The world has a new Pope, a new spiritual leader for over 1.2 billion Catholics. Pope Francis truly seems to be a man of the people. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the 266th Pope, the first Jesuit Pope as well as being the first non European Pope since the 8th century. Even though he’s from Argentina, his heritage is Italian – his father and mother immigrated to Argentina from Italy – so we’ll celebrate the new Pope with questions about Italian singers and/or Italian songs. Now, the singers all come from Italian heritage, but may be British, American or Canadian and the songs were definitely worldwide hits according to Billboard Magazine. We could ask about Francis Albert Sinatra, Frankie Valli (The Four Seasons), Gwen Stefani, three world famous Italian-American singers or even Luciano Pavarotti...but we won’t. Even if you’re not Italian, c’mon who doesn’t love Italian food? – pizza, ravioli, gnocchi, penne all’arrabbiata, lasagna, cannelloni, spaghetti, tortellini, it’s all so delish. So, buon appetito (have a good meal) and buona fortuna (good luck).
1. To start off, this question may be far too easy. This Ohio born Italian singer had a great career on the record charts even before he partnered up with a ‘wild and crazy’ kid from New Jersey. Between 1949 and 1956, this duo made 14 movies, plus appeared together in 2 others and made a cameo appearance in the Hope & Crosby film “Road To Bali”. Their split was definitely not friendly and they didn’t speak for many years. The ‘wild and crazy’ comic went on to major fame and fortune writing, directing and starring in movies. They absolutely adore him in France. Our Italian-American singer charted 30 songs on Billboards’ Hot 100 and his successful TV variety series in the 1960’s brought him even more fame. His first number one hit was in 1956. His last, in 1964 happened during the height of Beatlemania and the British invasion in music. His TV celebrity roasts in the 1970’s became ‘must-see’ TV. Can you name our singer? (HINT: Everybody loves him).
2. This Italian-American singer/actress grew up in Detroit and after she becoming successful, famously dated Hollywood ‘bad boy’ Warren Beatty and married another movie ‘bad boy’, Sean Penn. She’s had a dozen # 1 hits. She’s also a fashion designer with her own line of clothing. She got in a bit of trouble with the Catholic Church with a video for one of her songs. She only uses her first name in show biz, but that name is world famous (or infamous). So, I ask you – ‘who’s that girl’?
3. This Italian song was a hit for Umberto Tozzi in 1979. Tozzi co-wrote the song with Giancarlo Bigazzi (I know that won’t help you much). It was translated into English, sung by an American singer/actress and went to # 2 on Billboards’ Hot 100 singles chart in 1982. The one word title is the same as a minor hit from 1965 for the Irish band Them, whose lead singer was Van Morrison. This song was nominated for a Grammy Award, but didn’t win. Do you know the name of this song? You get an extra pat on the back if you know the name of the American female singer who had the hit with it.
4. She calls her fans ‘little monsters’ and they all adore her. Stefani is a native New Yorker who’s been in the music business since 2005. Her debut album, “The Fame” was released in 2008 to worldwide acclaim. Her show biz ‘gimmick’, besides her talent as a super successful singer/songwriter, is for her outrageous outfits, she once even wore a ‘meat dress’. She was obviously influenced by Elton John, Madonna and David Bowie. Stefani has sold well over 20 million albums as won several armfuls of Grammy and MTV Awards. TIME Magazine listed her as one of the most influential people in the world. Under what name does Stefani perform?
5. This Italian-American singer was a favourite of Frank Sinatra’s. He’s lived “The Good Life” (HINT # 1) and performed before Kings and Queens and regular folks like you and me as well. This artist, who’s gone from ‘rags to riches” (HINT # 2) is also a gifted painter. He’s still performing at the age of 86. His “Duets” albums have sold millions of copies and although he’s a native New Yorker (born in Astoria, Queens), he does have a soft spot for San Francisco (HINT # 3). Who is this incredible singer?
1. It’s Dean Martin, but you knew that in the first sentence of the question, didn’t you? The chart topping Mr. Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio in 1917. Teaming up with zany comedian Jerry Lewis in the 1940’s, the duo made more than a dozen films together, their first being “My Friend Irma” in 1949 and their last was 1956’s “Hollywood Or Bust”. Jerry Lewis went on to make such movies as “The Bellboy”, “The Nutty Professor” and “The King of Comedy”. Dean Martin first # 1 was “Memories Are Made of This” in 1956. In 1964, amongst all those ‘British Invasion’ hits from such groups as The Beatles, the Dave Clark Five and The Animals, Dean had his last # 1 with “Everybody Loves Somebody”. Dean Martin passed away on Christmas Day 1995 at the age of 78.
2. That girl is Madonna Louis Ciccone who became world famous (or infamous if you prefer) using only her first name. She was born in Bay City, Michigan in 1958 to an Italian-American dad and her mother, also named Madonna, who died when Madonna was only 5, was of French Canadian descent. Despite her often anti-establishment attitude, Madonna was a straight ‘A’ student in school. Madonna’s # 1 hits include “Like A Virgin”, “Crazy For You”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “Who’s That Girl”, “Like A Prayer”, “Vogue” and “Music”. The video for 1989’s “Like A Prayer” brought Madonna the wrath of Catholic Church leaders with its images of burning crosses and statues crying blood among other things. In fact, the Vatican condemned the video. Madonna’s movies have included “Desperately Seeking Susan”, “Shanghai Surprise”, “Who’s That Girl”, “Dick Tracy” and “Evita”, In 2010, Madonna and her daughter Lourdes created the ‘Material Girl’ clothing line for teens released under the Macy’s label. All the controversy surrounding her just makes her richer. Celebritynetwork.com estimates her net worth at 650 Million $$. That’ll buy a lot of material, girl.
3. Remember Laura Brannigan’s version of “Gloria”? The song remained on Billboards’ Hot 100 singles chart for 36 weeks in 1982 and was in the Top Ten for 9 weeks. The Italian version, sung by co-writer Umberto Tozzi, was a hit in Europe in 1979. Singer Laura Branigan died on August 26, 2004 of a cerebral aneurysm at the age of 47. Branigan received a Grammy nomination as ‘Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female’ for “Gloria”.
4. It’s Lady Gaga aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. She started out in the music business in 2005 and formed the Stefani Germanotta Band with some friends from NYU. They became a fixture around Manhattan’s lower east side. When that band broke up, Stefani moved on to work with various other people until she was signed to SONY/ATV music publishing to write songs for Britney Spears, New Kids On The Block and Fergie. Akon took a shine to her talents and by 2008, Lady Gaga had moved to LA to begin work on her debut album “The Fame”, which was released in August that year. After a slow start, the album took off and the world went gaga for Lady Gaga.
5. Anthony Dominick Benedetto, aka Tony Bennett, may never have hit # 1 on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart, but his songs are just as memorable as many that have – “I Left My Heart (In San Francisco)”, “I Wanna Be Around” and “The Good Life” were all Top Twenty songs in the early 1960’s. Tony served as an infantryman during WWII and fought in France and Germany. Tony Bennett still performs between 100 and 200 concerts a year. He was honoured with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and in 2001, received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2005, he was the recipient of a Kennedy Centre Honor. His paintings, which Tony has been creating since he was a boy, sell for upwards of $100,000 apiece.