Dean Martin’s songs are sometimes more well known than him. With songs like That’s Amore and Everybody Loves Somebody being featured on many a commercial and TV show, it’s no surprise.
Here are the best Dean Martin songs of all time.
1. That’s Amore
Song Year: 1953
“That’s Amore” makes an unlikely beginning for a list of the best Dean Martin songs, but it’s as widely known as it is silly.
Written by Jack Brooks and Harry Warren, the song is a perennial favorite with fans of Dean Martin.
It also has the distinction of featuring in the 1990s television show Veronica Mars, where it was an improbable musical cue for a violent scene.
2. Everybody Loves Somebody
Song Year: 1964
Sam Coslow, Irving Taylor, and Ken Lane wrote “Everybody Loves Somebody” in 1947. It was always a popular song, and several famous artists covered it, including Dean Martin.
But when Martin recorded the song in 1964, it was on a bit more than a whim. Initially, his manager suggested it because Martin sang it well, and they had extra time during a recording session. Martin agreed because he wanted to out-perform The Beatles.
He hadn’t a hope of eclipsing them in Britain, but his 1964 version of “Everybody Loves Somebody” briefly knocked the Liverpudlian group off the top of the American charts.
Song Year: 1958
When Domenico Modugno wrote “Volare,” he called it “Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu.” But it was a mouthful, and it was difficult for the average Dean Martin fan to get their tongue around.
So, Martin retitled it “Volare,” meaning “to fly.”
The other notable difference is that Modugno sings the song in Italian. Martin uses some of the Italian lyrics to pay tribute to his heritage. But he interspersed English lyrics to help the non-Italian listener follow the story.
It’s a romantic song, and the string orchestration of Martin’s cover does the love story justice. The playing is lavish without being indulgent and combines a romantic sensibility with a hint of sentimentality.
Martin’s vocals are cool and breezy. In his hands, this is a song even an inexpert dancer can bob along to, and that’s part of its appeal. It’s also one of Martin’s signature songs.
4. Memories Are Made of This
Song Year: 1955
“Memories Are Made of This” was considered one of the best Dean Martin songs during its initial release and opinion hasn’t changed.
It’s also the song that earned Martin his nickname “King of Cool.” His vocals are smooth and unruffled, the perfect accompaniment to the jaunty background singers and their snappy harmonics.
Another bit of trivia about “Memories Are Made of This” is that it features in the cult hit show Millennium. Designed as an off-shoot of the better-known X-Files, you can hear “Memories are Made of This” in the season two episode “The Curse of Frank Black,” where the eponymous hero lives through a disastrous Halloween.
5. Mambo Italiano
Song Year: 1955
“Mambo Italiano” starts off sounding like a lyrical Neapolitan song. Then it segues into a fast-paced mambo.
It’s a lively, jazzy number, and Martin rattles the words off at an appropriate clip. However, the combination of his Italian inflection and the pacing force him to sacrifice some of his diction.
Luckily, you don’t need to understand the words to enjoy the song. Its main goal is to get listeners up and dancing, and it succeeds no matter how obscure the words get.
6. You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You
Song Year: 1964
Don’t be deceived by the position of this song on our list of the best Dean Martin songs. Despite never getting above number 25 on the ranking charts, it was a fan favorite. It wasn’t a Dean Martin concert if he didn’t sing “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You” at least once.
Song Year: 1954
“Sway” is all about falling in love with your dance partner. That makes the tango rhythm and off-beats more than appropriate. They’re an essential part of the storytelling.
Adding to the musical color and tango sensibility is a Spanish guitar and finger snaps.
Martin’s vocal line blends passion, sultriness, and the elegant languor of the tango-step. Dancing may not be how the average couple falls in love, but Martin certainly makes it sound seductive.
8. Return to Me
Song Year: 1958
Many of the best Dean Martin songs are love songs and “Return to Me” is no exception.
The music accentuates the sense of vulnerability Martin brings to the lyrics, which pushes him to make octave leaps. They leave his voice raw and exposed, which is perfect for a song about a deserted lover.
Martin infuses the music with tenderness and an impeccably smooth vocal line. It’s the crooner’s version of the bel canto technique but with shorter musical phrases.
9. Ain’t That A Kick In The Head
Song Year: 1960
Not all of Dean Martin’s best songs are slow and languorous. Here’s an upbeat, fast-paced song popularized by Martin. Typical of many of the songs discussed, this has a brassy, big-band sound.
It got a new lease of life when it appeared in the 2006 film Ocean’s Eleven. It put Martin back on the map after years of being written off as an old-world crooner with antiquated technique.
Bizarrely, although almost every Dean Martin album features “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” it never got released as a single. Even so, it was a fan favorite and featured prominently at concerts.
10. Come Back To Sorrento
Song Year: 1953
Part of the success of “Come Back to Sorrento” is its unapologetic sentimentality. Right from the opening bars, it’s full of shimmering strings and smooth legato phrasing.
Martin makes it sound like a musical caress. He’s always inviting the listener to lean closer and listen harder. The impression is that Martin is singing just for you. The switch midway through to English lyrics helps English speakers understand what’s happening.
But by then, it’s a moot point; Martin already has his audience eating out of his hand.
11. On An Evening In Roma
Song Year: 1959
Another of the best Dean Martin songs is “On An Evening In Roma.”
It stands out for its playful, off-kilter rhythm. It lilts in surprising, almost drunken directions. That’s not true of Martin’s vocals, though. Despite the rollicking rhythm, his voice is smooth. That’s true whether he’s skipping Italian syllables like stones or taking English phrases at a conversational canter.
There’s also a charmingly playful quality to Martin’s singing. He’s having fun with those atypical rhymes and Italian interjections, and it's infectious.
Another lovely touch is the plucked guitar in harmony. That, combined with the marcato choir, beautifully evokes a vibrant evening in an Italian café.