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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Great Child Singers II: Robertino Loretti, An Adolescent Crooner

The move from Joselito's fiery and passionate gypsy singing to Robertino Loretti's slow, soft, almost coctail-lounge crooning is fascinating. He and Joselito were born at roughly the same time (Joselito in 1943 and Robertino in 1947) and both were quite popular, Joselito more so because of the very large number of films he made. They represent two extremes of child singing. Joselito's is highly unusual for a child because of the extreme flexibiltiy and power of his voice,[see previous piece if you have not] and Loretti's because of its sweetness and choir-boy-like softness. Robertino's recording of the old Italian favorite "Mamma" tells the story very well:

Notice the gentleness of the attack, the almost lilting legato, the syrupy sentimentality and the immaculate diction. You can understand every word. Also, the tempo is uncommonly slow, largely as a result of his caressing the climax of each phrase. Robertino's voice has soprano qualities and he sings more nearly on the fine edges of the chords than Joselito did. To use the language of popular music, I think one could say that Joselito was a belter and Loretti was more of a crooner. Both are legitimate; each has its audience. Joselito's voice is more exciting, but edgy and sometimes a little harsh. Loretti's is sweet as can be, but can cloy. Neither child is the result of study and auditioning. Joselito burst onto the scene full-blown, and Loretti was noticed singing as he delivered bakery products for his family. He was hired to sing at a wedding in a restaurant, and that is where he got his start. Singing in restuarants is fine, but of course it creates a certain kind of style, perhaps best described, at least in the age of the microphone, as night club crooning. His reputation grew, and a TV and concert career followed. His career was international and he was especially popular, for some reason, in Russia, where he made many friends. He is still singing today, in his 60's. He certainly never hurt his voice singing the way he did.

Robertino did not always croon—he had a more legitimate voice, although still of the coctail lounge kind, as evidenced in what I think may his best recording, Jamaica:

This is excellent singing, and quite attractive. Roberto's range is much more limited than Joselito's, but it is adequate for the kind of music he sang, and was comfortable singing.

Different kinds of singing attract different audiences, owing both to the quality of the voice and the repertoire (and looks) of the singer. Both Joselito and Robertino were nice looking boys, but their audiences were distinct. It's only a generalization, but one could say that Robertino was at least to a certain extent the darling of elderly ladies, while Joselito had such a devastating effect on girls of his own age that he had to be locked in a hotel room between shows to keep them out, much, I'm sure, to Joselito's absolute distress.

It is the sign of either a naturally intelligent child, or a very well managed one, to stick with songs that are comfortable and can be fairly easily done. Loretti seems to have had a much calmer temperament, and to have been well managed. He made a seamless transition to adulthood, although of course he is not as popular now as an adult singer because there are countless numbers of singing adults. The competition is a little tougher at 30 than it is at twelve:) Joselito's transition to adulthood was an absolute disaster, and his life largely a failure. Sometime around 2001, if memory serves, he was in jail in Angola as a drug dealer and gun smuggler. He presently lives in quiet seclusion in Spain. In his case it was ruthless and exploitative managers, coupled with the breaking of the voice which left him a kind of boudoir baritone who was utterly uninteresting.

Two children, two styles and voices, and two brilliant childhood careers.


Anonymous said...

Great article. I didn’t know that there are different “schools” of boy singing, because usually children sing in church choir style. Joselito is very different.
Robertino was one of few foreign singers whose recordings were not banned in the USSR in the 1950’s. Perhaps our officials knew about Joselito, but the subjects of his films were too religious.
Loretti became tremendously popular, he was almost a national hero:) Maybe because Neapolitan songs were always popular in Russia, Loretti’s repertoire was easy for our audience.Besides, his voice was truly angelic and Italian language sounded exotic.
A very popular cartoon character, the “Little Hare” even sang O sole mio like Loretti. The song begins at 5:55


Edmund said...

:) I love the Little Hare. He's really cute, like Bugs Bunny. Yes, I never thought of the religious connection, and of course you are quite right. There would also be political problems. That film of Joselito's, "The Nightingale," dates back to Franco's Spain, and of course Franco and his forces had just fought and won a dreadful civil war against a party that had many Communist and international Socialist volunteers in it, so nothing would be going from Spain to the USSR in those days, for sure. Neither Joselito nor Robertino were much known in the United States. They were just too foreign, and they sang in Latin languages. Americans traditionally have shown very little interest in knowing foreign languages or cultures. That is changing a bit now, with the huge influx of Hispanics into the country, but they will soon learn English. About the only child singer I can recall who excited much interest was Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz (1939) or Charlotte Church more recently, certainly to a lesser extent. (Somebody will have to explain Charlotte Church to me; I'm sure it's my fault, but I just don't get it.) I don't know if Robertino ever learned any Russian or not--maybe enough to sing a Russian song or two, but I can't find any evidence of it. Perhaps you will know. He certainly loves Russia, and I understand has made a lot of good friends there.

JD Hobbes said...

One thinks also of Shirley Temple. But of course she was a special case.

Edmund St. Austell said...

"An-i-mal crack-ers in my soup......." Yes, cute as they come, but not quite the same kind as thing as Joselito singing La luz de tus ojos, or Robertino singing O sole Mio:) But cute, oh yes...!

Anonymous said...

Carissimo Robertino Loretti, scrivo a nome di mia mamma che è una tua grande fan.Seccome compie gli anni il 15.01.2011, avrei il piacere che le dedicasse un pensiero insieme ad una canzone. Si chiama Angela compie 74 anni.GLORIA

Edmund St. Austell said...

Grazie per la scrittura. Io so che Robertino rimane fedele a tutti i suoi ammiratori, soprattutto quelli che lo hanno seguito per molti anni.

Anonymous said...

Soy una mujer finlandesa. Me llamo Berit Saukko.Robertino y Joselito son los grandes ídolos mios. Pero quiero preguntar si Él sabe a quattro jovenes italianos, quiénes cantan como operasingers. Son los tenores, y son ingreiblemente buenos. Tienen 12-15 años. Sus nombres son Ignazio Boschetto, Piero Barone y Gianluca Ginoble quienes cantan juntos, y Jacobo Menconi quién tiene la voz como un grande hombre, aunque es solamente 12 años y pequeño. Encontraba a los ellos ayer en YouTube. Saludos, Berit.

Edmund St. Austell said...

Muchas gracias por escribir. Los cantantes que Vd. menciona me son desconocidos, pero voy a buscarlos inmediatamente! Mucho le agradezco estas informaciones, Berti. Si puedo encontrar buenas grabaciones, es posible que dedique un articolo especial a este grupo de jovenes cantantes. Gracias de nuevo! Edmund