Italian singer Wilma Goich’s distinctive voice made her records instantly recognisable. She enjoyed a successful career in the 1960s, cutting some fine tracks and taking part in many a song contest. In the 1970s she teamed up professionally with her husband and chalked up further hits as the duo I Vianella.
She was born on 16 October 1945 in Cairo Montenotte, in the Liguria region of north-west Italy. Her parents were immigrants from Yugoslavia, and the family moved to Milan while she was still a child.
She showed an interest in singing from a young age, and in 1963 she entered the Verbania festival for new talent. After finishing second, she was approached by the Ricordi record company and promptly signed a contract with the label.
Her first outing for Ricordi was I proverbi, which was issued in tandem with a track by new star Bobby Solo in 1964.
Later that year she performed the dramatic Dope il sole pioverà at a contest to find newcomers to take part in the San Remo song contest. Although the single wasn’t overly successful, Wilma was offered the chance to take part in the Mediterranean song festival in Barcelona, which she won with Ho capito che ti amo. The song became a hit in host country Spain but not in her homeland. She also recorded the song in Spanish as He sabido que te amaba.
She also took part in that year’s Rose festival with Era troppo bello.
She took to the San Remo stage finally in January 1965 with Le colline sono in fiore. The practice at the time was to have two artists – one Italian and one international – perform each song. The New Christy Minstrels also performed her entry, and the song went through to the final. It didn’t win, and to compound Wilma’s misery, her single stalled at number 15 while her rivals’ version topped the charts in February that year.
Releasing Italian hits in Spain was very common at the time and artists such as Mina and Rita Pavone had also found success in other parts of Europe. So the decision was made to launch Wilma in France and Germany too. Her San Remo entry was translated, becoming Le printemps sur la colline in French and Die Liebe kommt wieder in German.
When her German follow up, the original composition Dream love – a great Supremes-styled number from the pens of hit songwriters Henry Mayer and Kurt Hertha – failed to sell, her record label pulled the plug on further German releases.
Back at home, however, the 1965 single L’amore al mare, which included her Festivalbar entry Un bacio sulle dita on the reverse, consolidated her success, reaching number 25 in the charts.
An album, La voce di Wilma Goich, issued in late 1965, brought together most of her previous releases and some new material, such as Facile non è, a version of US group The Essex’s Easier said than done.
With her career blooming (pun intended), Wilma returned to the San Remo contest in 1966 with another ‘fiore’ song, In un fiore. (Madagascan-born, Paris-based six-some Les Surfs also performed the song.) Again Wilma reached the final, and the resultant single gave Wilma her biggest hit when it reached number five in the Italian charts in February that year. (Again, her rivals’ version fared better, reaching number four.) Nevertheless, the song has become something of a signature tune for Wilma.
That summer, Attenti all’amore became her entry to the Un disco per l’estate contest and provided the singer with another top 20 hit, while the more yé-yé Pè strade é Napule was performed at the Naples song contest.
Despite reaching the final with a further appearance at the San Remo contest in 1967 with the
folk-ish Per vedere quanto è grande il mondo, Wilma failed to repeat the sales of her previous entries, managing only to scrape into the Italian top 40.
She fared better at that year’s Un disco per l’estate, finishing third with the gentle Se stasera sono qui. The song gave her a second top ten hit, reaching number seven in July that year.
Se c’è una stella became her last 45 of the year, and proved another hit. Perhaps surprisingly, she chose to cut Dolcemente, a version of Elvis Presley’s Love me tender, for the B-side, though the song has proved too glutinous for repeated consumption.
By this time, Wilma’s career was based squarely around appearances at Italy’s many song contests, and her 1968 San Remo entry, the catchy Gli occhi miei, proved her last solo chart hit.
Its follow up, the flop Tu cuore mio, is arguably more interesting for its B-side, Le formiche, which had been written by future multi-million seller Lucio Battisti. Even an appearance at the Un disco per l’estate contest that year performing Finalmente couldn’t reverse her chart fortune.
The problem was that she had slowly evolved into something of a Schlager singer over the years. Her performance at the 1969 San Remo contest is a case in point. She performed Baci, baci, baci, and even the appearance of US soul group The Sweet Inspirations singing the song couldn’t render the song anything other than dire.
The decade might have ended in a whimper had it not been for the release of Wilma’s own composition, Carosello, as the B-side of her final 45 of 1969, Casatschok.
In the early 1970s, she teamed up professionally with her husband, Edoardo Vianello, to form the duo I Vianella. The pair enjoyed considerable success with songs such as Semo gente de borgata in 1972 and Canto d’amore di Homeide in 1973.
After a few years’ break, Wilma attempted a comeback in 1981 with a cover of Abba’s The winner takes it all, Allora prendi e vai.
She continued to record sporadically and even returned to the San Remo festival in 1994 as part of an ‘Italian team’ to perform Una vecchia canzone italiana.
In 1995 she began acting, appearing in shows such as Gli uomini sono tutti bambini, and in 1996 she re-recorded some of her old I Vianella hits with her daughter, Susanna.