• Toto Cutugno has died
  • He was 80 years old
  • THIS was his life and times

Toto Cutugno, whose cliche but catchy song "L'Italiano" defined ideas of Italian culture to millions of listeners across the world has died. He will now have his funeral in Milan on Thursday after his death this week at the city’s San Raffaelle hospital aged 80. Born Salvatore Cutugno to Sicilian parents in Tuscany, the singer was a regular at the famous Sanremo music festival that served as inspiration for the Eurovision song contest. He won the contest in 1980 but finished in second place six times, winning him a reputation as Sanremo’s eternal runner-up.

Toto's career was enviable

But his greatest success was 1983’s "L’Italiano", a song the newspaper 'Corriere Della Sera' described as the "Christian Democrats of canzone". It sold millions of records even though no one would confess to listening to it. His passing has made it to parliament as well. Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni posted to social meda: "Goodbye to Toto Cutugno, a true Italian."

The song was a testament to Italian cliches. "Let me sing, I’m an Italian", it said, namedropping spaghetti al dente, shaving cream with mint flavour, caffè ristretto and a "broken-down Fiat 600". A cover version entitled "I am a Finn" became a hit in Finland the same year. That was his impact.

But his life was not without controversy either. In 2019, Ukrainian members of parliament sought to ban Cutugno from performing in Kyiv due to alleged pro-Russian sympathies but he denied a personal friendship with the Russian president, saying he had only shaken his hands after a concert once.

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"I am a friend of the Russians, not Putin’s. But let’s leave Putin where he is. I wish him all the worst in the world," he clarified. And the the end came. In 2007, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but recovered to take part in the Sanremo contest for one final time in 2010. In recent years he had largely withdrawn from public life.

Italian politicians and musicians gave tributes to the singer after reports of his death on Tuesday afternoon. "Ciao Toto, great Maestro,” wrote another legendary Italian singer Eros Ramazzotti. "We will miss you."