Born Eros Luciano Walter Ramazzotti Molina on October 28, 1963, in Rome, Italy; son of Rodolfo (a housepainter) and Raffaella Ramazzotti; married Michelle Hunziger (an actor), 1998 (separated, 2002); children: Aurora Sophie. Addresses: Record company--BMG, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
One of the most successful performers ever to emerge on the Italian pop-music scene, Eros Ramazzotti has sold more than 30 million albums since the mid-1980s. The heartthrob balladeer has recorded in both Italian and Spanish, and has a healthy following across Europe as well as throughout Central and South America. Despite some well-financed attempts to crack the American Top 40, Ramazzotti remains a virtual unknown to English-speaking audiences.
Ramazzotti is a major celebrity and pop-music legend in his homeland, thanks in part to his humble beginnings. Born in 1963, he grew up in a tough Rome neighborhood near the Cinecittà filmmaking studio complex. His father, Rodolfo, a housepainter, hoped his son would someday earn his fortune in show business, and took him to the movie sets when he was a youngster, where he was selected for bit parts in Italian films of the era. Rodolfo Ramazzotti had once dreamed of becoming a singer when he was younger, and encouraged his son to take up the guitar at age seven. But Ramazzotti loved soccer as well as singing, and failed to meet the stringent entrance requirements for the musical conservatory in Rome. As he left his teen years behind, he became a housepainter like his father, and also worked as a bricklayer and bartender.
Rodolfo Ramazzotti was still determined that his son should make the family name famous, and entered him in music contests. One of those led to Ramazzotti's 1981 debut at the "Voci Nuove" or New Voices Festival in Castrocaro, Italy. Ramazzotti's "Rock 80" song, which he had written himself, helped land him a contract with the Milan-based record label DDD. He moved north, sleeping in DDD's Milan offices at times, in order to concentrate on his musical career, until eventually his mother Raffaella and brother Marco joined him and they found a place to live. Ramazzotti's first single, "Ad un amico" (1982), didn't fare very well on the charts, but DDD decided to pair him with songwriter Renato Brioschi and lyricist Alberto Salerno, who came up with "Terra Promessa" for him to sing at Italy's famed Sanremo Festival in 1984. The annual event, known officially as the Festival della Canzone Italiana, or Festival of Italian Song, takes place in the Italian Riviera town at the end of winter. A major television event in Italy for days, the festival showcases new performers and champions Italian music of all genres. It dates back to the early 1950s and is considered the most assured way to pop stardom in the country.
Ramazzotti returned to Sanremo in 1985 with "Una storia importante," which brought him a sixth-place finish that year. The song appeared on his debut LP, Cuori agitati, but it was not until the 1986 Sanremo Festival, and his first-place win with "Adesso tu," that Ramazzotti became a major star in Italy. He released his next album, Nuovi Eroi, and its success in other European countries landed him on a concert tour that lasted nearly a year. His next effort, 1987's In Certi Momenti, featured a duet with English film star Patsy Kensit, who would later wed Liam Gallagher of the British rock group Oasis. Their song, "La luce buona delle stelle," which translates as "the good light of the stars," was a huge hit in Germany, and Ramazzotti soon found that his work had a strong following among Spanish-speaking audiences as well. An EP, Musica è, posted strong sales, and Ramazzotti began recording dual versions of his songs in Spanish.
With In ogni senso in 1990, Ramazzotti made his first attempt to win over American audiences. The record was given a promotional push in North America, and he managed to sell out a Radio City Music Hall show, but was somewhat disappointed to find that ticket-buyers were largely Italian-Americans with a penchant for the music of their ancestral land. He followed that with another extensive European tour, and a double-live album from it, Eros in Concert, was recorded in Barcelona, Spain, and released in 1991. He followed this with his first studio effort in three years, Tutte storie, in 1993, which sold some four million copies---with three-quarters of them outside of Italy. Its Spanish-language version, Todo Historias, reached number eight on the Billboard Latin pop charts.
