For a while in the late Fifties, it was played on the radio almost continuously — or maybe it just seemed that way. After all, a guy singing a melodic and strangely addictive song in Italian was something that certainly caught your attention. But whatever the reason, Domenico Modugno’s rendition of “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu” (video below) became the top charted song of 1958, and it won Grammys for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
The song — which was usually just called “Volare” (Italian for ‘to fly’) — was Modugno’s biggest claim to fame in the US, but he did have a long and varied career in his native Italy, where he had first found success as a singer and songwriter for area festivals. Over the course of his life he also performed as an actor, and even spent some time in his later years as a member of the Italian parliament. He died in 1994.
As is usually the case with popular songs, a number of other performers quickly began to record competing versions, with mixed results. Most chose to label the song by its shorter, more popularly-known title of “Volare,” and many also added partial or complete English lyrics.
Just about everybody from A to Z has recorded it (literally — both Louis Armstrong and Frank Zappa have done it) and of course, the Italian-American crooners are well represented. One of the best-known and most popular is Dean Martin’s version — and you can never go wrong with Dino.