Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Remembering Giuni Russo

Giuni Russo has nothing to do with Eurovision, I know, but she was one of the most remarkable Italian artists, collaborated with Franco Battiato, did Sanremo and most of all if things went the right way could have been in Eurovision as well. She died six years ago today.
She was born as Giuseppa Romeo in a big family in Palermo, Sicily in 1951. Her mother was a natural soprano and opera was part of the daily life in Romeo household, In 1967 she won Castrocaro, the contest for the new talents and got a ticket to Sanremo in 1968. She called herself Giusy Romeo with No amore but the song flopped. Her second single L'onda was more succesful and took her to Festivalbar and even Cantagiro, two important and historic Italian festivals. She then released another single Fumo negli occhi/I primi minuti, both covers of American successes and with that she closes the first chapter of her artistic career.
She moved to Milan and met Maria Antonietta Sisini, her partner for the life and career for the rest of her life.  In 1975 she got a contract again and under name Junie Russo, pretending to be Italo-American, she released an album all in English, Love is a woman, All this pilotated by her German record company who in the end was useless in promoting her. She writes with Sisini Che mi succede adesso, her last release under name Junie in 1976. 
In 1978 after a change of record company she released Soli noi that turns into a small hit despite total lack of promotion and got noticed even in France. Through Alberto Radious she met Franco Battiato and finally finds the perfect team. Battiato and Giusto Pio with Radius write and produce with Giuni and Sisini her album Energie in 1981. Her unique voice finally sits in the music and she secured also a recording deal of five future albums with CGD, proper promotion and Italians fell in love with her. Songs like Una vipera saró, Crisi metropolitana and L'addio hit the radiowaves and in 1982 the success continues with the megahit and evergreen Un'estate al mare where she even gets to imitate a seagull. The song stays in charts for more than 8 months, wins Festivalbar, sells gold and Giuni wins Vota la voce as the newcomer of the year. Next single Good good-bye follows off the next album Vox and things start to turn a bit sour. The record company, in person of Caterina Caselli, wants more commercial songs a lá Un'estate al mare. Songs like Sere d'agosto, Abbrozzate dai miraggi, Buenos Aires and L'oracolo di Delfi are used as promotion but Giuni wants to do more serious music.
In 1984 she was supposed to be in Sanremo with Ciao but the record company replaces her the last minute with Parry Pravo. Next album Mediterranea is published and while Giuni prefers the title track as the first single or Demenzial song the record company insists on Limonata cha cha cha and the tension is high between her and Caselli. The next album does not interest the record company anymore and they release it in late summer to make sure no one noticed it's out. However she manages to get to Festivalbar with Algheró and leaves her record company. Her next album including Adrenalina is released by a minor record company and difficulties start. She released an album A casa di Ida Rubinstein in 1988  but no one but diehard fans noticed. Un'estate al mare gets played every summer and greatest hist compilations are being issued by old record companies but Giuni herself isn't able to get to TV and shows (a bit similar fate as Alice but even worse). 
In 1992 she released album Amala with only two new tracks, Amala and Alla spiaggia dell'amore but in 1994 a whole new album is released Se fossi piú simpatica sarei meno antipatica, including La sua figura, accepted to Sanremo 1994 but then dropped from the published confirmed list (Catarina, did you do it?). The album also includes a duet with Battiato, Strade parallele. Meanwhile she continues her career in more artistic music, participating in Premio Tenco both 1994 and 1995 performing Ciao amore ciao, arranged by once again by Battiato. 
In 1997 she released a single Gabbiano and the year after to celebrate her 30th anniversary in business a live album Voce prigioniera with a bonus cd including her A casa di Ida Rubinstein, until the a very hard to find item. In 2002 another live album, Signorina Romeo live is released but printed only a few thousend copies.
In 2003 she is finally accepted again to Sanremo, after 35 years thanks to Pippo Baudo with the song Moriró d'amore arranged again by Battiato. The song didn't make it in 1997 when the jury thought  "the singer can't hold the tune". Her look may have shocked people but she took home the 7th place plus the award for the best arrangement and an album with the same name was released being a commercial success. Later that year she participates in Napoli che canta project and released a soundtrack with the same name in 2004. The big audience found her again finally after all these years but sadly she died the night between September 13-14, 2004. Her funeral in Milan on 15th was a major media event and her friends and collegues of all these years including Battiato and Alice were there as well as Maria Antonietta Sisini, always on her side. She is  now taking care of Giuni's heritage and production and several albums have been released since with unreleased songs and recordings. With respect and good taste unlike the situation with some other artists. 
Ok, this was a long one but Giuni was and is one of my favourite artists, incredble artist indeed. Alice's Nomadi was written by Juri Camisasca originally for her but she was unable to record and publish it due contracts or lack of them so it ended up on Alice's Park Hotel. If only she could have released it in 1986 and she had a record company to back her up things could have been so different for her...


caite said...

Thank you for this really lovely article on Giuni. Wish all her international fans could work to get her the post-humous recognition her arte deserves.
Best wishes from London

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have loved her voice and songs since our first trip to Italy in the early 1980's, when we were in a store that was playing "Mediterranea." I asked, "Who is that singing?" And the salesman said smiled and said, "It is Giuni Russo. Now you are a fan forever." And I smiled and nodded my head. I look forward to more CDs of her unreleased recordings and, hopefully, DVDs of her performances. Thank you for this lovely tribute. She was a treasure.

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