Italian singer, actor, dancer and TV host Raffaella Carrà — who over the course of a 60-year career became a national pop culture sensation, sold millions of records across Europe, and found TV success in Spain and Latin America — has died, Italian national news agency ANSA and multiple Italian media outlets have reported.
Carrà, who was 78, had been suffering from an unspecified illness, her former partner of many years Sergio Japino, a choreographer, told ANSA.
Born in Bologna, Carrà started in showbiz as a child, first appearing at age 8 in the 1952 melodrama “Tormento del Passato,” directed by Mario Bonnard. A few other small film roles followed. She subsequently moved to Rome where Carrà studied classical ballet and attended acting classes at Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia film school, from which she graduated in 1960.
In 1965, Carrà co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Canadian director Mark Robson’s World War II drama “Von Ryan’s Express.”
In the 1970s, Carrà rose to fame in Italy as a singer and dancer as co-host of the variety show “Canzonissima,” where she plugged her original songs directly into its dance and music numbers, which made her a trailblazer. She sang and danced to the show’s opening credits, the fanfare-like “Ma Che Musica Maestro, wearing a risquè outfit that marked the first time a woman dared to expose her midriff on TV in Italy, sparking an uproar form the Vatican and sending the ratings soaring.
But Carrà was never one of the many women whose bodies were exploited on Italian TV. On the contrary, she became a symbol of female empowerment.
In 1976, she sang her first major international hit, “A Far l’Amore Comincia Tu” (Be the One Initiating Sex), which was literally a call for women to communicate their sexual desires to their lovers.
This song has gone around the world in many versions. The English version reached number 9 on the U.K. singles chart. It is also the song that Jep Gambardella, the protag in Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” dances to, in a more recent remix, at his birthday party.
The same year, Carrà became very popular in Spain and Latin America when she recorded four programs for Spanish Television entitled “La hora de Raffaella Carrà”.
In 1978, she returned to Italian TV to host the RAI variety show “Ma Che Sera” (Oh What a Night) the opening credit song for which, titled “Che Sera,” celebrated uninhibited female sexuality.
After two years of stellar ratings, that show changed its format to “Buonasera Raffaella” on which she conducted interviews and talked with viewers by phone.
In 1986, Carrà hosted RAI’s hit Sunday entertainment show “Domenica In.” In 1989, she joined Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset but returned to RAI after her show on Canale 5 underperformed.
Back in Spain, Televisión Española hired her again to conduct the live show “Hola Raffaella” between 1992 and 1993.
In 2017, Raffaella Carrà was celebrated with a gay icon prize during Madrid’s WorldPride di Madrid.
During the early aughts, Carrà was a judge on talent show “The Voice” in Italy.
A Spanish musical film based around her songs titled “Explota Explota” and directed by Nacho Álvarez was released in 2020.
Carrà released 25 studio albums during her career, most recently “Ogni volta che è Natale” in 2018.