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Fabrizio De André

italian singer-songwriter folk cantautori italian songwriters

Fabrizio De André (18 February 1940 – 11 January 1999) was a leading Italian . In his works he often told stories of marginalised and rebellious people, above all prostitutes, that were seen by De André as an answer to the bourgeois prissiness.

De André was born in Genoa, Liguria, Italy. His father was an anti-fascist, and during the war the De André family had to seek refuge in a country farm near Revignano d'Asti, Piedmont. The family returns in Genoa in 1945. Fabrizio studied law at the University of Genoa, but left before graduating.

His first instrument was the violin, and then he took up the guitar, playing in local jazz bands. In 1958 he recorded his first two songs: Nuvole barocche ("Baroque Clouds") and E fu la notte ("Then Night Came"). In 1962 he married Puny Rignon, a Genoese woman nearly ten years his senior. The same year the couple had their first and only son, Cristiano De André, who would follow in his father's footsteps to become a musician and songwriter.

Over the years that followed, De André, inspired mainly by George Brassens' works, wrote a number of songs which made him known by a larger public; his song La canzone di Marinella ("Marinella's Song") was recorded in 1968 by the famous Italian singer, Mina, and its author was acclaimed as the most important Italian , or singer-songwriter.
The first De André EP, "Volume I", was released in 1967, and contain three af the most famous Fabrizio's songs: "Via del Campo" (literally "Field Street", a famous street of Genoa), "Bocca di Rosa" and "Carlo Martello ritorna dalla battaglia di Poitiers" ("Charles Martel on His Way Back From Poitiers"). The last one was written with Paolo Villaggio, a famous italian actor and also De André's friend.
His second album "Tutti Morimmo A Stento"("We all died hardly"), released in 1968, contains songs as "Leggenda Di Natale" based on the song "Le Père Noël et la Petite Fille", written by George Brassens, one of the most important influence for Fabrizio.
In 1968 was also released the thirt De André's album, Volume III, one of the most important album of this first period. In this album there are two songs inspired by Brassens' poetry, "Il Gorilla" and "Nell'acqua della chiara fontana". Other famous songs are "La guerra di Piero"("Piero's war") "La canzone di Marinella"(Marinella's Song"), previously released by Mina, and "S'I' Fossi Foco"(If I were Fire"), from a poem by Cecco Angiolieri.
In 1970 was released "La Buona Novella"("The Good Novella"), a religious concept album based on the vision of Christ's life told in Apocrypha. The album was very controversial for Jesus' vision by De André and especially for the song "Il testamento di Tito" ("Titus' Will"), in which one of the thieves crucified together with Jesus confutes violently the Ten Commandments.
In 1971 was released one of the most famous and the most important De André's album, "Non al denaro non all'amore né al Cielo" based on Edgar Lee Masters "Spoon River Anthology", translated in italian by the famous italian poetess Fernanda Pivano, one of Fabrizio's best friend.
* "La collina" is based on "The Hill"
* "Un matto" is based on "Frank Drummer", in which a man memorizes the Encyclopedia Britannica and is considered mad by the people of Spoon River.
* "Un Giudice" is based on Selah Lively, the story of a midget who studies law and becomes a judge to get a revenge against the people who made fun of him all his life.
* "Un blasfemo" is based on "Wendell P. Bloyd".
* "Un malato di cuore" is based on "Francis Turner", in which a man dies of a heart attack while giving his first kiss.
* "Un medico" is based on "Dr. Siegfried Iseman", the story of a doctor who wants to cure poor people without receiving any payment.
* "Un chimico" is based on "Trainor, the Chemist", in which a chemist, who doesn't understand the relationships between men and women but loves chemical elements, dies while executing an experiment.
* "Un ottico" is based on "Dippold the Optician", the story of an optician who wants to create special glasses which show strange images.
* "Il suonatore Jones" is based on "Fiddler Jones".
Two years later was published another important album in Fabrizio's career, "Storia di un Impiegato"("The Story of a White-Collar"), in which De André analyses the Year Of Lead, (in Italy a period of political tensions, between 1968 and 80s characterized by bomb's massacre by neo-fascist and by kidnapping and by murders by Brigate Rosse and other subversive organization). This is another concept album, in which a man, inspired by French May, decided to rebel against the society knowing finally that his bomb and his rebellion was controlled by the State and directed to make the power stronger. This is one of the most complicated and hermetic album by De André.
The year after was released a new album, "Canzoni"("Songs"), in which De André translated some famous songs by Bob Dylan("Via della Povertà", in english "Desolation Row"), Leonard Cohen and Brassens, but also unreleased songs as "La Città Vecchia"("The Old City"), another highly famous song. Is important to see how from this album and so on, De André was highly inspired by American Folk music.

De André divorced his wife Puny, and started a relationship with the folksinger Dori Ghezzi. In 1975 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 television broadcasts).
In this year was released the new album, Volume VIII, written with Francesco de Gregori, a famous italian songwriter who also translated "Desolation Row" with Fabrizio. The most famous songs of this album are "Amico Fragile"("Fragile Friend") and "La Cattiva Strada"("The Bad Way").

In 1977, having moved to Sardinia, the couple had a daughter, and in the following year Fabrizio De André issued a new LP, Rimini. Most songs included in this album were written with a young Veronese singer-songwriter, Massimo Bubola. There's also "Avventura a Durango" a translation of "Romance in Durango" bu Bob Dylan.

1979 began with a series of famous live concerts from which a double LP is drawn; De André was accompanied by one of the most renowned Italian progressive rock bands, Premiata Forneria Marconi. At the end of August, De André and Ghezzi were kidnapped for ransom by a gang of Sardinian bandits, and held prisoner in the inaccessible Supramonte mountains. The couple was released four months later; no ransom was paid. When the bandits were apprehended by the police, and De André was called as witness before the Court, he refused to denounce his kidnappers and declared his own solidarity with them: «They were the real prisoners, not I», he said.

This dramatic episode, and the hard life of the Sardinian people, gave him inspiration for his following album, released in 1981. The album is anonymous, but, from the image of a native American appearing on the cover, the mass-media called it L'indiano (The Indian). The album contains one of his most famous songs, Fiume Sand Creek: it relates the massacre of defenceless native Americans of 29th November 1864 by U.S. Army troops.

In 1984 Fabrizio De André turned to his native Genoese dialect and wrote, together with former PFM member Mauro Pagani, one of his most celebrated albums, Crêuza de mä("Path to the sea", the term "Crêuza" actually indicates a narrow road bordered by low walls, typical of Genoa and its surroundings). The songs were a tribute to traditional music from every Mediterranean country.The album was awarded an unending series of prizes and was greeted as "the best Italian album of the 1980s". It was named by David Byrne as one of his favourite albums. As Pagani has repeatedly stated, De Andrè wrote the lyrics for the album, while the music was almost entirely Pagani's.

In 1989 Fabrizio De André married Dori 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 Raffae'. A new series of live concerts followed, from which a double LP (1991 Concerti[) was drawn. In 1992 he started a new series of live concerts.

In 1997 De André started a new tour of theatre concerts and a new song collection, called
Mi innamoravo di tutto ("I fell in love with everything") was issued. This tribute album included a version of La canzone di Marinella in duet with Mina. The Anime salve concert tour went on up to the late summer of 1998, when De André stopped at the first symptoms of a serious disease, which was later diagnosed as cancer.

He died in Milan on 11th January 1999. Two days later, he was buried in his native town, Genoa; the ceremony was attended by an immense crowd of about 20,000. Fabrizio De André rests in the monumental Staglieno cemetery, in the De André family chapel.

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