Marcella Bella Bookmark and Share


18 June 1952

Josepha Marcella Bella was born in Sicily in a musical family with parents Antonio and Rosario Bella and brother Gianni. In 1965 she enters the Festival de Ariccia and wins but is disqualified due to the fact that she is underage (she was 13 at the time). A meeting in 1968 with Ivo Callegari, results in a contract with the CGD. This results in 1969 in a first 7” called Un ragazzo nel cuore, written by Mogol and Roberto Soffici. The single is lukewarm received. Her 1971 follow up single ‘Hai ragione tu’ (written by her brother singing in this case with G. Bell) is selected to be part of the Mostra Internazionale di Musica Leggera in Venice. This blueprint of young Italian talent (or contestants were Coccinate, Mannoia and Spagna) awards her with second place.  But it is the 1972 edition of San Remo Marcella finally gets her recognition with ‘Montagne Verdi’, again written by her brother. It does now win but the single sells more than half a million copies. Following this success she participates in the '72 / '73 of Canzonissima which delivered her another hit record ‘Un sorriso e poi perdonami’ (‘A smile and then forgive’).

This gave enough basis for CGD to try a complete album in 1973 called ‘Tu non hai la più pallida idea dell'amore’ (‘You have not the faintest idea of love’). The album sells reasonably but already at this stage Marcella’s success is more evident on very strong singles like ‘Io domani’ recorded for the Festivalbar and her version of ‘Killing me softly’ which is ‘Mi fa morire cantando’ in Italian. The same goes for the title-single of the album ‘Mi ... ti … amo’ which sells better then the album. Her 1974 entry for Festivalbar ‘Nessuno mai’ is considered by critics as the first Italian attempt to make disco. It sells over 400,000 copies and is also featured on het third album ‘Metamorfosi’. A 1975 live album is an attempt to position Marcella as a serious album artists with live version of nearly all unreleased songs. From 1976 she starts adding her second name Bella on her albums (since before she was just known as Marcella) also due to the success of her brother as a songwriter.  On the album another unknown songwriter by the name of Umberto Tozzi joins in. Bella always had a taste for good songwriters because two years later she gets Ivano Fossati to write ‘Mi vuoi’ for her.

In 1979 her contract with CGD ends and not extended. She skips to CBS. Again the single ‘Lady anima’ sells well but the album ‘Camminando e cantando’ does not get the expected success. In 1980 she gives birth to her son Giacomo before she plunges again in the Festivalbar and San Remo routine. Tired, her version of ‘Pensa per te’ is considered by the singer herself as her worst San remo performance ever. A new TV format gave her the chance for revanche. New tv channel 5 wanted to create an answer to Canzonnisimia with the variety show Premiatissima. Hosted by Amanda Lear seven teams had to compete with each other. Marcella was in the team of Anna Oxa together with Eros Ramazotti, Mia Martini and Spliff (amongst others). The why eludes us but it gave a great platform for Marcella to position herself as a serious artist. This became evident with her album ‘Nell'aria’ of 1983. Completely written by Mogol and Gianni Bella the album marks a turning point in her career.

Back at San Remo she shreds the competition (being Anna Oxa, Loredana Berte and Donatella Rettore) with ‘Senza un briciolo di testa’ before she goes to London to record an album with Geoff Westley. The albums gets recognition from the public as also by critics. Still also CBS does not extend their contract and a follow up album (again with Westley) results in a vague jazz album. She tries one more time in 1988 with the team recording in Monaco and London without much success. Meanwhile CBS releases an left over album featuring the covers of Battisti she did for Premiatissima '84. To make matters worse her new album ‘Sotto il vulcano’ is a failure thanks to the total lack of promotion due to a misunderstanding with her record label. In the same year she gives birth to her daughter Caroline. In 1995 it is her brother and Westley that lure her back in the studio for a project of songs of the forties and fifties. It is almost her only output that decade (set aside some singles with brother Gianni) with even her two San Remo entries are rejected by the recruiting committee.

In 2002 some first attempts are taken for a revival with album with some re-recordings of old classics and three new songs of which ‘La regina del silenzio’ (written by Bella and Renato Zero) was send to San Remo, and again refused. It was not until 2004 that she was allowed back at the San Remo stage for a special ‘Old glory’ evening. In 2005, after 15 years, she finally entered the competition again with a controversial song called ‘Uomo bastardo’ and where she ended second. Without any single success however. In 2007 her ‘Forever per sempre’ got the lowest scores of the partcipants but also on San Remo televoting entered the competition giving it a somewhat higher score and the single did make into the charts. In 2009 her 40-year career is commemorated with records, books and DVDs. But ill fate hits when brother Gianni BellaIn suffers a stroke in 2010 an is unable to function as a composer afterwards. Added to that, 2011 she falls under investigation of the Ministry of taxes for suspected tax fraud of over 2.5 million Euro linked to dodgy transactions by her husband Mario Merello.

Since then Marcella performs a lot but mainly it is touring with a sort of overview of her brothers career. The number of guests that join her on stage in this period show that Marcella has saved her voice much better then most and that she holds a special place in Italian pop.

On the web:

- Marcella doesn't have her own website anymore but she (or a fan) is on Facebook and Myspace

What do we think:

PR: La Bella is a special lady with a special voice. She recorded some great songs, but unfortunately her albums from the 80's lacked production skills - far too much synthesizers. Which really is a pity, since there was nothing wrong at all with Marcella's singing. She took revenge with her 2005 release 'Bastardo' - a fantastic album with great songs and very well produced. Marcella at her best, finaly!

DB: Marcella is the ultimate single artist and one who lives for (and from) the Italian music contests. She has a great voice but somehow she just is not able to translate that voice to an album-length interesting project. This is maybe why even in Italy she isn't considered in the same league as some other female singers. In fact she has gotten a bit forgotten and that while she did record some great songs. Especially her Festivalbar and San Remo entries written for her by Gianni and Mogol are great stuff. In other countries she would be top of the class but I guess the competition in Italy is much tougher. Well, top of the B-class then at least. On the other hand, her albums are rare on the second hand market so if you bump into one you're almost obliged to buy it!

If you like this, you probably like... / european counterparts:

Doris Dragovic (Croatia)


♪♪♪ - Tu non hai la più pallida idea dell'amore - 1973

♪♪ - Mi..ti..amo... - 1973

♪♪♪♪ - Metamorfosi - 1974

♪♪♪ - Marcella Bella - 1981

♪♪♪♪ - Senza un briciolo di testa - 1986

♪♪ - Tanti auguri - 1987

♪♪♪ - '88 - 1988

♪♪♪ - Verso l'ignoto... - 1990

♪♪ - Sotto il vulcano - 1991

♪♪ - Anni dorati - 1995

♪♪♪♪ - Uomo bastardo - 2005

Further listening:

L'anima dei matti - 1975; Bella - 1976; Femmina - 1977; Camminando e cantando - 1979; Problemi - 1982; Nell'aria - 1983; Nel mio cielo puro - 1984; Tommaso! - 1993; Finalmente insieme (con Gianni Bella) - 1998; Passato e presente - 2002; Forever per sempre (con Gianni Bella) - 2007

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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