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Fabrizio De Andre’

Fabrizio De André
Fabrizio De André. Ph. Public Domain on wikimedia

The true nature of Fabrizio De André was that of a poet: he was probably more of a lyricist than a musician or a singer. Let’s not be mistaken, he was an excellent performer and a great composer, but the strength and energy that came out of his words are certainly what made him such an important figure in Italian culture.

De André created real tales with his songs, just like a medieval minstrel. Like an artist, though, he broke all rules: he had a strong message and didn’t hide it in complicated lyric twisting. He laid it out plain and simple, for everyone to understand and hear, touching the hearts and the souls of his listeners.

Unlike most musicians, De André’s lyrics always had a story to tell and it’s always possible to read them as if they’re a narrative. This was certainly one of his main qualities, one of his strengths,  what gained him the overall respect and love of the Italian public, without regard for his general or political views.

Fabrizio De André Geordie

Privately,  Fabrizio supported Italy’s left wing, and never made a mystery about it. At times, he received some special “attention” from the government for his affiliations with some extreme leftists, but his actions were always correct, honest, and clear. He was an idealist and the only weapon he ever used was his guitar, an instrument he mastered not as a rock star might, but as a tool to support his words. His pieces were so visually effective they could almost be turned literally into motion pictures: every scene and every character flickers in front of the eye, even though they are made out of only words and music.

De André best loved songs

To remember some songs of his repertoire and to offer some perspective on its content, we’d like to mention three songs, which are among its best loved and better known.

One is “Bocca di Rosa” (Rose Mouth) that talks about a prostitute moving to a small town to gently please men, until moral issues, local women, and politics forced her to move elsewhere. The song ends with most of the village’s men, including the local priest, waving goodbye to her at the train station – not that of their village, but the next one up. The gesture embodied  their affection, but also their hypocrysy, represented by the fact they refused to be associated with her in their own place.

The second is “La canzone di Marinella” (Marinella’s song), a true fairy tale about an average girl and a prince on his horse falling for her. Marinella dies at the end, leaving the prince in despair: just as it would happen in a Grimm brothers’ story.

The third, and probably most powerful of the three, is “La guerra di Piero” (Piero’s war) where a regular private sings while shooting another in an act of war. Very vivid and very dramatic, as De André takes us to the battlefield, not to entertain, but to make us think about the tragedy of war.

De André never really cared about commercial allure, he kept faithful to his style and aesthetic musical vision throughout the years, until the end: if his voice was not unforgettable, if his style of composing was not truly impeccable, his art was truly, astonishingly beautiful and unique.

Some compare him to Bob Dylan and probably the comparison is not far from accurate.

In his private life, De André was married to another singer, Dori Ghezzi, whose beauty and candor hit the hearts of many Italians. Relatively wealthy, unfortunately they didn’t have always happy moments. De André and Ghezzi were kidnapped in the summer of 1979 in Sardinia, and remained in captivity for over four months; they were only released after a ransom was paid, just a few days before Christmas. Cancer took him away at the age of 58, when he could still deliver so much. It would have been interesting to hear his take and point of view on today’s world.

It is, in fact, possible to follow his music and videos on Youtube and other sites; after all, legends like Fabrizio De André never die. They only get more popular with the passing of time.

La Guerra di Piero

La Guerra di Piero’s lyrics are, very likely, among the most powerful yet touching ever written.

La Guerra di Piero 

Dormi sepolto in un campo di grano
non e’ la rosa non e’ il tulipano
che ti fan veglia dall’ombra dei fossi
ma sono mille papaveri rossi

lungo le sponde del mio torrente
voglio che scendano i lucci argentati
non piu’ i cadaveri dei soldati
portati in braccio dalla corrente

cosi’ dicevi ed era d’inverno
e come gli altri verso l’inferno
te ne vai triste come chi deve
il vento ti sputa in faccia la neve

fermati Piero, fermati adesso
lascia che il vento ti passi un po’ addosso
dei morti in battaglia ti porti la voce
chi diede la vita ebbe in cambio una croce.

ma tu non lo udisti e il tempo passava
con le stagioni a passo di giava
ed arrivasti a varcar la frontiera
in un bel giorno di primavera

e mentre marciavi con l’anima in spalle
vedesti un uomo in fondo alla valle
che aveva il tuo stesso identico umore
ma la divisa di un altro colore

sparagli Piero, sparagli ora
e dopo un colpo sparagli ancora
fino a che tu non lo vedrai esangue
cadere in terra a coprire il suo sangue

e se gli spari in fronte o nel cuore
soltanto il tempo avra’ per morire
ma il tempo a me restera’ per vedere
vedere gli occhi di un uomo che muore

e mentre gli usi questa premura
quello si volta, ti vede e ha paura
ed imbracciata l’artiglieria
non ti ricambia la cortesia

cadesti a terra senza un lamento
e ti accorgesti in un solo momento
che il tempo non ti sarebbe bastato
a chieder perdono per ogni peccato

cadesti in terra senza un lamento
e ti accorgesti in un solo momento
che la tua vita finiva quel giorno
e non ci sarebbe stato ritorno.

Ninetta mia crepare di maggio
ci vuole tanto troppo coraggio
Ninetta bella dritto all’inferno
avrei preferito andarci in inverno

e mentre il grano ti stava a sentire
dentro alle mani stringevi il fucile
dentro alla bocca stringevi parole
troppo gelate per sciogliersi al sole

dormi sepolto in un campo di grano
non e’ la rosa non e’ il tulipano
che ti fan veglia dall’ombra dei fossi
ma sono mille papaveri rossi.

Piero’s war

You lie slain, in a wheat field sleeping,
and neither the rose or the lady tulip
are watching you in the shadow of ditches,
but thousands of blood-red poppies.

“Along the banks of this country stream
I’d like to see the silver pike swimming,
and no more soldiers’ corpses
carried by the current.”

as you were speaking, it was winter,
and, just like others, you’re bound to hell
marching sadly to your duty,
the wind’s spitting snow in your face.

Stop your steps, Peter, stop now!
Allow the wind to fondle your body
Of the fallen in battle you bear the voice
who gave its life in exchange a cross.

But you didn’t hear them, and time passed by
with the seasons at a java step
and so you were ready to cross the border
in a warm and bright spring day.

And walking with your soul on your shoulder
you noticed a man down the valley
walking in the same identical mood as you were
but with a uniform of a different color.

Shoot him, Peter, shoot at him now!
And after once shoot him again,
until he falls dead to the ground
and will cover his blood with his body.

And if I aim at his head or his heart
it will leave him only the time to die,
but you will have enough time
enough time to see eyes of a dying man.

And while you give him this kindness,
he turns around, spots you and gets frightened
grabs his artillery
and doesn’t repay you for your kindness.

You fell to the ground without a cry
and you noticed in a moment
that you’d not have enough time
to beg pardon for all your sins.

You felt to the ground without a cry
and you noticed in no less than a moment
that your life had come to the end,
and there was no way back.

“Oh Ninetta darling, to die in May
one needs much, too much courage.
Oh Ninetta darling, I’d like best
to go to hell in a cold winter day.”

And while the wheat was listening to your words
you held your rifle clenched in your hands,
you held your words frozen in your mouth
that would never have melted in the sun rays.

You lie slain, in a wheat-field sleeping,
and neither the rose or the lady tulip
are watching you in the shadow of ditches,
but thousands of blood-red poppies.


La Guerra di Piero

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