[Monday Notes No. 174] Milly Carla Mignone was an Italian singer and actress. Born in 1905, much of her career as an actress dates back to the first half of the 20th century, while her studio recordings date back to 1964, when she was therefore over forty years old. Although she was very strong in the dramatic repertoire, I have chosen to analyse her interpretation of a light piece, Bruno Lauzi’s Giovedì speciale.
Milly Carla Mignone has worked as a soubrette and as an opera singer, and has also performed Bertolt Brecht’s The Beggar’s Opera. The theatre is part of her, even in singing a song with a light-hearted tone like Bruno Lauzi’s Giovedì speciale. Even in a song with optimistic and naive lyrics, Milly Carla Mignone manages to find a depth of melancholy.
The song is based on a paradox: while it reiterates several times how special that Thursday was, it actually describes a series of details and small gestures that have nothing special about them, they can be part of any day. Looking at the clouds, eating chips, a game at the amusement park: the two protagonists evidently have no money to spend, the toast is made with mineral water and the return home is by a simple metro.
Foosball, table tennis, everything mentioned in the song is simple, in fact very simple. The song only reveals its message when it speaks of the gaze of one of the lovers: a gaze that is made inflamed by love. The tender message of the song is that anything becomes special if there is love.
Or perhaps, for Bruno Lauzi, it is life itself that is special. We just have to get away from preconceptions, live joyfully with what we have and appreciate every moment. The Genoese singer-songwriter’s lyrics often express a delicate, dreamy outlook on life. In this respect, one of his most inspired albums is the children’s collection “Johnny Bassotto, la tartaruga… e altre storie”.
The music of the song was composed by Tito Fontana and the arrangement is by Pino Calvi, who also plays the piano. The piece has a simple harmony but with a surprise at measure 9, when the piece modulates a third above moving from the key of B flat to that of D flat.
Another unusual feature of this piece is the movement of the melody, which is always diatonic: that is, the notes always move in a row on the scale, alternating ascending and descending movement but without jumps.
Returning to Milly Carla Mignone’s interpretation, we can remark that the singer does not perform the notes as written on the score, as eights-notes phrases, but sings everything as if the piece had a tempo of 12/8.
Trying to explain it in less technical terms: the singer performs the melody with a rhythm different from the accompaniment, a ternary rhythm, lulling and soft. At the beginning of the second verse (minute 1’01”) Milly hints at a dance with her shoulders and torso: trying to observe her by lowering the volume, I was amazed, the singer moves precisely with a ternary rhythm, as if dancing a waltz.
This makes the melody less predictable and far more interesting, and it acquires a whole new momentum. Bruno Lauzi’s interpretations are less convincing, after listening to Milly Carla Mignone they appear dull and ineffective. The singer-songwriter still deserves the credit, however, for a very fine and joyful text.
Although she is not a great interpreter of American music, Milly Carla Mignone also has a particular way of attacking phrases, always a bit late just like the great Frank Sinatra. Her severe and solemn way of singing, almost standing still, makes me think of Billie Holiday.
The similarities with the great American performers stop at these details, however Milly Carla Mignone is a singer of great depth who fears no comparison with anyone. Another great artist to whom I would compare her is Edith Piaf, also because Milly sings in French even better than in English.
If this article of mine has helped you discover Milly Carla Mignone, or Bruno Lauzi’s remarkable song ‘Giovedì speciale’, I would love to know what you think. Leave a comment below, thanks!