Fabrizio De André
Fabrizio De André
De André c. 1977
|Birth name||Fabrizio Cristiano De André|
|Born||18 February 1940|
|Died||11 January 1999 58) (aged|
|Genres||Folk music, Italian folk music, Chanson, World music|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, classical guitar|
|Labels||Karim, Bluebell, Produttori Associati, Ricordi, Sony BMG|
Known for his sympathies towards anarchism, left-libertarianism and pacifism, his songs often featured marginalized and rebellious people, Romani, prostitutes and knaves, and attacked the Catholic Church hierarchy. Artistically active for almost 40 years and the author of thirteen studio albums, he is renowned for the quality of his lyrics and often considered a poet. He contributed to the promotion of the languages of Italy, most notably Ligurian and, to a lesser extent, Sardinian, Gallurese and Neapolitan. Following his early death several streets, places, parks, schools and public libraries were named after him.
De André was born in Genoa in a family of Piedmontese origins (the father Giuseppe was born in Turin and the mother in Pocapaglia), and was welcomed into the world by Gino Marinuzzi's "Country Waltz" on the home gramophone. Twenty-five years later, he would set his "Waltz for a Love" to Marinuzzi's waltz tune.
When the Second World War broke out, the De André family had to seek refuge on a country farm near Revignano, a frazione of Asti, in Piedmont. There, the child Fabrizio befriended Giovanna "Nina" Manfieri, a girl of his same age, which was his constant companion during childhood, and whose memories were immortalized in "Ho visto Nina volare" ["I saw Nina flying"], one of De André's last songs. His father, who was an antifascist pursued by the police, joined the partisans. In 1945, at the end of the war, the family moved back to Genoa, where the father became an important member of Genoa's ruling class, as CEO, and later chairman of Eridania, a sugar factory.
Fabrizio's first primary school was that of the Marcellian Sisters, and he later attended the Cesare Battisti public school and the Liceo Classico "Cristoforo Colombo"; after his school leaving examination, he enrolled in the Law School of the University of Genoa, although he did not graduate, dropping out when he had only a few exams left. (He later stated he was glad to have dropped out from his law studies and taken up music instead, as he would have become a very bad lawyer rather than a good songwriter.) De André first played the violin, then the guitar, and he joined a number of local jazz bands, as jazz was his "first love".
In 1960, De André recorded his first two songs, Nuvole barocche ("Baroque Clouds") and E fu la notte ("And There Was Night"); in 1962, he married Enrica "Puny" Rignon, a Genoese woman nearly ten years older than him. That same year the couple had their first and only son, Cristiano, who would follow in his father's footsteps and become a musician and songwriter as well.
In the following years De André wrote a number of songs which made him known to a larger public, soon becoming classic hits: La guerra di Piero ("Piero's War"), La ballata dell'eroe ("The Hero's Ballad"), Il testamento di Tito ("Titus's Will"), La Ballata del Michè ("Mickey's Ballad"), Via del Campo (literally "Field Street", a famous street in Genoa), La canzone dell'amore perduto ("The Song of the Lost Love"), La città vecchia ("The Old [side of] Town"), Carlo Martello ritorna dalla battaglia di Poitiers ("Charles Martel on His Way Back from Poitiers", written together with actor Paolo Villaggio, one of De André's closest friends), and La canzone di Marinella ("Marinella's Song").
De André's first LP, Volume 1, was issued shortly after (1967), followed by Tutti morimmo a stento ("We All Barely Died") and Volume 3; both LPs soon reached the top of the Italian hit-parade. The former contained a personal version of Eroina ("Heroin") by the Genoese poet Riccardo Mannerini, entitled "Cantico dei drogati" ("Canticle of the Junkies").
La buona novella
In 1970, De André wrote La buona novella ("Glad Tidings" – a literal rendition of the etymology of gospel), a concept album based on Christ's life as told in the Apocrypha. The album was very controversial, especially the song Il testamento di Tito ("Titus's Will"), in which one of the thieves crucified with Jesus violently refutes the Ten Commandments. He had written a number of songs (like Preghiera in Gennaio, "Prayer in January", and Si chiamava Gesù, "His Name Was Jesus") in which he showed a Christian-like open-minded spirit and in the meantime invited the audience in his own delicate way to think about the manipulation of the church.
