He was born in Naples (at Santa Lucia), the fifth of eight children in the family. When he was 10, young Giovanni would sing at restaurants, wedding receptions, etc. He was discovered by a music producer about four years later and was flown to New York to record an EP under the name of Gianni Rock.
He recorded four songs in 1964: Tanti auguri signora, Se mi aspetti stasera, Non chiudere la porta, and La Prima Volta. None of the records were successful, primarily because young Gianni's voice was changing. Two years later, he would re-emerge under his new stage name, Massimo Ranieri. In 1966, he made his TV debut singing "Bene Mio". A year later, he made another TV appearance singing, "Pietà per chi ti ama". In 1968, he recorded two more songs: "Da Bambino", Ma L'amore cos'è" and "Preghiera".
But it wasn't until 1969, when he really became successful and became a teen idol making all the young girls scream for him, when he sang "O Sole Mio" on live TV. Soon, in most every TV appearance he made, you could hear the girls screaming in the background. That same year, he had a string of hits: "Rita", "Se bruciasse la citta", "Quando l'amore diventa poesia", "Il mio amore resta sempre", "Rose rosse" and "Zingara". In 1970, "Vent'anni", "Sogno d'amore", "Sei l'amore mio", "Aranjuez Amore Mio", and "Candida". During that year, he decided to venture into acting.
Massimo's screen debut, Metello received rave reviews from critics, and won him the David DiDonatello award for best actor for portraying the title character. He co-starred with Anna Magnani in the television film La Sciantosa, later that year. In 1971, Massimo recorded the songs "Adagio Veneziano", "Via del Conservatorio", and "Io e Te". He represented Italy in the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, Ireland, where he placed 5th with the song "L'Amore E' Un Attimo. "
That same year, he fathered a daughter, Cristiana, out of wedlock with Franca Sebastiani. He didn't have anything to do with the raising of his daughter, saying that he was too young and inexperienced for fatherhood, and that it would be damaging to his career. He was never linked with any other woman thereafter. He didn't have any contact with his daughter until they met when she was about 20-years-old.
In 1972, he released the songs "Ti Ruberei", "O Surdato 'nnamurato", and "Erba di Casa Mia"; in 1973, "Amo Ancora Lei". He returned to the Eurovision Song Contest that year, in Luxembourg, to represent Italy with "Chi sarà con te", where he placed 13th. In 1974, came the singles "Te Voglio Bene Assaie", "Immagina", and "Per Una Donna". During that year, he filmed Salvo D'Acquisto, where he portrayed a Carabinieri policeman who was executed by the Nazis during World War II.
When his singing career started to decline in 1975, Massimo concentrated on his acting career, both in the cinema and, most importantly, as a stage actor: he collaborated with the directors Mauro Bolognini, Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, Giorgio de Lullo, Giorgio Strehler and Maurizio Scaparro, performing a wide range of material from modern plays and musicals, to Molière and Shakespeare.
In 1988, he made a comeback with the song, "Perdere L'Amore", which won the Sanremo Festival, that year. In 1997, he made another comeback with "Ti parlerò d'amore". That same year, he did the Italian voice-over for Quasimodo in Disney's "Hunchback of Notre Dame", where he also sang Quasimodo's part as well.
On 16 October 2002, Massimo Ranieri was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In 2004, he made his first French film, a trilogy series called Les Parisiens, where he played a street artist. In 2005, he returned on the stage with the show "Accussì Grande", after a long bout with illness, from which he fully recovered.
At the start of 2007, he decided to publicly acknowledge his long-estranged daughter, and embraced her for the first time on live TV. It was a tearful reunion between father and daughter. During that year, he was in a docu-film called Civico 0, where he played Guilano, a fruit vendor, who becomes homeless after the death of his mother. In 2008, he starred in the film L'Ultimo Pulcinella.
In 2009, he played the storyteller in the play, Polvere di Baghdad, directed by Maurizio Scaparro. In February 2007, he started a concert tour of Italy, titled "Canto perché non so nuotare...da 40 anni" which lasted for more than two years, with more than 500 shows, was made into a CD and a DVD, which went platinum.
