Songplaces

Naples, Italy

Buona Sera by Louis Prima

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Buona sera, signorina, buona sera
It's time to say goodnight to Napoli
A street in Naples (thanks, Inviaggio)
Louis Prima, aka the King of Swing, enjoyed a long career spanning over four decades; however, it wasn’t until the 1950s and '60s that he found the kind of success that would catapult his status to legendary. The son of Italian immigrants, Prima grew up in New Orleans playing multiple musical instruments and taking an interest in both the music of his homeland as well as newer jazz that he’d heard emerging in the local nightclubs. Often, he’d sneak into the clubs and listen to black musicians, such as Louis Armstrong.

30 years later, Prima signed with Capitol Records and the rest, as they say, is history. Many of his songs became popular in their day and have since gained timeless appeal for generations – particularly Italians or lovers of swing and jazz music. "Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody," "Jump Jive and Wail," "When You’re Smiling," and "Oh Marie" all showcase Prima’s raucous talents as a vocalist and arranger. Additionally, Prima voiced King Louie in Disney’s 1967 animated feature The Jungle Book and contributed the song "I Wanna Be Like You" to the soundtrack. His most famous romantic ballad though, "Buona Sera," pays tribute to the country of his roots.
Pizza Margherita
(thanks, Austin Keys)
The city of Naples in Italy is one of the oldest continuously lived in metropolitan areas across the globe. Early Greeks established settlements as far back as the second millennium B.C. Located south-centrally and along the west coast – facing the Mediterranean – Napoli (as it’s called in Italian) has grown into one of the largest European cities with a population between 3 and 4 million strong. It’s the third largest in the nation behind only Rome and Milan; on top of that, the city boasts an historic city center covering 4,200 acres (the largest on the continent) and encompassing 27 centuries of history. Just outside the city limits, numerous significant sites can be found, including the ruins of Pompeii.

Naples experienced a resurgence in popularity following World War II. Being the most heavily bombed city in Italy paved the way for the reconstruction of large business districts, the greatest of which is the Centro Direzionale, and an advanced public transportation system in and out of the city. The government has since expanded the subway, developed a high-speed rail link to Rome, and has experienced rapid economic growth during the latter half of the 20th century.

Additionally, the region became well known for its pizza. After World War II, thousands of American soldiers returned home demanding the circular, flatbread treat they’d survived on while stationed in the areas around Naples. Thus, the pizza craze was born across the ‘Pond.’ Another popular urban legend explains that Pizza Margherita was named after a queen who visited the Royal Palace of Capodimonte and loved seeing the colors of the flag emblazoned upon her pie: red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella cheese).
Castle Dell'Ovo on the island of Megaride in the Gulf of Naples (thanks Gilmnogueira)
Neapolitan folk music features the mandolin, a stringed instrument invented in the 18th century, which has still remained in use today by many popular musical genres including Italian folk, bluegrass, Celtic, film score, and alternative rock. The 1991 mega-hit "Losing My Religion" by Georgia rock band R.E.M. utilizes a prominent mandolin. Louis Prima also used the mandolin quite frequently in his band, including the song "Buona Sera."

"Buona Sera" – which translates literally to "Good Night" – tells the simple and romantic tale of two lovers on an evening stroll through old Naples. The narrator declares his intentions to marry the girl among the picturesque set pieces of the Mediterranean Sea and the Campanian volcanic arc – a mountain range with Mount Vesuvius as its star. “By that little jewelry shop we’ll stop and linger, while I buy a wedding ring for your finger.” Prima succeeds in both conjuring up images of the serene and romantic Italian city and lulling the listener into the soothing tones of his biggest hit ballad. It’s a timeless song that describes a time and a place we’d all like to visit.
~ Justin Novelli

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