The career of Italy’s Fiammetta is now in its sixth decade. Despite touring with The Rolling Stones, Adriano Celentano and Massimo Ranieri, the young singer enjoyed only modest success in the 1960s. However, she went on to develop an all-round appeal, becoming a popular TV and radio show host in later decades.
She was born Fiammetta Tombolato in Rome on 1 April 1950. Her father was a song lyricist and the family encouraged young Fiammetta in her musical leanings.
In 1963, she won a place at the Ribalta per San Remo contest, where she was spotted by scouts from the Durium record label. They signed her to the company’s Sprint subsidiary and she was quickly dispatched into the studio to cut her first record.
The resultant È facile was a catchy number that, with greater promotion, could have turned the singer into a star overnight. But it wasn’t to be – and the follow up, the twist-inspired Luna in bikini, issued later that year, fared no better, despite having won the Venice song festival.
By now, with some live performances under her belt, Fiammetta had gained confidence on stage and she was asked to take part in a tour alongside star Adriano Celentano. This sparked rumours that the singer would replace Milena Cantù as the girl in Celentano’s clan.
This proved not to be the case, but Fiammetta’s notoriety did lead to a one-off single for the Fantasy label. To the surprise of many, the excellent Gira al largo, backed with the appealing Tornerà and issued in 1964, failed to sell.
However, bosses at the youth-oriented Mini-Bluebell label liked what they heard and snapped up the teen singer. This began what would become the most commercially successful period of Fiammetta’s career.
Issued in 1966, Quando la campagna suonerà, a version of The Kinks’ Big black smoke, became her first release for the new label. Both the A-side and its flip, a version of Sonny and Cher’s Little man, proved popular and saw Fiammetta become a familiar face on television’s Settevoci pop programme.
And when The Rolling Stones announced an Italian tour, it was Fiammetta who was offered the chance to support the group as they played the country. Later the same year, she would also join home-grown star Massimo Ranieri as he toured Australia.
Upon her return, Fiammetta was entered for 1967’s Disco per l’estate contest. She took her entry, Ricordare o dimenticare, penned by top songwriter Mogol, through to the finals of the contest. However, when the scores were tallied, she stalled outside the top ten. Nevertheless, the song was issued as a single, with the great Grida alla vita on the B-side, and made the lower reaches of the Italian pop charts. It remains Fiammetta’s best-known release.
She returned to the contest the following year with the ballad Prega per me, and again reached the final. (A couple of other, previously unreleased tracks from this period – Decisione and Il sole e il vento – have recently surfaced on a compilation CD.)
That autumn, she took part in an alternative San Remo contest to promote songs that hadn’t made it to the actual contest, with the so-so Sette grandi alberi. The song also marked Fiammetta’s move to the Belldisc label.
1969 saw the singer enter the Un disco per l’estate contest for the third and final time. Her entry, the rather cheesy Ma che domenica, is perhaps best overlooked. Indeed, when the song was issued as a single, it was the flip, Serenità, that became the preferred side of most fans.
The record’s lack of success saw the singer pass to a succession of labels. First up was Ricordi, where she issued Tranquilità, a song she had performed at the 1970 Cantagiro contest. Then she moved to Joker, where she cut Ho bruciato i miei vent’anni, in 1971.
A stint at Picci lasted longer and proved more successful. It began with Il tango delle capinere, which she performed on RAI’s Giovanissimi programme in 1972. An LP, Io l’altra faccia della luna – her first and only album – and further singles soon followed.
By the middle of the decade, Fiammetta had broadened out her career, becoming a television presenter and all-round variety performer. She starred in Swiss television’s Musical magazine series and performed the theme tune, Watch my feet.
After recording a series of songs for children, Fiammetta began to carve a niche for herself as a radio presenter. For her show Primo nip, she also cut the theme tune, Quella canzone irresistibile. In 1980, she became the presenter of Telemontecarlo’s Un’ora per voi TV show.
At the same time, Fiammetta started taking piano and guitar lessons and writing her own material. Credibility came when her Sulla strada was used as the theme tune to the TV programme Sereno variabile. When another of her songs, Che week-end, was also used on the show, and singer Federico enjoyed a hit with her Canzone d’amore, it seemed that a second career beckoned for the singer. Whether her decision to market herself at this time as ‘the singer on roller skates’ did her any favours is open to question.
After appearing in Federico Fellini’s film La città delle donne and hosting the radio show Week-end – for which she supplied the theme song, È più sabato che mai – Fiammetta returned to recording the occasional song aimed at the children’s market.
However, a surprise win at the Rome song festival in 1996 with the song Tra veglia e sonno set her career back on track. The following year, she recorded a couple of duets, Miracolo italiano and I fiori del male, with Stefano Rosso.
In 2001, she returned to the radio studios to present the series Quindici minuti con Fiammetta, in which she interviewed music stars from across the years.
She continues to perform live to this day.
Our pick of the pops
Gira al largo
Ricordare o dimenticare
Quando la campagna suonerà
Grida alla vita
Prega per me