In 2010, Massimo was featured in Passione, a documentary about the history of music from Naples, Italy, directed by Italian-American actor, John Turturro. In November 2010, he took part in the miniseries remake of the classic play, Filumena Marturano, produced by Italian TV RAI Uno, with Mariangela Melato in the title role. Massimo portrayed Filumena's husband, Domenico Soriano.
SINGLE: Te voglio bene assaie/A serenata 'e Pulicenella
*SINGLE: Per una donna/Cara libertà
LP Il meglio di Massimo Ranieri (CGD, 69128; antologia)
LP "Meditazione" with arrangements by Eumir Deodato, with pieces from the classical repertoire.
"Macchie ‘e culore", at the Teatro Valle, Rome, directed by Mauro Bolognini - recorded live, made into a live LP and a TV show.
SINGLE: Si ricomincia/23, rue des lillas
SINGLE: Dal primo momento che ti ho vista/La mia boheme
LP "La faccia del mare" (The face of the sea), dedicated to Homer's Odyssey.
SINGLE: La faccia del mare/Odyssea
LP "Passa lu tiempo e lu munno s'avota"
"Barnum", recording of the musical show with music by Cy Coleman
Return to Sanremo Song Festival, 1st prize with "Perdere l'amore"
LP "Perdere l'amore"
SINGLE: Perdere l'amore/Dove sta il poeta
LP of the musical show "Rinaldo in campo".
LP "Un giorno bellissimo" where he sings the theme song of TV show "Fantastico-Cinema"
LP "Da bambino a fantastico" (compilation)
LP "Un giorno bellissimo"
LP "Rose rosse" (compilation)
LP "Vent'anni" (compilation)
Sanremo "Ti penso"
LP "Ti penso"
SINGLE: Ti penso/La notte
Sanremo with "La vestaglia"
He becomes artistic director of the City of Sorrento Festival.
Sanremo, with Gianni Togni's ‘Ti parlerò d'amore'
CD "Canzoni in corso", a selection of songs by various Italian composers
CD "Hollywood ritratto di un divo" (double CD, from the musical show)
CD "Oggi o dimane" The start of a collaboration with Mauro Pagani and the revisiting of the great classics of Neapolitan song.
"Oggi o dimane", theatrical tour of the concert show (his first after 25 years)
CD "Nun è acqua"
"Nun è acqua", concert show and tour
CD "Ranieri canta Napoli" (double CD, with the previous two)
CD "Les Parisiens", soundtrack of the film trilogy, with music by Francis Lai
CD "Accussì grande", 3rd collaboration with Mauro Pagani
"Accussì grande", concert show and tour
CD "Canto perché non so nuotare...da 40 anni"(double CD for his 40 years of singing career)
"Canto perché non so nuotare...da 40 anni!" a nation-wide tour which lasted for more than 2 years
"Canto perché non so nuotare...da 40 anni!" live DVD which topped the charts for 27 weeks and became platinum in 2009
CD "Gold Edition Massimo Ranieri" a triple album containing a live with Neapolitan songs, the best of the double CD "Canto perché non so nuotare...da 40 anni!" and the CD "Canzoni in Corso" un omaggio ai cantautori contemporanei.
CD "Napoli...Viaggio in Italia" (album)
Sanremo, a talking and singing show of reminiscences with Gianni Morandi (you can find parts of it on YouTube)
"Canto perché non so nuotare...da 500 repliche". 500th show
"Threepenny Opera" di Bertolt Brecht".
Recital: "Chi nun tene coraggio nun se cocca ch' 'e femmene belle".
"Raffaele Viviani varietà" directed by Maurizio Scaparro.
"Canto perché non so nuotare...da 500 repliche". 700th show at the Coliseum Theatre in Turin.
CD "Sogno e Son Desto" Live
Film & TV
1969 - "Metello" from a novel by Vasco Pratolini, directed by Mauro Bolognini with Lucia Bosè and Ottavia Piccolo.
1970 - "Incontro" directed by Pietro Schivazappa with Florinda Bolkan;
"Cerca di capirmi" directed by Mariano Laurenti with Beba Loncar;
"The Light at the Edge of the World" directed by Kevin Billington, with Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner, Samantha Eggar.
