150. Bobby Ridarelli

My father had a crackpot theory that all American popular music really came from Italy.

But on further thought, maybe he had a point, particularly in the mid-century pre-Beatles music scene. There were the Elvis hits “It’s Now or Never” (“O Sole Mio”) and “Surrender” (“Torna a Sorrento”) that took classic Italian songs and gave them totally unrelated English lyrics. There are songs with a mix of Italian and English, like Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” and “Mambo Italiano,” and Connie Francis’s “Don’t Forget About Domani.” And then if you thought about the identities of the actual performers: Dean Martin was born Dino Crochetti; Connie Francis was Concetta Franconero, Bobby Darin was Walden Robert Cassotto, and Tony Bennett was Anthony Benedetto; Frankie Avalon (Avallone) and Fabian (Forte) were from right around the corner from each other in South Philly. The list goes on and on. Frank Sinatra is one of the few who did not change or anglicize his name, or even sing very often in Italian, but of course, there was never a shred of doubt where his origins were.

Best line of the song uses Neapolitan dialect: “When the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool, that’s amore.”

It was a sad day yesterday to learn of the passing of Bobby Rydell, né Robert Ridarelli, also a South Philly boy who, according to the obituaries, married and stayed married to his high school sweetheart, and when he hit it big, bought a big house in the Philadelphia suburbs and moved his parents and grandparents right in with him. I remember when I was seven years old in 1960, his “Volare,” originally an Italian recording by Domenico Madugno, was the big summer song that was ubiquitous on AM radios everywhere.

Bobby Rydell on the Dick Clark show, 1960

I had the incredible good fortune of seeing Bobby Rydell perform in 2018. We were at a concert by Patrizio Buanne, an Italian crooner who had been recommended to me. He called “Bobby” out of the audience, and they sang “Volare” together. He had the same stage presence and strong voice as when he appeared on “American Bandstand” in 1960. I had those goosebumps you get when you know you’re seeing something special, intensified by remembering those long ago summer days of hearing his voice on the radio. So maybe my father was on to something, after all.

Bobby also uses Neapolitan dialect at the end.

2 thoughts on “150. Bobby Ridarelli

  1. Your father had excellent taste! I don’t think it’s obvious on the WordPress format, but the photos include links to video of their performances. It’s worth taking a minute to watch.


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