Fare l’americano, dagli anni Cinquanta a oggi: riflessioni sulle cover versions della hit carosoniana

Gianpaolo Chiriacò, Gerhild Fuchs

Abstract


Since its first release in 1956, Renato Carosone’s Neapolitan swing “Tu vuò fa’ l’americano” has been covered extensively. The interest in this piece increased significantly after 1999, thanks to its use in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley and a number of ‘interlinguistic’ covers.
This study aims at identifying the main elements, both in the lyrics and in the music of the original song, that generated this flow of alternative versions, as an attempt to discern the “patchwork of references” that has become a fundamental feature of popular music (Holm-Hudson 2002). It argues that the ironic use of national and cultural stereotypes is at the core of the process of covering “Tu vuò fa’ l’americano”, together with the fundamentally intercultural sonic and textual representation of a Neapolitan-wannabe-American. Simultaneously, the musical structure has been adopted by the covers as a sort of elastic structure from which each musician and composer can extract bits that are relevant to their artistic discourse while still retaining a recognizable relationship to the original.
The article is introduced by an overview of the theoretical discussion around the process of covering that gravitates around – although not restricted to – taxonomies of covers in popular music. The central part focuses on musical and textual components that inspired artists to create different versions of “Tu vuò fa’ l’americano”. It then provides an interpretation of a substantial, albeit not exhaustive, corpus of different covers of Carosone’s hit, dividing them into typologies that aim not only at pointing out the semiotic processes involved, but also at casting light on the reasons why this song has been covered within such a vast array of linguistic and stylistic contexts.


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