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The Italian American Entertainers Who Raised Us

Few of us can forget the voices that echoed through our childhood homes...the lyrics that spoke to Italian Americans everywhere, nor the artists who skillfully breathed life into the bars of each melody. Theirs are the songs we play for a touch of nostalgia, prompting memories of the past to come flooding back. Let’s take a step back in time with these five Italian entertainers whose talent is still finding its way into our homes and hearts.

Nicknamed the “Chairman of the Board,” Frank Sinatra is one of the most popular Italian American entertainers from the 1940s through the 1960s and continues to hold this title in present day. He was born in Hoboken, NJ, a classic Jersey boy, to immigrant parents from Genoa and Sicily. His songs are some of the most well-known to not only Italian families, but Americans as well—from hits like “My Way” to “New York, New York” to “Fly Me to the Moon.” He also doubled as a brilliant actor winning himself an Academy Award for his role in From Here to Eternity. He stole our hearts years ago by doing things ‘his way,’ and will continue to capture our hearts for many years to come.

Dean Martin

Dean Martin was a triple threat and sang perhaps some of the most recognizable Italian American tunes still heard booming from speakers today. While he was born in Ohio, his father came from Abruzzo and his maternal grandfather from Bergamo. He is known for his TV variety-comedy series, “The Dean Martin Show,” and an array of films of which his parts were unforgettable. His most celebrated chart toppers like “That’s Amore,” “Volare” and “Mambo Italiano,” will transport you right back to the fondest of memories from your Italian American adolescence.

Louis Prima

Said to have created some of the most beloved and popular Italian melodies, Louis Prima’s music is undoubtedly synonymous with Italian culture and heritage. Apart from singing, he was a trumpeter and bandleader whose music incorporated not only his Italian roots and language but a heavy influence of jazz and swing from his New Orleans birthplace. His Italian lineage is connected to Sicily as well as the small island of Ustica. His renowned rendition of “Che La Luna” can be found playing in the background of many Tiktoks and Instagram reels as the next Italian generation promises to keep his legacy and music alive!

Born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio, Frankie Valli is the ultimate ‘Jersey boy’ best known for his falsetto voice as the lead singer of the Four Seasons band. His Italian roots trace back to the birthplace of his father in the region of Campania. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and “Sherry” are just two of the countless vocal sensations that he and his band produced. In fact, a musical entitled “Jersey Boys” opened on Broadway years back giving an inside look behind Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. If you’d like to spend an evening reminiscing, grab some tickets to catch Frankie live and in person at one of his new shows; oh what a night!

Responsible for some of the most endearing and witty Italian musical compositions, Lou Monte is widely identified for his Italian-themed novelty records. After putting his entertainment career on hold while serving in WWII, he was later discharged and returned back to his love of music playing in nightclubs. During this time, he finally caught his big break and was hired to do his own show giving him just the platform he needed. This eventually led to releasing some of his greatest hits to the world such as “Lazy Mary,” “Pepino The Italian Mouse,” and everyone’s favorite Christmastime sensation, “Dominick the Donkey.” His Calabrese roots can be revealed in many of his songs as the Calabrese dialect is sprinkled throughout his lyrics.

Sarah Talarico

Sarah Talarico is a writer at heart, with a deep passion for all things Italian. Much of her writing inspiration comes from her Italian American roots that trace back to her father’s beloved hometown in Calabria. Southern Italy holds a special place in her heart, right next to homemade sauce and cappuccini. Sarah has a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and English and a desire to use her writing skills to share the timeless charm of Italy and that ‘dolce far niente’ feeling. In her downtime, she finds joy in filling the plates and seats at her dining room table.