The Story of Italian American Song
By Mark Rotella
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780865476981, 320pp.
Publication Date: September 14, 2010
Amore is Mark Rotella’s celebration of the “Italian decade”—the years after the war and before the Beatles when Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett, among others, won the hearts of the American public with a smooth, stylish, classy brand of pop. In Rotella’s vivid telling, the stories behind forty Italian American classics (from “O Sole Mio,” “Night and Day,” and “Mack the Knife” to “Volare” and “I Wonder Why”) show how a glorious musical tradition became the sound track of postwar America and the expression of a sense of style that we still cherish. Rotella follows the music from the opera houses and piazzas of southern Italy, to the barrooms of the Bronx and Hoboken, to the Copacabana, the Paramount Theatre, and the Vegas Strip. He shows us the hardworking musicians whose voices were to become ubiquitous on jukeboxes and the radio and whose names—some anglicized, some not—have become bywords for Italian American success, even as they were dogged by stereotypes and prejudice.
Amore is the personal Top 40 of one proud son of Italy; it is also a love song to Italian American culture and an evocation of an age that belongs to us all.
“Like the singers and songs it celebrates, Amore gets a lot done in a tight, memorable, heartfelt way. This isn't just a book about Italian-American crooners—it's an intimate account of immigrant life, a history of an enduring art form, a tribute to family, an evocation of the power of song, and a deeply personal reckoning with the music itself. It's a love song in its own right, and it's beautifully sung.” —Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“What a beautiful thing is Amore! Rotella knows these singers like family, and he writes with a passion that turns each of their songs into a grace note about the uphill climb of Italians in America.” —Anthony DePalma, author of City of Dust
“Amore brings to mind nothing less than Martin Scorsese's documentaries on movie history. Rotella is an impassioned student of Italian-American culture whose personal journey through the music of his heritage is a work of art itself.” —David Hajdu, music critic for The New Republic
“In this lively anecdotal history, full of engaging profiles and nice autobiographical touches, Mark Rotella explores how a whole wave of hugely talented Italian-American singers dominated the pop charts in the 1940s and 1950s with sounds that have set a standard ever since.” —Morris Dickstein, author of Dancing in the Dark
“This book is a box of candy for those who love American popular songs, as I do—and those interested in the fate of Italian culture on American soil. In Amore, Mark Rotella has looked through the kaleidoscope of his attractive prose at a major postwar phenomenon—the emergence of Italian American music for a mass audience. What he finds here will delight readers, who will demand a soundtrack for this highly entertaining volume.” —Jay Parini, author of The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Last Year
“By seamlessly blending personal memoir and historical insights into Italian American singers—all against an ever-changing America—Mark Rotella has produced a book that is big-hearted and flat-out beautiful.” —Wil Haygood, author of In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.
“Rotella explains the magic of the music; the charisma of Caruso, the charm of Columbo, the nonchalance of Como, the presence that was Prima and the singularity that was Sinatra . . . This is a book for Italian Americans, music lovers, and anyone who enjoys a good read.” —Paul Paolicelli, author of Dances with Luigi