Domenico Modugno (January 9, 1928 – August 6, 1994) was an Italian singer and songwriter, born in Polignano a Mare in the Puglia region of Italy. From a young age he wanted to become an actor, and in 1951 after his military service, he enrolled in an acting school. While still studying, he had a role in a cinematographic version of Filumena Marturano by Eduardo De Filippo, as well as some other films.
In 1957, his song “Lazzarella,” sung by Aurelio Fierro, earned second prize in the Festival della Canzone Napoletana, bringing him his first taste of popularity. In 1958 Modugno took part in Antonio Aniante’s comedy La Rosa di Zolfo at the Festival della Prosa in Venice.
The turning point of his career came in that year, when he also participated in the Sanremo Music Festival, presenting together with Johnny Dorelli, the song “Nel blu dipinto di blu.” Co-authored by Modugno and Franco Migliacci, the song won the contest and suddenly became an enormous discographical success worldwide, especially in the United States. It received two Grammy Awards with sales far over a million copies, and represented Italy in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest, where it came in third. In 1959, Modugno won the Sanremo Music Festival for the second time in a row with the song “Piove” (also known as “Ciao, ciao bambina”), and received second place in 1960 with “Libero.” Later his hit song “Io” was sung by Elvis Presley in English with the title “Ask Me.”
In 1962, Modugno won the Sanremo Music Festival a third time with “Addio…, addio…” Four years later, he again represented Italy at Eurovision with “Dio, come ti amo.” The 1970s kept Modugno’s voice and mind busy in more classic music genres and profiles as a singer and as a musician adapting poetry, acting on television, and singing in leading roles of modern operas.
In 1986, Modugno entered the political arena as a member of the Italian Radical Party and was elected congressman for Turin in June 1987. In this last stage of his life, he was very active in social issues, fighting against the inhuman conditions and treatment of patients in the Psychiatric Hospital of Agrigento, Sicily. Domenico Modugno died from a heart attack in Lampedusa, Italy, in August 1994 in his home by the sea.