Monday, August 18, 2008

Domenico Modugno hit #1 with “Volare”

Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blue)

Domenico Modugno

Writer(s): Franco Migliacci, Domenico Modugno, Mitchell Parish (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 7, 1958

Peak: 15 US, 16 CB, 16 HR, 10 UK, 17 AU, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 27.5 video, 41.59 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blue)” translates as “To Fly (In the Blue Painted Sky).” This song definitely flew. It soared to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for five non-consecutive weeks and was named the magazine’s song of the year. It was the first foreign-language song to top the chart and also the first #1 written or co-written by its singer. SF It is the only record to originate in Italy and top the American charts. FB At the very first Grammy awards, the song took home the prizes for Record and Song of the Year, making it the only foreign-language recording to accomplish this feat. WK

Modugno performed the song for the first time on January 31, 1958 with Johnny Dorelli for the Sanremo Music Festival. Italian singers characteristically stood with their arms on their chests, not moving on stage. Modugno, however, opened up his arms as if he was going to fly. His performance “is now considered to be the event that changed the history of Italian music.” WK It got the song selected ast the Italian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1958. It took third place, but with combined sales of all versions of the song topping 22 million worldwide, it has become one of the all-time most popular entries in the contest. WK

The song came about when Franco Migliacci was waiting for Domenico Modugno to show up for a planned trip to the sea. Migliacci started drinking wine and fell asleep. When he woke up, he looked at reproductions of two Marc Chagall paintings on his wall. He was inspired by them and some vivid dreams to write a song about a man who dreams of painting himself blue and being able to fly. WK Bob Dylan described it as “a whimsical song” that is “zooming and whizzing…it gets up to speed and barges into the sun, ricochets off the stars, smokes pipe dreams and blasts into cloud cuckoo land.” BD

Mitchell Parish wrote English lyrics for the song, as did Gracie Fields. The song has also been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, Finnish, and Portuguese. WK The Ames Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Chet Atkins, David Bowie, Petula Clark, Ella Fitzgerald, Connie Francis, Dean Martin, the McGuire Sisters, the Platters, Cliff Richard, Barry White, and Frank Zappa have all covered the song. WK


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Domenico Modugno
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 41.
  • BD Bob Dylan (2022). The Philosophy of Modern Song. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Pages 153-4.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 3/13/2021; last updated 10/23/2022.

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