Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Italy’s most famous song

Italy’s most famous song
In terms of the number of times it’s been sung in public, it must surely be up there with Happy Birthday, penned in 1898 by Neopolitan Giovanni Capurro, O Sole Mio continues to enchant to this day.
The melody appears in hymns and was even used to represent Italy as unofficial national anthem at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games. But while the melody may be instantly recognizable, the name of the song might not be, so here’s the lowdown on the classic tune – you’re sure to recognize at least one of them.

The result of a partnership between poet Capurro and the musician Eduardo Di Capua, the song was performed and an annual music competition in Naples, but only came second. Never-the-less, the melody captured attention far and wide. (Just in case you’re wondering, O Sole Mio means ‘My sunshine’.)

Whether recording their own versions of the original, or borrowing the melody and writing their own lyrics, the song has been released by artists including American soprano Elizabeth Spencer (Your Own Dear Kiss), Charles W.Harrison (My Sunshine), Italian tenors Enrico Caruso,  Mario Lanza and Luciano Pavarotti, Dean Martin and Connie Francis (There’s No Tomorrow) and most famously of all, Elvis Presley (It’s Now or Never) who took the song to the top ten in most countries, sending it platinum in the US.
So you’d think the royalties made the writers millionaires, right? Not so. Sadly, they sold the publishing rights for just 25 lira – about $1.25.