Rome had been Europe’s cultural capital of the 1950s and, as a result, was slower to adapt as London took its place the following decade. Italy danced to its own beat in the 1960s – or more accurately, it swayed to the sound of emotionally charged ballads.
While the rest of western Europe shook to the beat of British bands, the Italian record-buying public continued to prefer the sentimental sounds of homegrown pop. Though that isn’t to say that as the decade rolled on, Italian music wasn’t influenced by the beat boom. Male beat combos did particularly well, though girls such as Caterina Caselli, Brunetta e i suoi Balubas, Carmen Villani and Le Mini Coopers held their own too.
The musical traffic was two-way. International singers scored massive hits with anglicised versions of Italians hits. Britain’s Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black enjoyed some of their greatest successes with covers of Italian songs, and some of Italy’s biggest girl stars of the 1960s, including Mina, Rita Pavone, Patty Pravo, Iva Zanicchi and Milva, launched international careers on the back of their success at home.
The San Remo song festival – the contest that inspired the Eurovision song contest – acted as a springboard for a number of Italy’s most successful female singers, including Gigliola Cinquetti and Anna Identici. Game girls from across Europe also clamoured to take part in the prestigious contest.
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