“Nel blu dipinto di blu” (Italian pronunciation: [nel ˈblu ddiˈpinto di ˈblu]; literally “In the blue that is painted blue”), popularly known as “Volare” [voˈlaːre] (meaning “flying”), is a song recorded by Italian singer-songwriter Domenico Modugno. Written by Franco Migliacci and Domenico Modugno, it was released as a single on 1 February 1958.
Winning the eighth Sanremo Music Festival, the song was chosen as the Italian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in 1958, where it won third place out of ten songs in total. The combined sales of all the versions of the song exceed 22 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular Eurovision songs of all time and the most successful Sanremo Music Festival song ever.
It spent five non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in August and September 1958 and was Billboard’s number-one single for the year. Modugno’s recording subsequently became the first Grammy winner for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1958.
The song was later translated in several languages and it was recorded by a wide range of performers, including Bobby Rydell, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Jerry Vale, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Dalida, Gipsy Kings, Chico & the Gypsies, Deana Martin and Barry White.
Background and composition
Franco Migliacci started working on the lyrics of the song in June 1957, inspired by two paintings by Marc Chagall. He had planned to go to the sea with Domenico Modugno, but while waiting for Modugno to show up, Migliacci started drinking wine and eventually fell asleep. He had vivid dreams, and when he woke up, he looked at the Chagall paintings (reproductions) on the wall. In “Le coq rouge” was a yellow man suspended in midair, while in “Le peintre et la modelle”, half the painter’s face was coloured blue. So he started penning a song about a man who dreams of painting himself blue, and being able to fly. Later that same night, Migliacci discussed his lyrics with Modugno, and for several days they worked on the song, tentatively entitled “Sogno in blu” (Dream in blue).
Much later, in 2008, Franca Gandolfi recalled that her husband, Domenico Modugno, after a storm forced open his window, had the idea of modifying the chorus of the song, introducing the word “Volare”, which is now the popular title of the song.