Showing posts with label Antonello Venditti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antonello Venditti. Show all posts

4 April 2017

Francesco De Gregori - singer-songwriter

Performer inspired by songs of hero Bob Dylan

Francesco de Gregori on stage in 2008
Francesco de Gregori on stage in 2008
The singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori - popularly known as "Il Principe dei cantautori" (the prince of the singer-songwriters) – was born on this day in 1951.

Born in Rome, De Gregori has released around 40 albums in a career spanning 45 years, selling more than five million records.

Famous for the elegant and often poetic nature of his lyrics, De Gregori was once described by Bob Dylan as an “Italian folk hero”.

De Gregori acknowledges Dylan as one if his biggest inspirations and influences, along with Leonard Cohen and the Italian singer Fabrizio de André.  Covers of Dylan songs have regularly featured in his stage performances. He made an album in 2015 entitled Love and Theft: De Gregori Sings Bob Dylan.

Born into a middle class family – his father was a librarian, his mother a teacher - De Gregori spent his youth living in Rome or on the Adriatic coast at Pescara. He began to develop his musical career at the Folkstudio in Rome’s Trastevere district, where Dylan had performed in 1962.

De Gregori (left) and Lucio Dalla in Genoa in 2010
De Gregori (left) and Lucio Dalla in Genoa in 2010
He became friends with fellow singer-songwriters Antonello Venditti, Mimmo Locasciulli and Giorgio Lo Cascio. It was alongside Venditti that he made his professional debut and the two collaborated on an album, Theorius Campus, in 1972. Venditti had more songs and was considered to have a better voice and when their record label indicated that they were more interested in Venditti, the partnership broke up.

De Gregori's 1973 solo debut album, Alice Non Lo Sa, did not impress the critics, who were not enthused either by his 1974 follow-up. But with his 1975 album, Rimmel, he began to enjoy some success. Reviewers liked his reflective and intelligent lyrics – less obscure than some of his earlier songs – and the album benefitted from some input from Lucio Dalla, with whom he struck a lasting friendship.

In 1976 he had another success with Bufalo Bill but an incident in Milan during a tour the following year led to him abruptly quitting the music business.

Bob Dylan in 2010
Bob Dylan in 2010
De Gregori had been a member of the Italian Communist Party and his songs often had a political theme, as did those of many Italian performers at that time, but while he was on stage at the PalaLido arena in Milan he was targeted by a group of left-wing extremists who began a protest during the show, accusing him of using left-wing messages merely to sell his records.  Fearing physical attack, he left the stage and the concert was abandoned, after which he announced that his career was over.

For the next few months he worked as a clerk in a book and music shop but was persuaded to resume his career the following year. A new album, De Gregori, included a song, "Generale," that would become one of his signature tracks. Soon afterwards, he joined Dalla on a successful tour entitled Banana Republic.  The two would later host a music show on the Rai television network, entitled Due.

Ironically, the title track of his next album, Viva l’Italia, was adopted as an anthem by the Italian Socialist Party.  In 1982 he recorded Titanic, the album many critics consider his tour de force, and since then, after a period working as a journalist for the newspaper L’Unità, De Gregori has recorded albums at a rate of one every year. His latest, Sotto il Vulcano, was released in February this year.

Married to Alessandra, whom he met at high school, De Gregori has two sons, Marco and Federico.  His nickname – Il Principe – was given to him by a journalist and apparently related to his sometimes haughty manner when dealing with the press.

Via Garibaldi in Trastevere
Via Garibaldi in Trastevere
Travel tip:

The Folkstudio club opened in 1961 in a cellar in Via Garibaldi in the Trastevere area of Rome. Its founder was an American painter and musician, Harold Bradley Jr, who invited a then little known Bob Dylan to play there soon after it opened. The club, which at first promoted jazz and blues musicians, eventually hosted performers of many different styles and helped launch the careers of many Italian artists. Bradley moved back to the United States in 1967 but music lover Giancarlo Cesaroni took over. The club’s premises moved subsequently to the library L'Uscita, in Via dei Banchi Vecchi, then to Via Sacchi and later Via Frangipane, near the Colosseum.  A plaque on the wall in Via Garibaldi marks its original home.