In 1994 Ramazzotti toured Europe as part of the "Trio"---a joint effort with two other Italian musical stars, jazz singer Pino Daniele and the rapper Jovanotti. Two of Ramazzotti's songs appeared in the Marisa Tomei-Robert Downey Jr. film Only You that same year, and he participated in the MTV Europe Awards as well. At the time, he was in negotiations with BMG Ricordi, the Italian arm of the large Bertelsmann Music Group label. A deal was finally inked in February of 1995, and it made history as the largest record contract ever given to an Italian performer. Ramazzotti was signed to make five albums for $31.1 million, and he also formed his own management company called Radiorama, which put him in control of production, publishing, and concert management.
Dove C'è Musica, or "Where There Is Music," was the first of Ramazzotti's albums for BMG, and it sold six million copies after its 1996 release. It was also the first of his efforts that he produced himself, though he continued to write most of the songs with Adelio Cogliati. It was followed by Eros in 1997, a collection of previously songs that he reworked and updated in the studio, both at the microphone and at the mixing board. It featured two new songs, however: "Musica È" ("Music Is") with Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli, and "Cosas de la Vida" ("Can't Stop Thinking of You") with pop diva Tina Turner. The bilingual song, noted Elisabetta Povoledo in the New York Times, "intertwines Mr. Ramazzotti's characteristically nasal inflection with Ms. Turner's big, bawdy voice, reworking an already raunchy song into an even more gregarious dance number."
Ramazzotti decided to give the United States market another try, and returned to Radio City Music Hall in March of 1998, but his efforts failed to make any dents in the charts. Later that year he issued another concert LP, Eros Live, and also performed before a sellout crowd at London's Wembley Arena. Once again, it was a largely Italian audience. The London Guardian's Caroline Sullivan reviewed the show and gave her own opinion of pop music tastes on the European continent: "His act," Sullivan wrote of Ramazzotti, "consists of emoting passionlessly in front of a funk-lite band--Michael Bolton meets Weather Report."
Busy at work producing records for others, Ramazzotti would not issue another studio album until 2000's Stilelibero. Its Spanish-language version, Estile Libre, reached number six on Billboard's Latin album charts. In 2003 he renewed his lucrative deal with BMG International, and issued a new work, 9, which spent 15 weeks at the top spot on the Italian charts. Its Spanish version also did well, peaking at number nine on the Latin pop chart.
Ramazzotti's business remains a family affair, with his brother Marco installed at Radiorama offices. The father of a young daughter born in 1996, Ramazzotti lives outside of Milan and was formerly married to Michelle Hunziger, a lingerie model and television personality. He recalled the drive and dream his father managed to instill in him at an early age. "When I was young, my father told me that I would become famous," he told Povoledo. "I didn't believe it, but he was right. When someone does well at something it means that there's something there, that you are touching some chord. Singing is what I do best."
by Carol Brennan
Eros Ramazzotti's Career
Signed with Italy's DDD label, 1981; released first single, "Ad un amico," 1982; released first LP, Cuori agitati, 1985; made first North American concert appearance at Radio City Music Hall, 1990; toured and recorded with Pino Daniele and Jovanotti, 1994; signed with BMG Ricordi, 1995.
Eros Ramazzotti's Awards
Sanremo Festival of Song, first prize, 1986.
- Selected discography
- Cuori agitati DDD, 1985.
- Nuovi Eroi DDD, 1986.
- In Certi Momenti DDD, 1987.
- Musica è (EP), DDD, 1988.
- In ogni senso DDD, 1990.
- Eros in Concert DDD, 1991.
- Tutte storie DDD, 1993.
- Dove C'è Musica BMG, 1996.
- Eros BMG, 1997.
- Eros Live BMG, 1998.
- Stilelibero BMG, 2000.
- 9 BMG, 2003.
- Billboard, July 2, 1994, p. 62; April 29, 1995, p. 59; May 25, 1996, p. 1.
- Billboard Bulletin, May 30, 2003, p. 1; September 23, 2003, p. 3; December 16, 2003, p. 3.
- Economist, March 4, 2000, p. 53.
- Guardian (London, England), November 14, 1998, p. 12.
- New York Times, March 1, 1998.
- Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), April 23, 1998, p. 16.
- "Biography of Eros Ramazzotti," Rai International, http://www.italica.rai.it/eng/principal/topics/bio/ramazzotti.htm (October 11, 2004).