An Introduction to Italian Songwriters: Part I (1958-1978)


By Stef Fiorendi

What follows is a personal selection of some of the most influential and revolutionary Italian songwriters: a mix of politics, poetry, sentiment and history. This is Part I of a two part series. Read “Part II: 1980-2013” here.

DISCLAIMER: This is just an introduction. It is nearly impossible to sum up a vast and prolific repertoire like the Italian songwriting tradition in one playlist.

Domenico Modugno — “Volare (Nel blu dipinto di blu)” — 1958

Considered the first Italian songwriter to reach international success. He reflects on the light-hearted and lush historical period of the post-war resurgence. This song has been reinterpreted by prolific artists such as David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Barry White, and Ray Charles.

Gino Paoli — “Il chielo in una stanza” — 1960

Considered the master of the Italian artistic sensibility. He wrote “Il cielo in una stanza,” recorded by Italian singer Mina, launching her career as one of the most popular and successful artists in Italy.

Fabrizio De André — “La guerra di piero” — 1964

Influenced by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Georges Brassens, and the medieval tradition, De André is ironic, authentic, and a unique spokesperson of a crowd of misfits and lost souls.

Luigi Tenco — “Ognuno è libero” — 1966

Trailblazer for a generation of political songwriters and forerunner of a musical genre: deeply melancholic, introspective, and neo-realistic.

Mina — “Se telefonando” — 1966

Undisputedly the most popular and influential female artist of the Italian scene, not only for her unbelievable and expansive vocal range, but also for being an icon of female emancipation.

Francesco Guccini — “Il sociale e l’antisociale” — 1967

An extremely prolific political songwriter par excellence, Guccini is the composer of genuine and scathing lyrics that have been recognized as poetry.

Giorgio Gaber — “Com’è bella la città” — 1970

Known as ‘”the Maverick,” Gaber was known for being extremely raw and histrionic. He criticized the modern bourgeois lifestyle, covering politics, corruption, and the human condition in his work.

Lucio Battisti — “Il mio canto libero” — 1972

Mixing fine poetry, sentimentalism, obscurity, and musical experimentalism (new wave, blues, folk, beat, and latin music), Battisti personifies the crossover between pop and progressive.

Mia Martini — “Minuetto” — 1973

This song is a delicate and timeless pop ballad that brought the voices of Italian female singers across the oceans.

Gabriella Ferri — “Remedios” — 1974

Gabriella Ferri was a suave and cultured songwriter who shed new light on Italian folk music, and also sang in Roman and Neapolitan dialects to add extra interest to her songs.

Rino Gaetano — “Aida” — 1977

Rino Gaetano is the leftfield storyteller who passionately portrayed the grotesque situation of a country torn by political and social tensions at the end of the ’70s.

Francesco De Gregori — “L’impiccato” — 1978

An elegant yet humble composer, De Gregori was direct and honest. Intellectual and actively involved in politics, he is comparable to a musician/historian. He told the story of the country from the student revolution of ’68 to modern days.

Patty Pravo — “Pensiero Stupendo” — 1978

Patty Pravo is eccentric, provoking, charismatic, theatrical, and has the gift of a truly unique voice. She immediately became the Queen of the Italian beat scene.

Click here for Part II: 1980-2013

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