Like the Phoenix of Greek mythology, "Prisencolinensinainciusol" has a way of rising from the ashes every time you think it's dead. The irresistibly catchy song's enduring appeal is pretty amazing considering its lyrics are total gibberish.
The song's writer, Adriano Celentano, was born in Milan, Italy. At the time he recorded "Prisencolinensinainciusol," he was possibly the biggest celebrity in his native country. He later became known as the man who brought rock and roll to Italy.
In describing what Celentano was to 1970s Italian culture, Cory Doctorow said, "Imagine the love child of Jim Carrey, Bill Mahr and Tom Jones, and you get Celentano."
Doctorow, cofounder of Boing Boing, was the person who brought the song back to life for 21st Century America. He discovered a video of it while surfing and reposted it to Boing Boing, which set "Prisencolinensinainciusol" on viral fire.
"Prisencolinensinainciusol" was almost completely ignored when it was first released. Undeterred, Celentano performed the song some years later on Italian television. This time the tune caught the public's attention. It became a hit in Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Since then, the song has shown a remarkably resilient attitude. Every few years or so, it seems, it gets remade by some notable European musician or other. Millions of people still watch videos of early performances.
In 2017, a new version was recorded by Chicago's Tub Ring. That same year, the song was featured on an episode of Netflix's Fargo.
In 2012, Celentano told NPR that the lyrics were meant to sound the way English sounded to him.
"Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did," he said. "So at a certain point, since I like American slang - which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than to sing in Italian - I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn't mean anything."
He went on to say, "So to make a comparison, it's like what happened with the Tower of Babel. Everyone wanted to go towards the sky, and they were punished because God confused all the languages and no one understood each other anymore. This is the reason why I wrote this song."
In writing the song, Celentano started out with a drum loop of four beats. He took this loop to a recording studio and improvised a melody and music into the mic to go with it. After that he called the orchestra and recorded the song.
The only actual word in the song is "alright."