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Amore: The Story of Italian American Song Hardcover – September 14, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Rotella's revelatory follow-up to Stolen Figs is much more than the story of the years after the war and before the Beatles, when Italian-Americans ruled popular music--it's an astute examination of how the Italians integrated into America. With thorough research combined with a lyrical writing style (" voice glides like a bow over the strings"), Rotella transports readers into a vibrant, colorful world with tours of a museum devoted to the megaselling Enrico Caruso, complete with cans of Caruso Olive Oil ("100 percent olive oil for Italians; a blend of 75 percent peanut and 25 percent olive oils ÿfor 'mericans' ") and of onetime superstar Nick Lucas's old neighborhood in Belleville, N.J. Folk and popular songs from Italy are deftly woven into the larger story of how a once unwelcome ethnic group became a vital part of American culture. In documenting the progress of Italian integration into mainstream America, classic songs such as Frank Sinatra's "I've Got the World on a String," Frankie Lane's "That Lucky Old Sun," and Dean Martin's "That's Amore" create opportunities to expand on the story of the singer, the song, and the state of the union, resulting in a rich and reverential tapestry. Rotella's keen eye and enthusiast's ear make for sumptuous reading and will garner a renewed appreciation for these performers while those readers unfamiliar with the major works of Tony Bennett or Perry Como, let alone Russ Columbo and Julius La Rosa, will be inspired to load up their iPod.
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“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
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It was a discovery to see how the singers traced their musical heritage through one another to Italian opera, and how interconnected they were to the paths of their contemporaries, often coming from the same neighborhoods. The author's trips to these neighborhoods, and identification with the culture, add personal warmth to the telling. The sentiments can be bittersweet, though. The genesis of the book was an exploration of the music that gave courage to the author and his wife as they battled cancer. I was also shocked to read that Italian-American immigrants had been subjected to lynching and wartime civil internment camps. Rather than derailing the otherwise joyful tone of his story, this highlights the depth of the passion from which all the music and memories arise. It's a story told with amore.
I hope that Amore continues to stimulate further writing on an important subject that has certainly not received enough attention.
Russ Columbo has become a new favorite of mine!