Until now, American audiences have had to make do with mere glimpses of the brilliant career of one of Italy’s most famous contemporary artists, the Tuscan singer and songwriter Lorenzo Cherubini, professionally known as Jovanotti.
Over the past twenty years his recorded collaborations with Michael Franti, Ben Harper, Carlinhos Brown, Sergio Mendes, and Bono, among other well-known names, have occasionally caught the ear of the adventurous listener. Delivering lyrics in a half-sung, half-spoken style that has something esthetically in common with a downtown reading by a Beat poet, Jovanotti uses the rhythm and the ricochet of consonants and catchy melodic hooks to create songs that are instantly accessible to an international audience.
Jovanotti launched his musical career in the late ‘eighties from a DJ stint on Milan’s popular Radio Deejay network to become a commercially successful, if not critically regarded, pop rapper/dj. Throughout the ‘nineties, Jovanotti steeped himself in international influences which, not unlike Manu Chao, he synthesized into a uniquely modern version of the traditional Italian singer-songwriter. As his music evolved, so did his lyrics, as he began to use his songs to address philosophical, religious and political issues.
Jovanotti was the first Italian to work for MTV. The term ‘world beat’, used to describe foreign language music with a groove, had just come into vogue as the singer took to the role of Fellini-esque master of ceremonies on the early 1990’s MTV program “Earth to MTV”.
His public commentary on politics became more pronounced on his sixth studio album Lorenzo 1994 and both his critical and international acclaim increased. The song ‘Serenata Rap’ was the most frequently shown video on MTV Latino in that year and Jovanotti made two live concert appearances on MTV Europe.
In the late ‘nineties, Jovanotti made a direct leap into the arena of world music, recording a portion of his seventh album Lorenzo 1997 in South Africa with local musicians and guest stars. He also released a greatest hits album in Spanish with lyrics translated by Jarabe de Palo and Oscar-winner Jorge Drexler.
Jovanotti has recorded eleven studio albums; the four most recent releases have all gone to number one in Italy. His current album, the award-winning, multi-platinum Safari (March 2008) was recorded in Los Angeles, Tuscany, Rio de Janeiro, Hannover, Germany and Milan. The CD has been certified as Italy’s #1 selling album of 2008 with more than 600,000 copies sold.
The name Jovanotti is taken from the plural form of the Italian word giovanotto (“young man”). Lorenzo had once used the Italian-American “Joe Vanotti” as an artistic name before morphing it into his famous moniker “Jovanotti”. The spelling of Jovanotti is anglicized, as the letter J is not used in Italian
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