Non al denaro non all'amore né al cielo
In 1971, he wrote another celebrated concept album, Non al denaro non all'amore né al cielo ("Neither to money, nor to love, nor to Heaven"), based on Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology; in an interview, the LP was introduced by Fernanda Pivano, the first Italian translator of the "Anthology" and one of Cesare Pavese's most intimate friends. Fabrizio De André's name began to be associated with literature and poetry, and some of his songs found their way into school books.
Storia di un impiegato and Canzoni
In 1973, he wrote his most "political" album, Storia di un impiegato ("Story of an Employee").
The following year, De André issued Canzoni ("Songs"), a collection of his translations from Georges Brassens, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. The album also included a number of his old songs from the 1960s.
In 1975, De André (who in the meantime had divorced his wife Puny and begun a relationship with the folksinger Dori Ghezzi) wrote Volume 8 with another famous Italian singer-songwriter, Francesco De Gregori. With this album, he broke with "tradition" in order to find a new approach to poetry and music. The lyrics show how deep the influence of modern poetry is on De André's work. 1975 marked a real change in De André's life: he began to perform in a series of memorable concerts (after his first performances of the early 1960s, he had always refused to appear in public, except for a couple of TV broadcasts) and planned to move to Sardinia with his new love. For this purpose, he purchased the Agnata homestead near Tempio Pausania in the northern part of the island, where he could devote himself to farming and cattle breeding.
In 1977, the couple had a daughter, Luisa Vittoria (nicknamed "Luvi"). The following year De André issued a new LP, Rimini. Most songs included on this album were written together with Massimo Bubola, a young singer-songwriter from Verona.
Concerts with PFM and kidnapping
1979 was another milestone in De André's life. The year began with a series of distinguished live concerts from which a double LP was compiled; De André was accompanied by one of the most renowned Italian progressive rock bands, Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM); the albums were released as In Concerto - Arrangiamenti PFM (1979), and In Concerto - Volume 2 (1980). At the end of August, however, De André and Ghezzi were kidnapped for ransom by a gang of bandits in Sardinia (Anonima sarda) and held prisoner in the Alà dei Sardi mountains. The couple were released four months later with a ransom reportedly being paid. As De André stated in some interviews, he was helped by his father to find the money and had to start a tour shortly after the release of the Indiano album in order to repay him. When the bandits were apprehended by the police, De André was called as a witness before the Court. He showed compassion for some of his kidnappers, since he had been well treated by his "guardians" and declared his solidarity with them. "They were the real prisoners, not me", he said. He said he understood they were driven by need, but he did not show any compassion for the higher echelon of the group that organized his kidnapping, since they were already rich.
This incident, and the hard life of the Sardinian people, gave him inspiration for his following album, released in 1981. The album is untitled but, due to the image of a Native American warrior on the cover, the media called it L'Indiano ("The Indian"). In De André's poetical vision, Native Americans merge with poor Sardinian shepherds as an allegory for the marginalization and subjugation of people who are "different". The song Hotel Supramonte, is dedicated to the kidnapping and to Dori Ghezzi, who was with him during those days. The album also contains one of his most famous songs, Fiume Sand Creek ("Sand Creek River"): in De André's unique, allusive way it tells the story of the massacre of defenseless Native Americans by US Army troops on 29 November 1864.
Crêuza de mä
In 1984, he turned to his native Genoese dialect; in collaboration with former PFM member Mauro Pagani he wrote one of his most celebrated albums, Crêuza de mä ("Path to the sea", the term "Crêuza" actually means a narrow road bordered by low walls, typical of Genoa and Liguria in general). The songs are a tribute to the traditional music from the Mediterranean basin. The album was awarded several prizes and was hailed as "the best Italian album of the 1980s". David Byrne named it as one of his favourite albums, and Wim Wenders said that it was this album that introduced him to the music of De André, whom the director names as one of his favourite artists. As Pagani has repeatedly stated, De André wrote all the lyrics for the album, while the music was almost entirely Pagani's.
