Mina is one of Italy’s biggest stars of all time, scoring dozens of hits from the late 1950s onwards. As Italian songs gained popularity in Spain, she opted to re-record many of her hits in Spanish, enjoying success in Spain and South America with the results.
She was born Mina Mazzini in Busto Arsizio, in northern Italy, on 25 March 1940 and grew up in Cremona.
Her recording career began in 1958, initially under the name Baby Gate. After taking Mina as her stage moniker, she enjoyed her first Italian chart topper at the end of 1959 with Tintarella di luna. A string of top ten successes followed.
Italian tunes were becoming popular in Spain at that time, and many of Mina’s recordings were released in Spain in their original Italian versions through the Discophon label.
However, when Il cielo in una stanza became the biggest-selling single in Italy in 1960, the decision was made to cut the song in Spanish. Four-track EPs were more popular than singles in Spain, and the song – re-recorded as El cielo en casa – was included on Mina’s first Spanish-language release and became a big hit.
Its success prompted the release of a bossa nova-styled foursome on the EP Y de ahí (a translation of Da chi) in early 1962.
A parallel launch of the singer also took place in Germany, where her Heißer Sand topped the German charts and spent over half a year on the sales listings. The song was also recorded in Spanish as Un desierto and issued on an EP that included Dejame llorar, a version of her Just let me cry (a song that Lesley Gore also recorded).
Back in Italy, Mina’s career took a severe knock in 1963 after her relationship with the actor Carrado Pani who was married, though separated from his wife, became known. She was banned from state television RAI.
Eventually the broadcaster lifted its ban and a change of record label marked her rehabilitation. For many, the move also signified the beginning of Mina’s golden era.
The label change meant that subsequent Spanish releases were issued through the Belter label.
She scored a massive hit with her first single for her new Italian label, Città vuota, a cover of Gene McDaniels’ It’s a lonely town, in early 1964. Its follow up, È l’uomo per me, a version of He walks like a man, an American non-hit for Jody Miller, took Mina to the top of the charts and became the biggest-selling single of the year in Italy. Both songs were re-recorded in Spanish – as Ciudad solitaria and Mi hombre será respectively – and issued on what is considered one of the singer’s best EPs.
Interestingly, Spain’s señoritas had woken up to the potential of Mina’s material, and she often found herself competing in sales wars with homegrown singers, particularly ye-yé girl Rosalía.
Un buccio nella sabbia proved another top ten hit in Italy and was duly translated and issued on an EP as Un hoya en la arena. (The release is, arguably, more noteworthy for Yo soy la que soy, the Spanish version of the dramatic Io sono quel che sono.)
Surprisingly, one of Mina’s best Italian releases, 1965’s moody chart topper Un anno d’amore, a cover of French singer Nino Ferrer’s C’est irreparable, remained in Italian for its Spanish release. However, the singer did cut it as Un año de amor for release in Argentina. (It was also later re-recorded by Luz Casal and used in the soundtrack to Pedro Almodóvar’s 1991 film Tacones lejanos, or High heels, as it is known in the English-speaking world.)
Qué harás – a version of Tu farai – became the lead track on Mina’s final Spanish-language EP of 1965. The release also included the excellent Si lloras, ri ríes (her take on Bobby Solo’s San Remo song festival winner and Eurovision song contest entry Se piangi, se ridi).
1966 proved another good year for the singer. At home, her run of top ten hits continued with songs such as Se telefonando and Sono come tu mi vuoi. In Spain, she issued just one EP in Spanish, which featured Ahora o jamás (Ora o mai più) as its lead track.
However, by 1967 Mina’s records weren’t reaching the Italian top ten with the same frequency as they had before. Just one Spanish-language release in Spain (the dreary Angustia) and one in Argentina (La inmensidad) that year marked the beginning of a fall from favour abroad too.
By this time, re-recording songs in other languages had become less common and the 1968 single Canción para ti (originally Canzone per te) proved her last recorded brush with Spanish in the 1960s.
She did record in Spanish during the 1970s, but overall, her releases became less and less frequent and petered out altogether at the end of the decade.
However, back in Italy, she went on to score hits throughout the 1970s and the occasional hit in the 1980s and 90s, before making a huge chart comeback in 2002.
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