Roberto Murolo was a musical institution, both in his home of Napoles and all of Italy, during the middle and second half of the 20th century. The son of poet Ernesto Murolo and the former Lia Cavalli, he was born in 1912 and showed a strong interest in music from an early age, especially singing and playing the guitar, at which he became extremely proficient. He spent his early professional years as a member of a quartet, with which he performed away from Italy from 1939 through 1946. His solo career -- focused almost exclusively on Neopolitan song, traditional and popular alike, began with his return to Italy in 1946. In addition to establishing himself as a concert artist and a popular figure on radio, with his romantic, sentimental sound, he also did some acting in movies, appearing in the 1953 crime drama [RoviLink="VW"]The Counterfeiters, made in Italy by director Franco Rossi. Murolo became virtually a cultural ambassador from Naples to the world, and it was because of his recordings and performances that Neopolitan song was spread across five other continents.
He was very conscious of the history of music in Naples, and his own repertoire came to encompass songs from across several centuries of Neopolitan music, going back to 16th century comic opera and even further, to the end of the Middle Ages. His initial recording career culminated in 1963 with a 12-LP survey of Neopolitan song covering the period from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. He continued to concertize into the 1990s and resumed recording in his late seventies -- in 1990 -- with a pair of albums entitled 'Na Voce 'Na Chitarra, Vols. 1 & 2; he followed this two years later with an album released for his 80th birthday, L'Italia +¿ Bella. This heralded an Indian Summer of recording work for Murolo, including a collaboration with Portuguese singer Am+ília Rodrigues. In 1995, he was honored by Italy's president, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, with the republic's highest civilian honor. He was given a life achievement award at the San Remo Festival in 2000 as well. Murolo passed away in 2003 at age 91, one of the most beloved singers in Italy and a cultural hero without peer in Naples. ~ Bruce Eder
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