Prati is an affluent Roman neighbourhood
Prati is an affluent Roman neighbourhood
Travel tip:

De Gregori was raised in the Prati district of Rome, close to the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica, which is now an affluent residential neighbourhood which is popular with tourists for offering a relatively quiet place to stay that still provides easy access to the city’s historical centre. It has many authentic Roman trattorie as well as a host of bars and pubs.

More reading:

The enduring talents of Antonello Venditti

How pop singer Lucio Dalla found inspiration in opera great Enrico Caruso

The story of Adelmo Fornaciari - otherwise known as Zucchero

Also on this day:

1752: The birth of composer Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli

(Picture credits: De Gregori and Dalla by Gianky; Bob Dylan by Alberto Cabello; Via Garibaldi by Mark Ahsmann; Prati street by Lalupa; all via Wikimedia Commons)


8 March 2017

Antonello Venditti - enduring music star

Roman singer-songwriter's career spans almost 50 years

Antonello Venditti has sold more than 30 million discs in a long career
Antonello Venditti has sold more than
30 million discs in a long career
Singer-songwriter Antonello Venditti, one of Italy's most popular and enduring stars of contemporary music, will celebrate his 68th birthday today with a live performance in his home city of Rome.

Venditti will perform at the PalaLottomatica arena - formerly known as Palazzo dello Sport - in a concert entitled 'Viva le Donne' to mark International Women's Day.

Famous in the 1970s for the strong political and social content of many of his songs, Venditti can look back on a career spanning almost 50 years, in which he has sold more than 30 million records.

Taking into account singles, studio and live albums and compilations, Venditti has released more than 100 recordings.

His biggest success came with the 1988 album In questo mondo di ladri - In this world of thieves - which sold 1.5 million copies, making it jointly the eighth best-selling album in Italian music history.

Venditti's music ranges from folk to soft rock, often with classical overtones. He enjoyed sustained success in the 1980s and 90s, when Cuore - Heart - Benvenuti in Paradiso - Welcome to Paradise - and Prendilo tu questo frutto amaro - Take this bitter fruit - all sold well.  His versatility as a singer was demonstrated with the 1979 album Buona Domenica, which contained several ballads including one, Modena, which regarded as among his finest songs.

Antonello Venditti (right) with Giorgio Lo Cascio and Francesco De Gregori at Folkstudio in 1975
Antonello Venditti (right) with Giorgio Lo Cascio and
Francesco De Gregori at Folkstudio in 1975
For some fans, however, he was at his peak during his politicised phase with Lilly (1975) and Ullalà (1976), which featured several tracks bearing powerful social messages, against drugs and corruption among other things.  Ullalà included the song Canzone per Seveso, which was specifically about the accident at a chemical factory in the Lombardy town of Seveso that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths among farm animals and pets exposed to dioxins.

Venditti was born Antonio Venditti on March 8, 1949, in the Trieste quarter of Rome, about 8km (5 miles) to the north-east of the city centre. He was the only child of a middle-class couple. His father was a government official and future deputy-prefect of Rome, his mother a teacher specialising in Latin and Greek.  He was educated to a high standard himself, attending the Giulio Cesare High School and Sapienza University in Rome, where he graduated in law in 1973 before obtaining a further degree in the philosophy of law.

This qualified him, naturally, to build a career in the legal profession.  Yet Venditti was already writing songs and, having been taught to play the piano as a boy, wanted to perform.

Antonello Venditti in 2008
Antonello Venditti in 2008
In the late 1960s he began to frequent the famous Roman club Folkstudio, in the Trastevere quarter, where Bob Dylan had performed in 1962.  He made friends with other young musicians and sang some of his own compositions, accompanying himself on a jazz piano, and made such an impression he was offered a recording contract with a new company.

His first album Theorius Campus, which he recorded with another Folkstudio regular, Francesco De Gregori, contained two of the songs he played at that first impromptu gig - Sora Rosa and Roma Capoccia - that would become lasting favourites with his fans.  He wrote both, in Romanesco dialect, when he was 14.