In 1989, De André married Ghezzi; the following year a new album was issued, Le nuvole ("The Clouds"), which included two more songs in the Genoese dialect, one in the Gallurese dialect of Northern Sardinia ("Monti di Mola") and one in the Neapolitan dialect, the highly ironic "Don Raffaè", a mockery of Camorra boss Raffaele Cutolo (also incorporating a number of spoofed stereotypes about Camorra and Naples). A new series of well received live concerts followed, from which a double LP, 1991 concerti ("Concerts 1991"), was issued.
In 1992, he started a new series of live concerts, performing in a number of theatres for the first time.
De André's last original album, Anime salve ("Saved Souls"), was issued in 1996. Written in collaboration with Ivano Fossati, it represents a sort of "spiritual will", and includes songs such as "Khorakhané" (dedicated to the Muslim Roma people), "Disamistade" (a return to his beloved Sardinian themes, which has been translated into English and sung by The Walkabouts) and "Smisurata preghiera" ("Limitless Prayer "), based on poems within short stories featured in the collection The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, by Colombian writer and storyteller Álvaro Mutis. De André also sang a version of this song with its original Colombian Spanish lyrics, "Desmedida plegaria", which he never officially released (although he gave a copy of the recording to Mutis as a gift).
In 1997, he undertook a new tour of theatre concerts and a new collection, called M'innamoravo di tutto, was issued (I Used to Fall in Love with Everything, a quote from one of his older songs, "Coda di Lupo" – "Wolf's Tail"), focusing on his earlier works. The Anime salve concert tour went on up to the late summer of 1998, when De André was forced to stop it after the first symptoms of a serious illness, which was later diagnosed as lung cancer.
De André died in Milan on 11 January 1999, at 2:30 am. Two days later, he was buried in his native town, Genoa; the ceremony was attended by a crowd of about 20,000. He is buried in the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno, in the De André family chapel.
Fabrizio De André and faith
In the concept album La buona novella (The Good News) (1970), De André gives us the ultimate expression of his religious vision, making a clear humanization of the divine. In a 1998 concert at the Teatro Brancaccio in Rome, De André made the following statements about the album:
When I wrote La buona novella it was 1969. At the time we were in the very middle of the students' protests, and less attentive people, which are always the majority among us – comrades, friends, people of the same age as me – regarded that record as anachronistic. They told me: "What's this? We go fighting inside universities and outside universities against abuses, and you instead tell us the story, which moreover we already know, of Jesus Christ's preachings?" And they did not realize that the Good News was meant to be an allegory, it was an allegory that consisted in a comparison between the better and more sensible instances of the revolt of '68, and some instances, certainly higher from a spiritual point of view, but similar from an ethical-social point of view, raised by a gentleman, 1969 years before, against the abuses of power, against the abuses of authority, in the name of egalitarianism and universal brotherhood. That man was called Jesus of Nazareth. And I think he was, and remains, the greatest revolutionary of all time. When I wrote the album I didn't want to venture into roads or paths that would be difficult for me to travel on, such as metaphysics or even theology, first of all because I don't understand anything about those, secondly because I always thought that if God did not exist we should invent Him, which is exactly what Man has done ever since he set foot on Earth.
Probably the characters in La buona novella lose a bit of sacralization, but I think, and I hope, particularly to the benefit of their better and greater humanization.
The attitude taken by De André against the political use of religion and the Church hierarchy is often sarcastic and highly critical about their contradictory behaviour, such as, for example, in the songs Un blasfemo, Il testamento di Tito, La ballata del Miché and the last verses of Bocca di rosa.
I feel myself religious, and my religion is to feel part of a whole, in a chain that includes all creation and so to respect all elements, including plants and minerals, because, in my opinion, the balance is exactly given from the well-being in our surroundings. My religion does not seek the principle, you want to call it creator, regulator or chaos makes no difference. But I think that everything around us has its own logic and this is a thought to which I turn when I'm in difficulty, perhaps giving the names I've learned as a child, maybe because I lack the imagination to find out other ones.