TV film "La Sciantosa" directed by Alfredo Giannetti with Anna Magnani.
1971 - "Bubù di Montparnasse"
1974 - "La cugina", directed by Aldo Lado, based on the novel by Ercole Patti.
1975 - He plays a leading role in "Salvo D'Acquisto" directed by Romolo Guerrieri with Enrico Maria Salerno e Lina Polito.
He plays the lead in the TV film "Una città in fondo alla strada" directed by Mario Severino, with Marisa Merlini and Scilla Gabel.
"L'ultima volta" directedy by Aldo Lado with Eleonora Giorgi and Joe D'Alessandro.
1979 - "La patata bollente" (The hot potato) directed by Steno (Stefano Vanzina), with Renato Pozzetto and Edwige Fenech
1981 - "Il Carabiniere" directed by Silvio Amadio, with Fabio Testi, Enrico Maria Salerno and Valeria Valeri;
"L'ultima volta insieme" directed by Ninì Grassia, with Enrico Maria Salerno,
"Priest of love" directed by Christopher Miles with Ava Gardner, John Gilguld, Vera Mils and Ian McKellen e
"Casta e pura" directed by Salvatore Sanperi with Laura Antonelli.
1982 - "La vela incantata", 2-part film directed by Gianfranco Mingozzi, with Monica Guerritore.
1983 - "I ragazzi di celluloide", first series, directed by Sergio Sollima, with Leo Gullotta.
1984 - "Legati da tenera amicizia" directed by Alfredo Giannetti with Enrico Maria Salerno and Florinda Bolkan,
"All'ombra della grande quercia" directed by Alfredo Giannetti with Enrico Maria Salerno, Irene Papas and Tino Carraro.
1985 - "Atto d'amore" directed by Alfredo Giannetti with Eleonora Giorgi.
"Nata d'amore" directed by Duccio Tessari.
"I ragazzi di celluloide", 2nd series, directed by Sergio Sollima, with Leo Gullotta.
1987 - "Lo scialo", from the novel by Vasco Pratolini, directed by Franco Rossi, with Eleonora Giorgi and Marisa Berenson.
"L'ombra nera del Vesuvio", 6-part film, directed by Steno, with Carlo Giuffrè.
1988 - Host of TV show "Fantastico-Cinema" with Anna Oxa, Giancarlo Magalli, Alessandra Martinez
1989-1991 - "Il Ricatto" 1 & 2, TV films.
1996 - He is Quasimodo's voice (speaking and singing) for the Disney film "The hunchback of Notre Dame"
He dubbs Nathan Lane's voice in Mike Nichols' "The birdcage"
1997 - "Volare", directed by Vittorio De Sisti.
"La casa dove abitava Corinne" TV film directed by Mario Lucidi, with Barbara De Rossi
"Il prezzo del denaro" directed by Maurizio Lucidi.
Dubs Nathan Lane's voice in the film "Mouse Hunt" directed by Gore Verbinski
1998 - "Black angel" directed by Roberto Rocco, with Giuliana De Sio, Ben Gazzara and Hanna Schygulla.
1999 - "Ama il tuo nemico" directed by Damiano Damiani
"Un bacio nel buio" directed by Luigi Spagnol with Patricia Millardet, Tony Musante, Daniel McVicar, Florinda Bolkan and Ben Gazzara.
2001 - "Siete tutti invitati ... citofonare Calone" - TV talk show on RAIUNO
"Fondali notturni" directed by Nino Russo, with Ida Di Benedetto. For this film he was given the Fellini Award of Best Actor.
2002 - "Io ti salverò" directed by Mario Caiano, with Riccardo Scamarcio and Cristiana Capotondi.
"Storia di guerra e di amicizia" directed by Fabrizio Costa, with Elena Sofia Ricci.
2004 - Les Parisiens, a French trilogy directed by Claude Lelouch, with Mathilde Seigner, Arielle Domblase and Michel Leeb, where he played a street artist.
2005 - "Camera Caffè", a TV sit-com.