Influenced by the militancy among the student population at the time, Venditti's politics were firmly on the left and his subsequent albums reflected that.  It was the powerful social messages in many of his songs that helped him acquire such a devoted following.  One of his compositions, A cristo - 'Hey, Christ' in Roman dialect - which he performed in Rome in 1974, resulted in his arrest for blasphemy, although he was ultimately acquitted.

However, in time he became less political, particularly after terrorism became such a problem for Italy during the late 1970s, when blame for a number of attacks tended to be laid at the door of left-wing groups.  His friend, De Gregori, was booed at one concert.

Venditti also said that he began to have problems reconciling his strong religious faith with left-wing ideology and felt that while the left offered social changes that he saw as good it did not suggest a path towards happiness and contentment.

The stage at the Arena di Verona, where Venditti performed at the Wind Music Awards in 2016
The stage at the Arena di Verona, where Venditti performed
at the Wind Music Awards in 2016
Nonetheless, he would return to political themes from time to time.  Benvenuti in Paradiso (1991) contained a song Dolce Enrico, which was a tribute to the former leader of Italy's communists, Enrico Berlinguer, while Che fantastica storia è la vita (2003) included a song satirising Silvio Berlusconi.  His 2015 release Tortuga was his 20th studio album.

A fanatical supporter of AS Roma, he has written a number of songs celebrating the team and gave a free open air concert in Circus Maximus when Roma won the scudetto - the Italian championship - in 2001.

Married briefly in the 1970s to Italian screenwriter and director Simona Izzo, Venditti has a son Francesco Saverio.

He is also the author of two books,  L'importante è che tu sia infelice - The important thing is that you be unhappy - an autobiographical work in which he focussed on his difficult relationship with his mother, and Nella notte di Roma - On Roman nights - a discourse on what he considers good and bad about the city of his birth.

The arch of the Palazzi degli Ambasciatori is one of the features of the Piazza Mincio in the Trieste quarter
The arch of the Palazzi degli Ambasciatori is one of the
features of the Piazza Mincio in the Trieste quarter
Travel tip:

Antonello Venditti's childhood home was in Via Zara in the Trieste quarter of Rome, a stone's throw from the picturesque Villa Torlonia park, a feature of which is the 18th century Casino Nobile, a house that was once the Rome residence of Benito Mussolini.  Trieste nowadays is a popular district with young professionals and students, with a bustling market, artisan shops and plenty of stylish bars and restaurants, as well as lots of green space within walking distance.  The Villa Ada, Villa Paganini and Villa Borghese parks are all close by. Trieste is also the home of the so-called Coppedè Quarter, an area of beautiful and distinctive buildings designed by the architect Gino Coppedè, fanning out from Piazza Mincio.

Hotels in Rome from

The Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, with its obelisk, is typical of the bold architecture of the EUR district
The Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, with its obelisk, is typical
of the bold architecture of the EUR district
Travel tip:

The PalaLottomatica, formerly known as Palazzo dello Sport, was designed by the architect Marcello Piacentini and built by Pier Luigi Nervi for the 1960 Olympics, in which it hosted the basketball tournament.  It forms part of the EUR complex, to the south of the centre of Rome, originally developed to host the 1942 World's Fair, which was cancelled because of the Second World War.  A team of prominent architects, headed by Piacentini and including Giovanni Michelucci, contributed to the project, which featured the neoclassical designs that came to be known as Fascist architecture.

More reading:

Singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla's tribute to Enrico Caruso

65 million sales and rising - Eros Ramazotti's lasting appeal

How Laura Pausini keeps turning out hit after hit

Also on this day:

Italy's own Festa della Donna

1566: The birth of composer Carlo Gesualdo

(Picture credits: top picture; Venditti in 2008 by Elena Torre; Verona Arena by Raphael Mair; arch of the Palazzi degli Ambasciatori by LPLT; EUR piazza by Blackcat; via Wikimedia Commons)