After the kidnapping, the religious vision of De André had a new development;
While I was abducted, it helped me to find faith in men, just where there wasn't faith in God. I have always said that God is a human invention, something utilitarian, a patch on the fragility ... But, however, with the kidnapping something has changed. I've not changed my mind, but it is certain that today swearing at least embarrasses me.
Posthumous releases and tributes
After De André's untimely passing, various releases in various formats appeared as tributes to him and to his career.
- In 2000, a tribute concert called Faber, amico fragile... (Faber, frail friend... - titled after De André's nickname in Genoese and the title of one of his best-known songs) was held at Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, organized by Dori Ghezzi and her Fabrizio De André Foundation. It featured Ghezzi, both of De André's sons and several prominent Italian artists from all genres, giving their own takes on De André's repertoire. In 2003, a live recording of the show was released as a double album; Adriano Celentano, who made several mistakes (due to a lack of proper rehearsals) during his live performance of "La guerra di Piero" and was booed as a result, re-recorded the song in a studio. "Rimini", sung by Luvi De André at the very end of the show, was omitted from the album release for unknown reasons.
- 2004 saw the release of Fabrizio De André in Concerto, a DVD chronicling the singer's last-ever filmed live performances, on 14 and 15 February 1998 at Teatro Brancaccio in Rome. The release, which also included an extensive backstage section as a bonus, was overseen by Ghezzi and De André's longtime live director Pepi Morgia.
- In 2005, the 3-CD collection In direzione ostinata e contraria [In a stubborn and opposite direction] was released. Its title was taken from a line in "Smisurata preghiera", the final track on De André's final album Anime salve (see above), and was chosen by Dori Ghezzi to symbolize her late husband's anticonformist, against-the-grain attitude. The collection included a selection of tracks, made by Ghezzi and Gian Piero Reverberi, from all of De André's official studio albums, as well as the first CD release of "Titti" (originally issued as the B-side to the 1980 standalone single "Una storia sbagliata") and an unreleased song, "Cose che dimentico" [Things I am forgetting], originally written by De André with his son Cristiano in 1998 and recorded by both of them. All the songs on the collection underwent a meticulous and careful process known as "de-mastering", during which engineers Antonio Baglio and Claudio Bozano went back to the original master tapes and painstakingly removed all of the subsequent layers of remastering in order to obtain flat digital transfers of the tapes as they were originally intended to sound. The collection was a hit, and was followed by a second volume in 2006.
- Also in 2005, singer and multi-instrumentalist Morgan recorded and released a track-by-track remake/re-recording of Non al denaro non all'amore né al cielo, followed by a tour of Italy and Europe. Morgan's remake is very faithful to the original album, except for the addition of short instrumental interludes between tracks in order to highlight the concept album aspect of the work; a number of vintage synths, played by Morgan and electronic musician Daniele "Megahertz" Dupuis (a frequent collaborator of his), were added to the instrumentation. Two wordless vocal melodies sung by Edda Dell'Orso on the original album were re-played by Megahertz on theremin.
- In 2007, sound engineer Paolo Iafelice, one of De André's trusted collaborators in his later years (he took care of field recordings and other production tasks on Anime salve), undertook a restoration process of De André's historical live recordings from his 1979 tour with PFM. He applied to the tapes the same "de-mastering" process as on the 2005-2006 collections and mixed them anew, in order to bring out previously obscured details and to straighten out a few recurring production issues on the original recordings, such as the unintentional variations of tape speed on some songs. The result of Iafelice's efforts was released as Fabrizio De André & PFM in Concerto.
- In 2009, Cristiano De André took on an extensive tribute tour of Italy named De André canta De André [DeA sings DeA], originally started on the tenth anniversary of his father's passing, where he performed De André Senior's songs with new rock/hard rock arrangements by keyboard player and programmer Luciano Luisi. The tour, which went on well onto 2010, played to packed audiences throughout Italy and yielded a two-volume live album; both volumes were released as CD+DVD bundles and were followed in 2017 by a third similar release.
