1960s Italian girl group Sonia e le Sorelle achieved only modest success. However, they cut some great beat tracks, which enjoy lasting popularity among fans of the genre.
The group was formed of three sisters, Sonia, Nadia and Luana Natali, who came from the town of Prato, near Florence, in central Italy.
As the group’s name suggests, Sonia was the lead singer. She was born on 17 August 1951. Nadia, who played guitar and sang back-up, was around three years older than Sonia, and keyboard player-cum-back up vocalist Luana was older still.
Bosses at the Italian arm of the HMV label, La voce del padrone, liked the look of the sisters and offered them a recording contract in 1964.
Song contests were all the rage in Italy at the time and the label decided to promote its new signing by having the group perform in the first-ever Festival delle rose, held in Rome in October 1964. Entered into the category for new artists, the girls didn’t win with their song, Se mi lascio baciar. Their entry was released as a single to coincide with the competition, with the more plaintive Non ti accorgi di me on the B-side.
The follow up, the latin-flavoured Bianco rosso giallo rosa, issued in 1965, failed to attract much attention. (Fans tend to prefer the flip, Non sei più niente per me.)
With two flops under their belts, the record company was keen for the girls’ third outing to be a success. The summer of 1965 saw them take part in the Cantagiro contest with Sulla sabbia c’era lei, a version of Jewel Akens’ US hit The birds and the bees. Assigned to the newcomer category, they competed against the likes of Caterina Caselli, Roberta Mazzoni, La Cricca and Le Snobs. Though Sonia and her sisters didn’t win, their entry has become their best-known recording, and the B-side, Tutto quello che piace a me, was also used in the soundtrack of Dino Risi’s film L’ombrellone.
The group returned to the Festival delle rose in 1965 and their entry, La ragazza può fare, became their final 45 of the year. (Again, the B-side, No ragazzo no, has enjoyed a lasting popularity amongst fans.)
Big things were expected for the group when they took part in the 1966 Cantagiro contest – and this time they were no longer classed among the newcomers but instead placed among the stars of the show. Their song, Lo faccio per amore, issued with Il colpo del sole – a version of British singer Lulu’s He don’t want your love anymore – has become one of their most popular and enduring releases.
Such was the popularity of Lo faccio per amore that it was re-issued as the B-side of the girls’ final single, Un riparo per noi (a version of the Troggs’ With a girl like you), in 1966. Unfortunately, the 45 was released in competition with versions by beat combos I Nomadi and I Satelliti, which served only to dilute sales for all three artists.
The single proved the trio’s final release. Nadia and Luana cut a few more songs together while Sonia struck out with a solo career.
Sticking with the La voce del padrone label, Sonia’s first release was Mama, her take on a single of the same name by Cher, in 1967. It gave the singer her biggest chart hit.
Perhaps surprisingly, a return to the Festival delle rose that year with Gianni – a track written by the hugely successful Pino Donaggio and Vito Pallavicini – failed to secure victory or even much chart action.
After appearances at the 1968 Disco per l’estate contest with Cammino sulle nuvole and at the 1969 San Remo song festival with Non c’è che lui fell flat, Sonia quit the music business.
The three sisters were reunited professionally in 1973 in the stage musical Caino e Abele, in Rome, which also starred fellow singers Marisa Sannia and Rita Monico, amongst others.
With thanks to Matthew Meek for additional sound files and to Mondo ribelle for additional research.
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