Italian singer Isabella Iannetti released around 20 singles and an album in the 1960s but her similarity to more established stars prevented her making the premier league of pop in her own right. She became a frequent sight at a variety of song contests throughout the decade.
She was born Carmela Jannetti in Trani in south eastern Italy on 25 April 1945. As a child she learnt to play the guitar and the piano and took singing lessons.
In 1963, after appearing in a talent contest, Isabella, as she was now known, was invited to take part in the Cantagiro song contest in the newcomer section. Her twist-inspired T’hanno visto domenica sera, written by a team of well-known names including Adriano Celentano, Miki Del Prete and Mogol, finished a respectable second. It was issued as a single on the Royal label but its sales were hurt when a rival version was released by established star Peppino di Capri, and both versions stalled just outside the Italian top ten.
However, a greater problem for Isabella was that the song was an all-too-obvious attempt to launch her as the label’s answer to new teen star Rita Pavone, and her follow up, the gentler Un ragazzo così, could also have easily passed as a Pavone disc. When it missed the top 40 altogether, Isabella was dropped by Royal.
Fortunately, the Durium label stepped in to offer her a new contract – and showed its faith in the new signing by lining up some high-quality material. First up, she was entered for the 1964 Cantagiro contest singing Va... tu sei libero, a cover of Lesley Gore’s You don’t own me (which the US star had also recorded in Italian).
It was followed in the autumn by Quanti ragazzi, which again had been written by Adriano Celentano and members of his so-called ‘clan’, and is arguably one of Isabella’s finest recordings.
When neither song proved a hit, she found herself taking part in the Un disco per l’estate contest, which was transmitted by radio only at the time. Her Sono tanto innamorata gave Isabella her biggest hit, spending two weeks at number ten in the charts in July 1965.
An appearance at the Naples festival followed, where she performed Guardame. Vivrei di pane was issued as her final single of the year, though fans prefer to flip the record over for M’hai detto ciao.
1966 proved a good year for Isabella, with a win at the Italian song contest in Malta with C’è lui chi me consola and a place in the final of the now-televised Un disco per l’estate with L’amore nei ragazzi come noi. The latter made number 21 in the charts and prompted the release of her first – and only – LP, Ecco Isabella Iannetti.
Una danza al chiar di luna, which she performed at the Rose festival later that year, was also issued as a single.
Having been seen as a poor man’s Rita Pavone initially, she then risked being viewed as a Stars-in-their-eyes version of Caterina Caselli with her 1967 Un disco per l’estate entry, Corriamo. The song reached number 11 in the charts that summer but drew unfavourable comparisons with the bigger star’s Perdono, which had been a hit a year earlier.
Sadly, the highly hummable Una testa dura, her entry to the Rose festival, couldn’t maintain her chart momentum.
An attempt to enter the prestigious San Remo song festival in 1968 with Stannote sentirai una canzone fell before the first hurdle, failing to make it into the contest, but Isabella picked herself up and made a return to, yes, the Un disco per l’estate that summer, with the even more Caselli-like Ricorda, ricorda. Interestingly, the flip, Melodia, proved the more successful side – thanks to a version by Engelbert Humperdinck, which, as The way it used to be, became a top three hit in the UK a few months later. (He had also done the same with Anna Identici’s San Remo entry, Quando m’innamoro, earlier that year.)
Ricorda, ricorda was also re-recorded for release in Spain as Recuerda, recuerda.
Back at home, the easy listening È stato bello per me became her third single of the year, before Natale è qui was issued for the Christmas market.
Her second attempt at the San Remo proved more successful, though La famiglia, which was also performed by its writer, Memo Remigi, failed to make the final in 1969. (The contest was won that year by Iva Zanicchi with Zingara.)
By now Isabella had become an annual fixture at the Un disco per l’estate contest and her 1969 entry, Cuore innamorato, provided another hit, reaching number 12 in the charts that summer.
La lettera became her final single of the decade, but narrowly missed the top 40.
She continued to record in the early 1970s, issuing a string of singles such as Il mare in cartolina (her 1970 Disco per l’estate entry) and Falsità, also from 1970, Senza sole in 1971 and Partita per amore in 1972.
In the mid-1970s she retired from the music business to raise a family.
Follow the links to hear other singers’ versions of Isabella Iannetti songs
Va tu sei libero
Lesley Gore: Va tu sei libero
Valerie Pascale: Tu te trompes
Our pick of the pops
M'hai detto ciao
Un amore inutile
Va... tu sei libero
T'hanno visto domenica sera