The Italian Almanac

singing O Sole Mio

Italian News - November 28

Italy's and perhaps the world's most famous song, 'O Sole Mio', is the topic of a new book which traces its inspiration to a visit the author made to Crimea and looks at the many versions and covers the tune has seen. Written by Paquito Del Bosco, the artistic director of the Neapolitan song archive, '0 Sole Mio, the History of the World's Most Famous Song', tells not only the history of the song and its interpreters, but also its complicated publishing history.

Written in 1898, it is undoubtedly one of the world's most recorded songs with versions by Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, Luciano Pavarotti, Ray Charles and, in one of its best selling adaptations, Elvis Presley, who sang the song in English as 'It's Now or Never'. The song has also been the personal favorite of the likes of former Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the late Pope John Paul II.

The book contains a slew of anecdotes about the song including the fact that Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin hummed the tune while becoming the first man to orbit the Earth. There is also the story, told by Marcel Proust, that during the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, the Neapolitan tune was played instead of the Italian anthem because band members did not have the sheet music for the anthem but knew 'O Sole Mio' by heart.