italian competition that inspired the creation of the Eurovision Song Contest – with his song ‘Solo Noi’ (Just Us).
But the songwriter etched his name in the annals of history and vaulted himself to superstardom in 1983 when he released ‘L’Italiano’.
Cutugno, in collaboration with lyricist Cristiano Minellono, sought to capture the essence of Italian identity and pride in a catchy pop song.
His emotive delivery of lyrics and the song’s infectious rhythm created an irresistible anthem that celebrated Italy’s history, people, and language.
The instantly recognisable chorus, ‘let me sing with my guitar in the hand, let me sing – I am Italian,’ swiftly captured the hearts of his countrymen – but the song spread like wildfire well beyond Italy’s borders.
‘L’Italiano’ radiated across Europe, transcending language barriers and resonating with diverse audiences
Toto Cutugno performs in Germany, 1984
Salvatore “Toto” Cutugno, an Italian pop singer-songwriter and musician, at a press conference in Kyiv in 2015
Though the hit never took off in England, ‘L’Italiano’ radiated across Europe, transcending language barriers and resonating with diverse audiences.
It soared to the top of music charts, achieving the remarkable feat of becoming a number one hit across multiple countries including France, Switzerland and Portugal.
It even penetrated the Iron Curtain, enjoying success throughout eastern Europe, Russia and Georgia.
And although it was challenging to replicate the astronomical success of his magnum opus in ‘L’Italiano’, Cutugno’s legacy extended beyond the success of his biggest hit.
A decade on from his victory at Sanremo, he won the 1990 Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘Insieme: 1992’ (Together: 1992) – a rallying call for unity across Europe prior to the creation of the European Union.
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