2006 - "Accussì grande", an evening dedicated to him and his artistic life, on Canale 5
2007 - "Tutte donne tranne me", for two weeks, every Friday, he had his own TV show where he spoke about his life.
"Operazione Pilota" TV film directed by Umberto Marino for RAI.
"Senza via d'uscita" TV film directed by Giorgio Serafini, with Anna Galiena, for Canale 5.
"Civico 0" by Citto Maselli, with Ornella Muti.
2008 - "L'ultimo Pulcinella", film directed by Maurizio Scaparro.
1976 - "Napoli: chi resta e chi parte" a show comprised by two one-act plays by Raffaele Viviani ("Caffè di notte e giorno" e "Scalo marittimo") directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi and shown at the Spoleto "Festival dei due mondi".
"In memoria di una signora amica" a comedy by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, directed by Mario Ferrero,with Pupella Maggio and Lilla Brignone.
1977 - "The Waltz of the Dogs" by Leonid N. Andreyev, directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, with Romolo Valli.
1978 - "The imaginary invalid" by Molière directed by Giorgio De Lullo.
1979 - "Twelfth Night" by Shakespeare, directed by Giorgio De Lullo, with Monica Guerritore
1993 - "Teatro Excelsior" directed by Maurizio Scaparro with original music by Antonio Sinagra.
1994 - "L'Île des esclaves" (The Island of Slaves) by Marivaux, directed by Giorgio Strehler, with Pamela Villoresi, Philippe Leroy and Laura Marinoni, music by Fiorenzo Carpi.
1996 - "Le mille e una notte" directed by Maurizio Scaparro, with Laura del Sol.
1998 - "Hollywood-Ritratto di un divo", musical by Gianni Togni e Guido Morra, on the love between John Gilbert and Greta Garbo directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi
2000 - "Il Grande Campione", by Maurizio Fabrizio and Guido Morra, directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, the love story between the boxer Marcel Cerdan and Edith Piaf
2007 - He is the narrator voice in "Peter and the Wolf" in a concert with the Solisti Veneti, conducted by Claudio Scimone.
2009 - "Polvere di Baghdad" directed by Maurizio Scaparro, his goodbye production as head of the Theatre Sector of the Venice Biennale. Written by Scaparro, together with the poet Adonis and journalist Massimo Nava, it links today's Baghdad with its mythical status as the locus of the 2001 Nights. Ranieri is a storyteller who, from the distant past, is catapulted into today's ruined city.
"Poveri ma belli" a musical taken from the film by Dino Risi, with music by Gianni Togni. With Bianca Guaccero, Antonello Angiolillo and Michele Carfora.
2009 - "Versi e diversi", a new show written in collaboration with Gualtiero Peirce, at the Ravello Festival.
2007 - "Mia madre non voleva" (with Gualtiero Peirce, published by Rizzoli), autobiography
1970 - "David di Donatello" and "Premio Internazionale della Critica" awards for "Metello"
"La Maschera d'Argento".
1972 - National prize "I numeri 1", Radio Montecarlo Prize for popularity.
1973 - Telegatto "Vota la voce" (Rank the voice) as Best male singer.
1984 - "Positano Top" award for "Barnum".
1974 - "Gran simpatico" prize .
1987 - Taormina Arte Award.
1999 - Ennio Flaiano Award for the Theatre
2005 - Premio Barocco and the Premio Sirmione Catullo as Artist of the Year
Premio Nuova Spoleto per L'Arte e lo Spettacolo.
2008 - De Sica Award for the Theatre, presented by the President of the Republic Mr. Napolitano.
"Volere Volare, Il meglio del Made in Italy" award, as public person of the year
"La Pigna d'oro" award for his whole career.
2009 - Burlamacco d'Oro".
Special Jury Prize of the Festival of Busto Arsizio for the film "L'ultimo Pulcinella" which also was awarded the Best Director prize.
Premio Flaiano (2nd time).
Masismo Ranieri has never been married. In 2007, the singer has recognized the illegitimate daughter (Cristiana) born in 1971 from the relationship with Franca Sebastiani. He also became grandfather in July 2011.