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Fabrizio De André (Genoa, February 18, 1940 – Milan, January 11, 1999), was an Italian singer-songwriter, Poet and Writer.
Many of his songs tell stories of the marginalized, rebels and prostitutes. The lyrics, including texts in the Ligurian language, are even studied as an important expression of twentieth-century Italian poetry.
Faber, his most common nickname, is attributed to his childhood friend Paolo Villaggio. In his 40 years of musical activity he produced 15 albums, a relatively modest number, perhaps determined by the great attention paid by the author to the quality of his works.
The popularity and the high artistic level of his works, led many institutions to dedicate streets, squares, parks, libraries and schools after his death.
His first albums are from the sixties, when he began to assert himself in his peculiarity of cultured and eclectic singer-songwriter, mixing with wisdom the tradition and atmosphere of the French singer-songwriters (translated, in fact, several songs by Georges Brassens, between which “Il Gorilla” and “Morire per delle idee”) with the regional musical traditions of Italy and more international sounds, always using a simple language and at the same time poetic, unmistakable. Among his reference songwriters, which De André also translated into Italian, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are undoubtedly included. The years between 1968 and 1973 were the most prolific for the author, since he worked on many albums, among which are some of the fundamental pillars of Italian culture today.
“Tutti morimmo a stento”, 1968, is the first concept album published in Italy, and tells, in a somewhat psychedelic atmosphere, stories of drug addicts, madmen, sad kings and children who watch the world at war. In this vanquished world, the author’s gaze is always profound, sharp, deeply human.
In 1970, another concept album was released, “La buona novella”. In a moment of very combative student protest, an album about Maria’s life seems to all almost a betrayal. As if a disc about the Virgin Mary, Jesus and Joseph, with lyrics inspired by the apocryphal gospels, could not be something also strongly political. Silenced the perplexities of the moment, the album was imposed with a prophetic, poetic and humanistic force that time has not corrupted.
With “Non al denaro, non all’amore né al cielo” (1971), De Andrè decides to put on music the famous “Antologia di Spoon River” by Edgar Lee Masters. Despite being an “intellectual” project, De André and the pianist Nicola Piovani manage to make a live album, complete, at times almost sublime. Songs like “Un giudice” or “Il suonatore Jones” have been imposed on the collective memory.
“Storia di un impiegato” (1973), another concept album, inspired by the French May and the juvenile contestation of 1968, is one of the most intense, discussed and quoted discs of the singer-songwriter. Telling the story of a frustrated employee who, after observing the youth protests, decides to devote himself to terrorism, De André questions himself about power, violence, the judicial system, the society of his time. “Canzone del maggio”, with its repeated phrase, addressed to power, “per quanto voi vi credete assolti, seven per sempre coinvolti” (even if you think you are absolved, you are forever involved), it is a song that still has, in Italy today, a very strong political sense and has been used in various protest events.
In the following years De André collaborates with several artists, among which are Massimo Bubola (with whom he will work on two albums: “Rimini”, 1978 and “L’indiano”, 1981) and singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori ( “Volume VIII”, 1975).
A great change is verified with “Crêuza de mâ”, in 1984, in collaboration with Mauro Pagani: An important work of both musical and linguistic research, since it is a disc entirely in the Genoese language. It constitutes a gallery of characters and landscapes, very Mediterranean, with Turkish and Greek sonorities.
“Le nuvole” (1990) is the sum of the various collaborations of recent years (Mauro Pagani, Massimo Bubola, Ivano Fossati). The album, very eclectic, is divided into two parts: The first, dedicated to power, is in Italian, while the second, embodying the voice of the people, is in dialect, both in Genovese and Sardinian, which De André knows well for having lived many years in Sardinia, where he suffered a kidnapping of several months with his wife Dori Ghezzi in 1979.
“Anime Salve” (1996), is the last album by De André: Very complex, mixing South American rhythmic influences with gypsy sounds and the Italian regional tradition. In collaboration with Ivano Fossati, his most intense and complete work can be considered, for the themes and sounds he embraces and for the number of musicians and instruments involved.
In the summer of 1998 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The tour in progress was interrupted. On the night of January 11, 1999, Fabrizio de André died at the hospital specialized in cancer in Milan, where he had been hospitalized due to the worsening of his illness.
His funerals were celebrated in his native Genoa on January 13, 1999. The pain of the family was accompanied by more than ten thousand people, among friends, admirers, exponents of culture and politics, and those characters who I had always sung: Prostitutes, the marginalized, the losers.
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