(3 January 1920 – 20 May 2001), born Renato Carusone, was among the greatest figures of Italian music scene in the second half of the 20th century. He was also a modern performer of the so-called canzone napoletana, Naples’ song tradition.
Renato Carosone was born in Naples. He studied piano at the Naples Conservatory and obtained his diploma in 1937, when he was just 17. Soon after he signed a contract as a band leader for a tour of Africa, which resulted in him working in Addis Ababa as a pianist. Here he would become a prominent figure of the music scene, performing with his band on several occasions. He returned to Italy only in 1946, after the end of World War II.
Despite his success abroad, Carosone was a stranger to Italian audiences. He had to start his career afresh, playing the piano for small dance-hall bands. These new performances were strongly influenced by the new rhythms and music styles he had encountered during his ten years’ absence from the Italian music scene.
In 1949 he was asked to put together a group for a club’s opening night. After some auditions, he signed the Dutch guitarist Peter Van Wood and the Neapolitan drummer Gegè Di Giacomo: the Trio Carosone was born. The trio became a quartet with the addition of the Hungarian Gypsy musician Elek Bacsik on bass, guitar and violin.
Afterwards Van Wood and Bacsik left the group to pursue solo careers. Gegè Di Giacomo remained with Carosone, who contacted other musicians to finally form a real band.
During the 1950s Renato Carosone became more and more popular, his orchestra was in great demand both in Italy and abroad, and records sales were soaring high.
His song Torero – specially composed for a Spanish tour – remained for 14 weeks at number 1 on the US hit parade. Torero was translated into 12 languages and no fewer than thirty cover versions were recorded in the United States alone. On 5 January 1957 Carosone and his band started off a successful American tour with a concert in Cuba. This tour concluded with a triumphant performance at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York.
At the height of his career, Renato Carosone announced his retirement from music in 1960: I’d rather retire now on the crest of the wave, than being tormented later by the doubt that yè-yè fashion and new armies wearing blue-jeans may wipe away all that I have achieved in so many years of work and worries. His decision caused an uproar. Some even suspected obscure criminal threats. Away from the spotlight, Carosone turned to other interests, mainly painting.
On 9 August 1975 Renato Carosone made his comeback in a televised concert. He then resumed his musical debut with live concerts, performances at the Sanremo Music Festival, and TV appearances until the late 1990s.