The Italian Presence In American Popular Song

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America’s melting pot is a glorious amalgam of 1001 ethnicities, backgrounds and talents. Among the many who came here to stay, American Popular Song owes a special debt to the descendants of Neapolitans, Romans, Venetians, Florentines, Milanese, Calabrians, Sicilians and the countless little villages scattered throughout that colorful boot-shaped land of sea, sun, soil and song.

Before DiMaggio, before LaGuardia, even before Sinatra, the first 20th century Italian American superstar was Enrico Caruso. His renown coincides with the arrival of the earliest recorded mass media, allowing his legendary tenor voice to reach far beyond the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

Popular entertainment would come of age with the addition of the microphone, radio and the talkies; and poised at the center of that garden of delights were Italians: composers Harry Warren and Henry Mancini; singers Russ Columbo, Louis Prima, Jimmy Durante, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Mario Lanza, Frankie Laine, Al Martino, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and, of course, Frank Sinatra.

The Red, White & Green banner continued to wave prominently as Rock replaced Pop in the mainstream: Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, Dion and the Belmonts, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

CANTARE is To Sing, and sing the Italians have throughout the Golden Age of American Popular Song. Clearly Bel Canto is not merely the province of grand opera but essential to ANY great singing. Capisce?!

If you would like to engage Fred Miller for one of his Lectures-in-Song, please contact him directly at any time. For a full listing of all Lectures, click here.

Fred Miller’s Lectures-In-Song comprise a series of solo programs, each an historical, anecdotal and musical profile of some great personality or important aspect of American Popular Song. These Lectures are delivered by singer/pianist/narrator Miller at the piano, and each reflects his lifetime passion and appreciation for great music. He studied classical piano in his hometown of Albuquerque from ages 7-15 but early on gave up any notion of music as a profession. At that time, Fred assumed a musical career was either one devoted to the rigid discipline of classical music or being a freewheeling rock star, and he accurately decided he had no aptitude for either. However, at age 22, upon hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter, he found his calling and life’s mission.

Through the Seventies and Eighties, Miller studied and absorbed in minute detail the life and times and songs of nearly all the great American composers and lyricists who thrived during Broadway & Hollywood’s Golden Age between the two World Wars. In 1987, he founded Silver Dollar Productions in order to produce operettas, dramas, musicals and small cabarets. Silver Dollar Productions required ensemble casts, props, costumes and, most significantly, the challenges of publicity and selling tickets, and for a dozen busy years, the company presented an unbroken string of varied and highly lauded performances.

In 1999, Miller was simultaneously underwritten by both his local Hunterdon County Library and the Art Alliance of Philadelphia to present a series of six solo Lectures-In-Song, each devoted to one of the premiere Broadway/Hollywood songwriters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen.

In presenting history, biography and psychology while sitting at a piano singing the superlative songs of his heroes, Miller has found a single performing medium that utilizes most of his intellectual and musical passions.The list of Lectures-In-Song that began with six in 1999 is now more than seventy(and growing!), a joyful tribute to the boundlessly rich field of American Popular Song.