Obituary: Domenico Modugno

Domenico Modugno, singer: born Polignano a Mare, Italy 9 January 1928; married Franca Gandolfi (three sons); died Lampedusa, Italy 6 August 1994.

DOMENICO MODUGNO was known all over the world as 'Mister Volare'. The nickname came from the refrain 'Volare, oh, oh-oh' of his 1958 hit song 'Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu'. Modugno explained that he wrote the song while thinking of a painting by Chagall, of a man, with half of his face painted blue, looking out of a window. With 'Volare' - which has become, along with O sole mio, the most famous of all Italian songs - Modugno won his first Grammy Award and sold 30 million records.

With over 200 recordings to his name and 60 million records sold, Modugno was the most successful Italian performing artist in history and as a cantautore ('singer and author') he was considered the father of modern Italian songwriting. In Italy, throughout his long career, Modugno was greatly loved because he always remained himself and never put on airs.

Modugno was much more than just a singer. He also appeared in 17 films, 14 plays and musicals, won the Italian Song Festival of Sanremo four times, three Grammy awards and numerous other prizes.

In the early Fifties, Modugno started his career in show business as a movie actor, playing minor roles in a series of films, and became known at the same time as a songwriter. In 1955, he wrote two hit songs: 'Vecchio Frao', the drama of a man who no longer has the strength to live and 'Lu Pisci Spada', a song about blood, love and death in Sicilian dialect. In 1957, he wrote three other classics: 'Resta cu'mme', 'Lazarella' and 'Strada anfosa'.

In 1958, he achieved his greatest success when, with Franco Migliacci, he wrote the joyous 'Nel blu dipinto di blu', known all around the world as 'Volare'. With this song he won the Italian Song Festival in Sanremo and, within a matter of weeks, achieved worldwide fame and the name 'Mister Volare'. Cover versions of the song have been recorded by performers ranging from Dean Martin to Luciano Pavarotti. The following year, Modugno triumphed again at Sanremo with 'Piove' (with the refrain 'Ciao Ciao, Bambina'), a song about the end of a love that is accepted cheerfully instead of being turned into the usual tearful melodrama. It was another world-wide hit.

In the Sixties, Modugno starred in musical comedies and wrote 'Tu si 'na cosa grande' and 'Dio come ti amo' with which he won another song festival. In the Seventies, he wrote two more hits: 'La Lontananza' and 'Piange Il Telefono'. He achieved his greatest success as an actor as Mackie in Brecht's Threepenny Opera (1973), directed by Giorgio Strehler.

In 1984, while recording a television programme, Modugno suffered a thrombosis attack that left him paralysed and forced him to use a wheelchair. After a long convalescence, he dedicated himself to politics and was elected MP for the Radical Party in 1987. He was a member of an investigating commission that raised a huge scandal in Italy by denouncing the insane asylum in Agrigento, in Sicily, as little more than a concentration camp. Modugno took up singing again, to give a concert for the patients and their relatives.

In 1991, he had suffered a first heart attack while on an aeroplane, returning from New York, where he had given a concert, in his wheelchair, at Carnegie Hall.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor