Claudio Villa, the diminutive "little king" of Italian song, has died in a hospital here where he underwent heart surgery last month. He was 61 and died Saturday.
Villa, whose first professional singing success came in 1941 with "Villa Triste," was a four-time winner at Italy's internationally famous San Remo song festival, capturing the top honor in the world of Italian popular music in 1955, 1957, 1962 and 1966, the last time for "Granada," one of his biggest hits.
Villa was born Claudio Pica on New Year's Day, 1926, in Trastevere, the working-class district across the Tiber from central Rome. He adopted the career name of Claudio Villa after starting his singing career at age 14. Fans called the short singer reuccio, the Italian word for "king," or "little king" of song.