Brunetta – with or without her Balubas – is a name that few Italians know, which is a shame. She recorded some great material, under various guises, including her real name, Mara Pacini. Her Baluba shake, in particular, has become a lasting dance floor crowd pleaser.
She was born Mara Pacini on 7 March 1945 in Cascina, in Tuscany. Brunetta was her middle name.
She enjoyed singing from an early age and showed quite a talent for music, mastering the piano, guitar, saxophone and organ.
Her big break into the world of show business came when she was spotted singing with her sister in 1959. The Ricordi record label offered her a contract, and Baby rock was issued as her first single. At the suggestion of songwriter Mogol, she took Brunetta as her stage name.
Further singles followed swiftly, including Tutti frutti and Darling iù (a version of Sam Cooke’s You send me).
In 1960, she moved onto the big screen, appearing in the film musical Urlatori alla sbarra, alongside established stars such as Mina and Adriano Celentano.
However, her career started to slow and an appearance at the Burlamacco d’oro contest in 1962 performing Gocce di stelle failed to give her career the hoped-for boost.
She switched to the Primary label in 1963. Figuring that a change of name might help reinvent the singer, she took her own name. However, her first single, issued in the summer of that year, put her firmly on a hiding to nothing. Her Quelli della mia età was a version of Françoise Hardy’s Tous les garçons et les filles, and was trounced by the French star’s own translation of the song, which she took to the top of the Italian charts.
A rival Italian version by Catherine Spaak also made the top ten.
Uffa, an Italian original, was issued as the follow up later that year. However, when sales proved slow, Mara returned to the Hardy songbook for È all’amore che penso, a version of C’est à l’amour auquel je pense. But yet again, it was the French singer who scored a top ten hit with the song.
C’è qualcosa che non va became her first single of 1964. Sadly, it also proved her last, as the record label lost interest in her.
However, there was no doubting her talent, and she chose to reinvent herself rather than give up. After reverting to the stage name of Brunetta, she joined the Rifi label for the release of the Caterina Caselli-styled Mai più ti cercherò in 1966. The song was, in fact, a cover of Timi Yuro's I ain't gonna cry no more. The dramatic B-side, Sono pronto a pagar, is probably better known in a version by Patricia Carli, as Accusée levez-vous.
Greater things were to come. After teaming up with beat group The Balubas, the singer – or Brunetta e i suoi Balubas, as they were billed – performed the fantastic Baluba shake at the Pesaro song festival in 1966. They won the contest and enjoyed some success with the single. The song has gone on to become a favourite on the Mod scene and is, arguably, one of the finest Italian beat records of the 1960s.
The group issued just one further 45, Perdono – but again lost out in a sales war to beat babe Caterina Caselli – before Brunetta went it alone again.
The following year she issued the excellent Solo per poco tempo as a single, which featured Dove vai?, a cover of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s Summer wine, on the B-side. In 1968, she strayed into Patty Pravo territory with the catchy Felicità felicità, issued under the name Brunetta and the Sounds.
After that, Brunetta went through a succession of labels, issuing 1969’s Ti costa così poco for Carosello and 1970’s prog rock-styled Grazie amore for Miura and an album, Carezze d’amore, in 1971.
The 1970s saw the singer provide occasional backing vocals for other artists, and at the end of the decade she cut one further 45 as half of the duo La Cicale.
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