In America, there is a rare echelon of pop stars so big they only need one name: Madonna, Cher, Prince. In Italy, that name is Zucchero.
It's Italian for "sugar" — and it's the stage name of Adelmo Forniciari, who first made it big in the 1980s and has since sold more than 50 million records worldwide. His latest album is called Black Cat, which includes collaborations with some of pop music's biggest legends, including Elvis Costello and Bono.
"Music is my pusher, what can I say? Music is my drug, and when I'm on stage I've always been very energetic," Zucchero says. "I was influenced from the Afro-American artists between the 60's and the 70's, like Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin. [But] I grew up in the countryside, in a place ... where the opera, like Verdi, Puccini, the Italian typical melodia, was very strong. So I grew up with these two kinds of music, and this is what, at the end I did."
Forniciari spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro about getting career advice from Miles Davis, and how he came to use what he calls "macaroni English" as a language for songwriting. Hear their full conversation at the audio link.