2nd place at the Sanremo Festival 1960
There’s no two without three, predicted the newspapers on the eve of Sanremo 1960. After the victories of ‘Nel blu dipinto di blu’ (1958) and ‘Piove’ (1959), Modugno seemed destined to win the Festival for the third consecutive time with ‘Libero’. The song was once again written with Migliacci (who the year before had not wanted to offer his collaboration with ‘Piove’ for fear of repeating himself), but not everyone agreed on the decision to present it at Sanremo: Modugno’s own wife, Franca Gandolfi, had suggested that Mimmo sing ‘Io’.
In fact, more than on the qualities of the song, Modugno bets on his exuberant gestural performances, on his somewhat over-the-top interpretation, on metric-poetic devices (‘naviga naviga, scivola scivola, col vento va…’). But a series of circumstances played against him: the artist’s transgressive and histrionic vein this time seemed to irritate the traditional public (the image of the ‘swallow that does not want to return to the nest’ was too much like abandoning the marital roof); one of Modugno’s gimmicks, who wanted to sing the song in a prison uniform, was rejected by the RAI.
Italy was thus divided into two factions, skilfully piloted by the press and television: on one side the unwavering supporters of Mimmo, on the other the fans of melody and Renato Rascel with his ‘Romantica’, who would eventually win the prize. The newsreels of the time seal the challenge with a joke: at the car park a gentleman stops a taxi: “Libero?” and the taxi driver replies: “No, Romantica!”.