- In 2011, RCS MediaGroup and Corriere della Sera issued Dentro Faber [Inside Faber - De André's nickname in Genoese], an eight-DVD documentary series about De André's life and career, featuring interview clips, rehearsal and behind-the-scenes excerpts, live performances (including several previously unreleased ones), music videos and narration by Cristiano De André, both in the third and in the first person (as his father). The DVDs were originally released only in newsstands, as bundles with Sunday editions of Corriere della Sera.
- Also in 2011, British conductor, arranger and composer Geoff Westley, as part of his long curriculum of collaborations with Italian artists, wrote new orchestral arrangements for ten songs selected by Dori Ghezzi and himself from De André's entire career. Westley recorded his arrangements with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and overlaid them with De André's original, isolated studio vocals. The resulting tribute album, which also featured "virtual duets" with Franco Battiato and Vinicio Capossela, was released as Sogno n° 1, to commercial and critical acclaim.
- In 2012, Ghezzi's label Nuvole Productions, by agreement with the Italian branch of Sony Music, released I concerti [The Concerts], a 16-CD box set collecting all of the existing recordings of De André's live shows. Each 2-CD set features a complete show in its original running order (including spoken interludes and intros) and all of the recordings are previously unreleased in this form. Some of them, namely the ones from 1975-'76 and 1981-'84, were sourced from private recordings by fans and radio broadcasts; although the sound quality of these tapes is slightly inferior to the other professionally recorded concerts, they were included for their historical significance. The recordings from 1997-'98 are officially authorized soundboard recordings and feature different mixes than earlier live releases compiled from the same material. All of the recordings were digitally restored and remastered.
- In 2018, De Agostini released Fabrizio De André in Vinile, an almost-complete collection of De André's recorded output, both studio and live, on 21 vinyl albums. It includes the first-ever vinyl releases, some of them double or triple, of the live material originally featured on the 2012 box set I concerti, as well as the first-ever vinyl release of Anime salve. Although it was presented as fully complete and exhaustive, the collection does not include De André's early 1960s recordings for Karim (which are indeed excluded from all of his posthumous releases); his 1980 standalone single "Una storia sbagliata/Titti" and his 2003 virtual duet with Mina on "La canzone di Marinella", are also not featured, although a live recording of "Una storia sbagliata" is included on the 1981-82: L'indiano double live album. Each album in the collection was accompanied by an album-sized booklet of photos and liner notes, and all of them were sold exclusively in newsstands.
Live performance peculiarities
As evidenced by the various live performance clips featured within the Dentro Faber documentary series (as noted above), De André was very shy and reserved throughout his career, even as a live performer - indeed, he started performing live only in 1975, with a concert residency at the famous "Bussola" nightclub in Viareggio, after having reached several high points in his career, because he did not feel confident enough to perform before a live audience. Furthermore, he always viewed his live shows as either a "necessary evil" or as a job. Because of this, his live performances feature a number of idiosyncratic, eccentric behaviours and attitudes.
- He hardly ever sung anything while standing up (the song "Ottocento", from Le nuvole, which he performed during his 1991 tour in support of the album, being a notable exception), preferring instead to sit on a simple wooden chair; he seldom thanked his audience vocally, expressing instead his thanks as small bows from his chair, and he very rarely delivered standard spoken introductions to single songs (such as "The next song is..."), although, when performing a series of songs from the same album or an album in its entirety, he spoke at length about the significance and the (lyrical) contents of the album; occasionally, he used a spoken introduction to a song (such as his 1998 concert intro to "Via del Campo") as a pretext for exposing his ideas and beliefs. While speaking, he would occasionally look down to his prompt book (see below), although his spoken parts were never written beforehand.
- In the early years of his career, he only played his own classical nylon-string guitar, systematically refusing to play any other or newer instruments, as he believed his own playing to be worthless in comparison to his band members. (In a 1975 performance with New Trolls as his backing band, he introduced guitarist Ricky Belloni as "Ricky Belloni on guitar - the real one!") Starting from 1981, Massimo Bubola, who owned a large collection of guitars, convinced him to switch to a better-sounding pre-amplified Ovation guitar; he subsequently used various other brands of acoustic guitars. It took him ten more years, and Mauro Pagani's influence, to embrace ethnic instruments, such as the bouzouki and the Middle Eastern oud.
