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Italian pop culture icon Gianni Morandi worked his way up from the bottom of the entertainment industry. Born in 1944, as a child Morandi sold soda and candies at the local movie theater in his native town of Monghidoro to make ends meet. He made his performance debut at age 12, singing in the public square on New Year's Day in 1956. His noticeable musical talent caused his parents to move him from traditional schooling to a school in Bologna, where he studied song and performance with master vocalist Alda Scaglioni. He made his official debut in 1958 in Alfonsine, Ravenna; three years later Morandi formed a band, and was soon referred to as the Italian Paul Anka. In 1962, he won a small talent competition where he met and impressed boxing and entertainment promoter Paul Lionetti, who arranged an audience with RCA executives. That same year, the world was introduced to Morandi via his premier 45, "Andavo a Cento All'ora." Morandi's popularity blossomed in 1969 with his win at the Canzonissima Festival. Although he experienced a slight decline in popularity during the '70s, the next decade was a great one for him, punctuated with his winning performance at the prestigious Sanremo Festival in 1987.
Morandi slowed down a bit in the '90s and 2000s, but still continued to regularly release albums. He saw a late-period comeback -- and his biggest success in decades -- in 2016 when, at the age of 71, he teamed up with similar-vintage pop legend Claudio Baglioni for a project they called Capitani Coraggiosi ("Captains Courageous," named for the novel by Rudyard Kipling). A super-smooth eponymous single, several television specials, and a string of live dates that saw the pair having the time of their lives on-stage culminated in the double-live album Capitani Coraggiosi: Il Live, which went to number one. Over the course of his career, it is estimated that Morandi has sold more than 50 million records. In addition to a successful recording career, he has appeared in numerous films and played a number of popular television roles. Having enjoyed six decades of unmatched success, Gianni Morandi is among Italy's greatest performers of all time. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez