Mia Martina is one of two Italian artists with a brace of entries in the countdown. First up we had her 1992 attempt, the plaintive torch song Rapsodia (see No. 450), 71 places higher is Libera, a disco-tinged number from 1977. Though a more lightweight song, Libera is redeemed by 29 year old Martini’s richly powerful vocals. Age and lifestyle (she died in 1995 of a cocaine overdose) were to take their toll on that huge voice which, by the time of Rapsodia, is cracked and raspy, yet still never less than mesmerising.
It’s interesting to compare the lyrics of these two entries. Taken together they weave a poignant narrative of love and hope thwarted: “Free as the sun, free as the sea, us as two individuals, free, you and me.” (Libera) versus “Who are we sitting here? Listening to a story of a life that didn’t work out. Who are we, sunk in shame for this immense and hopeless Rahpsody” (Rapsodia). In these words one can hear echoes of Martini’s own life, full of potential but ultimately tragic.
In the early 1970s the female singers dominating the Italian charts were Raffaella Carrà, Gigliola Cinquetti and Mina Mazzini. While not quite at their level Mia Martini wasn’t far behind: she reached No. 2 in the Italian charts with Donna Sola (in 1972) and Minuetto (in 1973), both rousing ballads. Libera, too, was originally recorded as a ballad but was given a disco makeover prior to the contest.
Eurovision merely flirted with disco, throughout the 1970s middle-of-the-road music continued to reign supreme. In 1974 Abba gave the slightest of nods in the direction of disco with Waterloo, and then in 1978 – the year of Saturday Night Fever – Izhar Cohen triumphed with A-Ba-Ni-Bi, the only song approaching out-and-out disco to have won the contest. In 1977, however, just three acts besides Martini paid homage to the dance floor: Silver Convention (with Telegram), Anne-Marie B (with Frère Jacques) and Dream Express (with A Million In One Two Three) and none finished higher than 7th (Libera finished 13th).