There’s a wealth of musical icons waiting to be discovered when you shed the confines of the English language, particularly when you look across to our European neighbours. Whether it be singers of slick Scandinavian pop, stars of French chanson, or German cabaret icons, broadening your musical horizons is always a wonderful experience.
We have been dipping our toes into the pool of Italian music through high profile musical events like Eurovision and the Sanremo Music Festival – in doing this over the years we have subsequently become fans of numerous artists who have not been given exposure in the UK.
Below we compile a list of some of iconic Italian pop divas and their notable releases that English speaking audiences should embrace. This is of course not a definitive list, so feel free to suggest more divas to us on our social channels.
Notable Tracks: Un po’ come la vita, La bambola, Pazza idea, …E dimmi che non vuoi morire
Notable Albums: Red, Eccomi, Patty Pravo (1968), Mai una signora
Born in 1948, Patty Pravo is said to be the third best selling Italian artist of all time with an excess of 110 million album sales to her name. Releasing her debut single Ragazzo triste (Eng: Sad Boy) in 1966, Pravo became a pivotal figure in the Beat scene thanks to her distinctive vocal style and androgynous style – something cemented by the release of her first #1 single La bambola (Eng: Doll) – a cinematic slice of melodramatic pop music. She’s managed to maintain a prolific career in her native Italy as a regular fixture of the charts thanks to the multitude of single and album releases – most recently 2019’s Red which also saw her compete in San Remo with Un po’ come la vita.
Notable Tracks: Tintarella di luna, Amor mio, Parole Parole, E poi…, L’importante e finire and Luna diamante
Notable Albums: Mina Fossati, Ronato, Maeba
Now 80 years old, Mina continues to be a defiant and prolific figure in the world of Italian music. Mina is thought to have scored 77 albums and 71 singles on the Italian charts. She remains a trailblazing figure challenging social norms – resulting in her becoming a symbol for female empowerment in the 60s and 70s. Despite withdrawing from the public eye Mina continues to release music, most recently 2019’s surprise return LP Mina Fossati.
Notable Tracks: Far l’Amore, Do It, Do It Again, Tanti Auguri (Best Wishes), Ma che musica maestro and Chissà se va.
Raffaella Carrà another titan of Italian music that still continues to perform to this day, released her debut album in 1970 Raffaella. However prior to this she found much success as an actress and model, starring in projects such as Caesar the Conquerer, Von Ryan’s Express, and numerous swords and sandals peplum pictures. A large musical hit came in Tuca Tuca, whilst she later found success with Tanti Auguri (Best Wishes). Recording from the seventies onwards, Raffaella even scored a UK hit with Do It, Do It Again. Her most recent LP Her most recent LP was a 2018 Christmas one called Ogni volta che è Natale.
Notable Tracks: Non sono una signora, Cosa ti aspetti da me, Stiamo come stiamo
Beginning her career in modelling Loredana Bertè has become a staple of the Italian pop and rock scene since her debut LP Streaking in 1974. The provocative rocker, known for her iconic style of dress, has gone on to release a plethora of albums and singles dipping into numerous genres from pop to hard rock. Working throughout the seventies with luminaries such as Andy Warhol (who directed her video for Movie), Loredana would go on to release what some dub as her defining LP Traslocando in 1982. Hits include Non sono una signora, Cosa ti aspetti da me, Stiamo come stiamo (which saw her collaborate with fellow pop icon and sister Mia Martini) and Angeli & Angeli.
Notable Tracks: Cuore, La Partita di Pallone, Niente (Resilienza 74), Remember Me, Just Once More,
Another talent that caught our eyes through San Remo was veteran rocker Rita Pavone and her 2019 track Niente (Resilienza 74). Being discovered at sixteen years old through a talent contest dubbed Festival of the Unkowns, Pavone began to have hits in Italy throughout the early sixties including Cuore and La Partita di Pallone. The singer found international appeal with a number of rock-tinged sixties anthems released in the UK including Heart and You Only You. Splitting her time between film and television, Rita’s musical releases have been more sporadic than others on the list. Her most recent album release was 2017’s Passaggio.
Notable Tracks: Sempre, Biberon, Sinno me moro
Debuting in the early-sixties after being discovered in a nightclub Gabriella Ferri released her debut album in 1966, but would wait seven years for one of her biggest hits Sempre. Releasing steadily throughout the seventies, Gabriella would later only release two albums in the eighties before slipping from the spotlight until releasing her final two LPs in 1997 and 2000. Success came in the form of tracks: Sinnò me moro, Er Zelletta and Biberon. She sadly died in 2004.
Notable Tracks: Dettagli, L’Appuntamento, La musica è finita, Casa Bianca, and Eternità
The calming tones of Ornella Vanoni would make her one of the most credited and sophisticated pop chanteuses in Italy. Her track L’Appuntamento remains a fixture of the classic pop scene of the country, yet she has continued to release new music regularly including her 2013 album Meticci (Io Mi Fermo Qui).
Ilona Staller (‘Cicciolina‘)
Notable Tracks: I Was Made for Dancing, Cavallina Cavallo
Notable Albums: Ilona Staller
Hungarian-born Ilona Staller or Cicciolina has done it all: singer, erotic model/film star, politician, artist and pop culture icon. From her 1979 self-titled album featuring disco classics I Was Made for Dancing and Cavallina Cavallo, Cicciolina has released albums regularly including the most recent San Francisco Dance and Fantasy (the latter containing subtle anthems like I Love Sex). The sex-positive star keeps something of a low-profile now, but did appear on Argentina’s version of Strictly in 2008.
Notable Tracks: La Notte Vola, Ascolta Il Cuore and Un altro amore no
Notable Albums: Nemicaamatissima, Lorella
We have a bit of an obssession with Lorella Cuccarini’s La Notte Vola – a Hi-NRG slice of Italo-camp. Beginning her career as a dancer, Lorella dropped her debut album in 1987, numerous Italo-disco singles, and steadily released throughout the nineties dropping singles like Ascolta Il Cuore and Un altro amore no. The singer hosted San Remo twice and entered in 1995 with her track Un altro amore no. Her most recent album was Nemicaamatissima in 2017.
Notable Tracks: Call Me, D.A.N.C.E, Easy Lady, Circle of Life
Notable Albums: Dedicated to the Moon, You Are MY Energy, Four, Woman
One of the main artists in this feature to really break into the UK market was Spagna. The Italian singer found great success in the mid-eighties with singles Easy Lady and Call Me from her album Dedicated to the Moon. The singer would continue to release in English dipping into genres from dance-rock to Eurodance with albums such as You Are My Energy, No Way Out, and Matter of Time, before in the mid-nineties moving to her native tongue. She participated in San Remo in 1995 with Gente Come Noi and also released her first full Italian album Siamo in due (the highest selling Italian female album). The singer has continued to release in both English and Italian since with her most recent output being English EP Four in 2012 and Italian album 1954 in 2019.
Notable Tracks: Ti lascerò, È tutto un attimo and Un’emozione da poco
Notable Albums: Oxanna, Proxima
Referred to as the Voice and the Heart in Italy, Anna Oxa a regular San Remo competitor since 1978, has found continued success in Italy since the release of her debut studio album Oxanna, which became her first chart-topping album in Italy. In her 40-year long career, Oxa has released seventeen studio albums, of which two of them have charted at number-one on the Italian Albums Chart. She’s had #1 success with Ti lascerò, È tutto un attimo and Un’emozione da poco. Showcasing her longevity, Oxa also hit #8 in the charts with Tutto l’amore intorno feat. Ivano Fossati, from her most recent 2010 studio album Proxima.