“Let me sing, with a guitar in my hand, let me sing, I’m an Italian”.

With this request, the singer-songwriter Toto Cutugno created one of the best-known Italian popular songs around the world, L’italiano, winner of the public vote at the mythical Sanremo Festival, and which became an anthem of light music in the country. Cutugno died this Tuesday at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan at the age of eighty, where he had been admitted for several weeks to undergo cancer therapy.

But the song that brought Cutungo worldwide fame was not meant for him. The author composed it on a napkin in an Italian restaurant in Canada thinking that Adriano Celentano would sing it, for whom he had already written Soli and Il tempo se ne va, two great successes, but Celentano rejected it because he considered that he had no need to to say that he was “a true Italian”. Later, convinced of the good work he had done, he decided to sing it himself in Sanremo in 1983, where he came fourth with the jury’s vote and first in the popular vote. Domenico Modugno told her that he had written a wonderful song and named her his successor.

Having achieved success with L’italiano, Cutugno later became the second Italian to win the Eurovision with Insieme 1992, in Zagreb in 1990, the first Eurovision festival after the fall of the Berlin Wall, with a song that was also became a Europeanist anthem. It was the first time that Italy had won the silver microphone since Gigliola Cinquetti did in 1964, and the country did not repeat the feat until 2021 thanks to the rock of the Romans Maneskin.

Born in the Tuscan town of Fosdinovo on July 7, 1943, during World War II, Salvatore Cutugno showed his musical vocation from a very young age. When he was a few months old, the family moved to La Spezia, following his father, a non-commissioned officer in the Navy. It was he, who played the trumpet, who transferred his passion for music to him.

In the sixties he began playing drums in the group Toto e i Tati and later formed the group Albatros, where he also sang. Despite his shyness, at the end of that decade he started his solo career and ended up becoming one of the most relevant Italian musicians on an international scale, also achieving great success in Spain, Germany or Russia and Ukraine, with more than one hundred million. of records sold. He went up to fifteen times at the Sanremo festival, which he won in 1980 with the song Solo noi. He also established himself as a notable composer for other singers, from Celentano to Ray Charles –with whom he sang in Sanremo in 1990– or Johnny Hallyday. He also tried his luck in television, where he hosted some programs on Rai, the public channel.

This Tuesday, the whole of Italy came together to say goodbye to the singer-songwriter, starting with the Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, who defined him as “a true Italian.” The Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, said in a statement that he was “an artist, proud to be Italian, also appreciated abroad, whose successes have been the soundtrack of an era.” Other colleagues in the industry mourned his death, such as Laura Pausini, who wrote that he was “a good and gentle Italian artist, man and man.” “I have many memories with him and am sincerely saddened by his passing. A hug to his family and his fans around the world, ”wrote the singer on her social networks.