Domenico Modugno; 9 January 1928 – 6 August 1994) was an Italian singer, songwriter, actor, and later in life, a member of the Italian Parliament. He is known for his 1958 international hit song “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)”. He is considered the first Italian cantautore.
The youngest of four children, Domenico Modugno was born in Polignano a Mare, province of Bari (Puglia) on 9 January 1928. His father, Vito Cosimo Modugno, was a municipal police commander, while his mother, Pasqua Lorusso, was a housewife.
At the age of 9, he moved with his family to San Pietro Vernotico, in the Province of Brindisi, where his father was transferred for a new job position. Here Domenico attended primary school and learned San Piertro Vernotico’s dialect, which belongs to the linguistic area of Lecce’s dialect, which is similar to Sicilian. He attended secondary school in Lecce.
From a young age he wanted to become an actor and in 1951, after his military service, he enrolled in an acting school. While still studying he had a role in a cinematographic version of Filumena Marturano by Eduardo De Filippo as well as some other films.
In 1957 his song “Lazzarella,” sung by Aurelio Fierro, came second in the Festival della Canzone Napoletana, bringing him his first taste of popularity.
In 1958 Domenico Modugno took part in Antonio Aniante’s comedy La Rosa di Zolfo at the Festival della Prosa in Venice. Also in 1958 he discovered the Italian comedy duo of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia, became their manager and got them into a long running film career. The turning point of his career came in that year, when he also participated in the Sanremo Music Festival, presenting, together with Johnny Dorelli, the song “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu.” Co-authored by Modugno and Franco Migliacci, the song won the contest and became an enormous success worldwide, including the United States. It received two Grammy Awards with sales above 22 million copies, and represented Italy in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest, where it came in third.
In 1959, Domenico Modugno won the San Remo Music Festival for the second time in a row, with “Piove” (also known as “Ciao, ciao bambina”), and received second place in 1960 with “Libero.” This was a successful period of time for Modugno who again represented Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1959. Later his hit song “Io” was sung by Elvis Presley in English with the title “Ask Me.”
In 1962, Domenico Modugno won the San Remo Music Festival a third time with “Addio…, addio….” Four years later, he again represented Italy at Eurovision with “Dio, come ti amo.” Jack Jones recorded it in English for his 1967 album, Our Song, under the title, “Oh How Much I Love You”.
Modugno was an actor in 44 movies (such as Appuntamento a Ischia), and was a film producer of two (Tutto e’ musica of 1963 was his own biographical production).
The 1970s kept Modugno’s voice and mind busy in more classic music genres and profiles, as a singer and as a musician, adapting poetry, acting on television and in lead singing roles of modern operas.
In 1986, Domenico Modugno entered the political arena as a member of the Italian Radical Party and was elected congressman for Turin in June 1987. In this last stage of his life, he was active in social issues, fighting against inhuman conditions of patients in the Agrigento psychiatric hospital.
Domenico Modugno died from a heart attack in Lampedusa, Italy, in August 1994 in his home by the sea. His son Massimo is following his footsteps as a singer.