Italy mourns the loss of one of its most cherished musical talents as Toto Cutugno, the legendary pop singer-songwriter, best known for his iconic 1983 hit “L’Italiano,” bid farewell to the world on Tuesday at the age of 80. Cutugno passed away in Milan’s San Raffaele hospital after battling a long-standing illness, as confirmed by his manager, Danilo Mancuso. His health had been in a fragile state over the past few months.
Born in Fosdinovo, Lunigiana, Tuscany, Toto Cutugno’s journey through the world of music was marked by extraordinary contributions and an indelible impact. His early foray into the musical realm began behind the drums, but it was his collaboration with Lino Losito and Mario Limongelli in the Italo disco band Albatros that set the stage for his musical odyssey. In parallel, he embarked on a career as a songwriter, penning some of the most iconic songs for the French-American singer Joe Dassin, including hits like “L’été indien,” “Et si tu n’existais pas,” and “Le Jardin du Luxembourg,” co-written with Vito Pallavicini. His songwriting prowess extended to Dalida’s “Monday Tuesday… Laissez moi danser,” which quickly earned Platinum record status upon its release.
In 1976, Albatros marked their debut appearance in the Sanremo Music Festival, securing third place with their song “Volo 504.” Following this success and another chart-topping hit with “Santamaria de Portugal,” Albatros eventually disbanded, leading Cutugno to focus on his solo career.
Toto Cutugno’s name was etched in the annals of Sanremo history when he clinched victory in the 1980 edition with the song “Solo noi.” Yet, his enduring association with the festival is perhaps best remembered for “L’Italiano” (“The Italian”), a stirring anthem he presented in 1983. Initially intended for Adriano Celentano, who declined to sing it, “L’Italiano” captured the hearts of Italians around the world, celebrating the nation’s most cherished social traits. Although it secured only fifth place in Sanremo, the song soared to become Cutugno’s most iconic international hit.
Throughout his career, Toto Cutugno would return to the Sanremo Music Festival, finishing second on six occasions, cementing his status as a beloved fixture in Italian music. He also held a special place in the hearts of Italians living abroad, particularly in Australia, where he enjoyed three successful tours.
In 1990, Cutugno achieved one of the crowning moments of his career, winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Zagreb with his self-composed ballad “Insieme: 1992” (“Together: 1992”). This heartfelt song celebrated European political integration and the birth of the European Union. His victory made him the oldest Eurovision winner to date at the age of 46 years, 302 days, a record he held until the turn of the millennium. His triumph also marked the last Italian win at Eurovision until Måneskin’s victory in 2021.
Cutugno’s life was not without its controversies. In 2019, a group of Ukrainian politicians sought to prevent him from performing in Kyiv, citing him as a “Russian war supporter in Ukraine.” However, despite the controversy, the concert eventually took place in Kyiv on March 23, proving the enduring pull of his music even in the face of political discord.
As Italy says goodbye to a musical legend, Toto Cutugno’s legacy lives on through his timeless melodies and heartfelt compositions that have touched the hearts of millions around the world. His music will forever be a cherished part of the nation’s cultural tapestry, a testament to his enduring talent and the enduring power of music itself.