- In a 1989 interview with Vincenzo Mollica for a special TG1 issue, De André admitted that he used to drink at least one liter of straight whisky before his shows, in order to win his severe stage fright, and that his intoxicated state often led him to unintentionally amusing mistakes on stage - such as a comment in a 1979 show with PFM, when, after performing the title track to his 1978 album Rimini, he stated that a similar story to the one in the song was told much better in «I Vitellini» by Felloni - a spoonerism for the 1965 film I Vitelloni by Federico Fellini. In the mid-Eighties, after his doctor informed him that his drinking habit was turning into an addiction which could potentially harm his liver, De André adopted an even worse "cure" for his stage fright - namely, chain smoking, which would ultimately lead to his demise.
- He always performed with a "prompt book", including copies of his lyrics, all in his own handwriting, laid out in front of him on a music stand with a table lamp on top. However, the actual usefulness of the prompt book is doubtful: De André can be seen not using it at all in several occasions (either not looking at it while singing or distancing himself from it, by sitting cross-legged on the stage floor), and he can also be heard singing wrong lyrics every now and then - such as his 14 February 1998 show in Rome (as testified on In Concerto), when he ends the third verse of his song "Crêuza de mä" by singing the last two lines of the fourth verse, then sings the same lines again in their correct place. (He can also be seen with a wry smile on his face, incongrously with the serious mood of the lyrics, immediately after realizing his mistake.)
Notes and references
- The Observer, p.50 18 January 2009
- Riconoscimenti – Vie
- Riconoscimenti – Piazze
- Riconoscimenti – Parchi
- Riconoscimenti – Biblioteche
- Riconoscimenti – Scuole
- Interview with Nina Manfieri within the Dentro Faber documentary series, DVD 5: Le donne ["Women"].
- "Wim Wenders su Fabrizio de André". YouTube. 13 November 2008. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- Contained in the DVD of the show.
- Livio Gatti Bottoglia, Non al denaro, non all'amore né al cielo, mensile Civetta, marzo 1999
- Contained in L'amore sacro, l'amor profano – omaggio a Fabrizio De André, a cura di Piero Ameli, BURsenzafiltro, Bergamo, 2006. Allegato al DVD Omaggio a Fabrizio De André, concerto tributo registrato il 10 luglio 2005 all'Anfiteatro Romano di Cagliari. ISBN 88-17-01296-3.
- Discogs entry for Faber, amico fragile...
- Discogs entry for In Concerto (2004)
- Discogs entry for In direzione ostinata e contraria
- Discogs entry for In direzione ostinata e contraria 2
- Discogs entry for Morgan's remake of Non al denaro non all'amore né al cielo
- Discogs entry for Fabrizio De André & PFM in Concerto
- Discogs entries for De André canta De André, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3
- Discog entry for Dentro Faber
- Discogs entry for Sogno n° 1
- I concerti box set on Fabrizio De André's official website
- All information taken from clips included within Dentro Faber.
- During his 1979 concerts with PFM, most of the verbal interaction with the audience, including thanks, was handled by the band's drummer and de facto leader Franz Di Cioccio.
- Band intros taken from La Bussola e Storia di un impiegato, CD 1, track 6, I concerti box set (2012).
- (in Italian) Discography of Fabrizio De André Archived 2010-12-25 at the Wayback Machine
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fabrizio De André.|
- Fabrizio De André on IMDb
- Via del campo tribute website to Fabrizio De André. It hosts the English translations of some of his songs.
- Antiwar Songs by Fabrizio De André translated into many different languages
- Simon Evnine, a philosophy professor at the University of Miami, has translated some of De André's songs in singable rhyme.
- "The other Fabrizio", with videos, songs, Italian/English lyrics and comments on Fabrizio's songs as well as articles on Fabrizio's anarchy.
- Fabrizio De André in English has English translations of all of De André's songs.
- Fabrizio De André in Spanish(Español) has Spanish translations of all of De André's songs.