Aspects of Italian and American History

Italians in Music and Performing Arts

The great performer and composer Louis Prima introduced Sicilian and Neapolitan themes into many of his hit songs. Historian Ed Katz was one of the first to recognize this aspect of Prima’s music. “Tight swinging arrangements filtered through his unique humor and Italian sensibility.” However, the Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music considers Prima’s vocalization as "a nonsensical mixture of jive-speak, Neapolitan slang and just plain bad.”

Critics aside, Prima’s music and lyrics spoke to the heart and rhythm of Italian Americans--who were hearing their lingo break out of their restricted ethnicity and into national acceptance and prominence. To their surprise, those words were being accompanied by a healthy romp that was both infectious and stimulating.