Andrea Bocelli

  • Operatic/pop tenor born in 1958 in Lajatico, Tuscany, Italy.
  • Bocelli was born with congenital glaucoma, and at age 12 he completely lost his sight after suffering a brain hemorrhage while playing goalkeeper in a soccer game and taking a hit in the eye with a ball. He sang as a child, and he won his first vocal competition when he was 14, singing ’O sole mio. He earned money performing at piano bars, and used the money to complete law school. For a year, he was a court-appointed lawyer, defending people who could not afford an attorney.
  • In 1992, Italian rock star Zucchero wrote a song titled Miserere and he auditioned tenors to sing it for a demo tape to be sent to Pavarotti – Zucchero hoped that Pavarotti would record the song. When Pavarotti heard the tape with Bocelli singing, Pavarotti suggested to Zucchero that Bocelli record it instead of Pavarotti. Eventually, both Bocelli and Pavarotti sang it as a duet, and it became a hit in Europe. This led to Bocelli performing with Zucchero on tour, where Bocelli performed Miserere and another operatic piece. In December that year, he sang Miserere at a music competition, winning it with the highest marks ever recorded in the newcomers category. He began performing in classical concerts, and was signed to a recording contract.
  • In 1994, Bocelli released his debut album, Il Mare Calmo della Sera. It would be the first of 29 pop and classical albums that he released between 1994 and today. His first album to gain recognition in the U.S. was 1999’s Sogno (Italian for “Dream”) – it sold over 2 million copies in the U.S., and over 10 million globally. It led to Bocelli’s nomination for Best New Artist at the 1999 Grammy awards – the first classical artist to be nominated for this award since 1961 (when opera singer Leontyne Price was nominated). No classical artist has been nominated for the award since.
  • His compilation album Romanza, released in 1997, sold over 20 million copies worldwide, and is the biggest selling record ever by an Italian artist. It includes the song Time To Say Goodbye, sung in English with Sarah Brightman – it reached #2 in the UK, and it was the biggest selling single of all time in Germany.
  • While classical artists tend not to have massive sales in the U.S. Bocelli is the exception. He has 11 albums that have been certified platinum or multi-platinum – most recently, Concerto: One Night In Central Park, a live album of a performance in 2011 in Central Park in New York. It includes many of his famous opera pieces, as well as duets with Tony Bennett (performing New York, New York) and Celine Dion (performing The Prayer, from the 1998 film Quest For Camelot, where it won a Golden Globe award for Best Original Song).
  • Bocelli’s album Sacred Arias, released in 1999, is the best selling classical album of all time by a solo artist, with sales of over 5 million units worldwide. When he released the album, it topped the Billboard Classical Album chart, and it was the first time that the same artist held the top 3 spots on the chart at the same time. For 3½ years without interruption, a Bocelli album was #1 on the chart.
  • At over 90 million albums sold worldwide, Bocelli is the best selling singer in the history of classical music.
  • Obviously, Bocelli’s success covers 3 decades and counting. I put him in the 2010s category because of the resurgence of interest in his talent internationally over the last several years. In this decade, he has released 6 pop albums and has been featured in the recordings of 5 full operas. His visibility also has increased as he has performed duets with several young pop stars of today, including singles performed with Mary J. Blige, Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa.
  • In 2017, an orchestral version of Ed Sheeran’s song Perfect was recorded as a duet between Sheeran and Bocelli. This version, titled Perfect Symphony, is an absolutely beautiful collaboration. Watch the video – it’s special. Bocelli starts to sing at the 2:50 mark.

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