Performing Italian in the American Songbook

Mark Rotella

In the years after World War II and before the advent of the Beatles, Italian-American performers captivated the American public with a smooth, classy brand of pop singing. Mark Rotella, author of Amore: The Story of Italian American Song (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), identifies this time as “the Italian Decade,” when singers like Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Connie Francis, and Frank Sinatra, among others, topped the music charts. From street corners to nightclubs to the Vegas Strip, Italian-American performers exhibited a distinctive style—what Rotella characterizes as “cocky and tender, tough and vulnerable, serious and playful, forward-thinking and nostalgic”—that shaped pop music in the United States.