Almost unknown outside of Italy during his lifetime, the great singer Claudio Villa reigned over the Italian charts during the fifties and sixties. His career includes 3000 songs recorded, 45 million albums sold, and appearing in 25 musicals . It was not until the 1996 movie, Big Night, that his ethereal voice became known to a much wider audience, including me. I’ve been obsessed with him ever since.
Claudio Villa was born Claudio Pica in January 1, 1926 in Rome. He shot to prominence in 1955 when he won first prize in the Sanremo Song Festival. He would win this prestigious award three more times (1957, 1962, and 1967). Villa was a master of a folk song tradition popular in central Italy called, stornello, which can be simple nursery rhymes as well as improvised love songs or satire. Stornelli Amorosi is one my favorite examples of the more intimate and dreamy versions of the stornello.
And Stornelli romani a dispetto is a great example of the more lively, improvised version. His voice is clarion!
And Stornelli de sor Mariano is full of comedy and satire.
And his version of Granada is incomparable.
Claudio Villa suddenly passed away from a heart attack in 1987. He is buried near Rome and on his tombstone it reads, “Vita sei bella, morte fai schifo” (“Life, you are fine; death, you stink”).