Franco Battiato was a songwriter, composer, musician, director and painter. Curious and attentive, the artist has always stood out for being an innovator and revolutionary. A real master of Italian music, even if he did not like to call himself that. The humility that only adults can have.
The musical genius who became a household name in the late seventies and early eighties, died on Tuesday at 76 years of age, at his house, a castle located in the small hamlet of Milo in Sicily.
Born on March 23, 1945, he burst on the Italian music scene with songs like Bandiera Bianca, Centro di Gravità Permanente and Voglio Vederti Danzare, and composing Per Elisa for his friend, the singer Alice, which won the 1981 San Remo music festival.
Brief on the history of the legend of Italy Battiato
Battiato with his 30 studio albums to his credit in over 50 years of career has embraced pop, electronics, opera, thus revolutionizing the panorama of Italian music.
In the 60s Battiato rode the movement of “protest” songs, in the 70s he experimented with progressive rock and experimentation in the 80s.
Then slowly the return to pop music and the consecration in author music. Alongside him, various collaborators and friends are inevitable, especially the philosopher Manlio Sgalambro who was co-author of many of his compositions.
Especially at the turn of the 70s and 80s, the lyrics of the songs married esotericism, oriental meditation and philosophy. Themes to which Battiato was very attached. In addition to his passion for painting, Battiato was also a director with three films “Perdutoamor” in 2003, “Musikanten” in 2005 and “Nothing is as it seems” in 2007.
In addition to three documentaries under his belt “La sua figure” in 2007 dedicated to the friend and great artist who passed away Giuni Russo, “Auguri Don Gesualdo” on Gesualdo Bufalino of 2010 and “Crossing the Bardo” of 2014, on post mortem experiences. In his career he has also collaborated with many of his colleagues from Claudio Baglioni to CSI, from Enzo Avitabile to Pino Daniele, from Bluvertigo to Tiziano Ferro, Celentano, Subsonica, Marta sui Tubi, in addition to the decisive role played in the careers of Milva, Alice and Giuni Russian.
In the second half of the 1960s, in a Milan devastated by political events, the young Franco Battiato made himself with his guitar at Club 64, the cabaret where artists of the caliber of Gino Paoli, Bruno Lauzi and many others passed. One evening in the audience there was also Giorgio Gaber who is struck by the artist’s potential. The two become friends. A lucky meeting because it was Gaber who helped him find a place in the world of discography.
Those were the fiery years of 1968 and Battiato is part of the “protest” music. “The tower” and “The reactions” sanctioned the first important steps in music for Battiato who, with the first song, was presented on TV, it was the first of May 1967. With “… so come on!” Franco Battiato makes his entrance to the 1967 Sanremo Festival.
Later he begins a new path in “romantic” music also in search of the final applause of the public. “È l’amore” from 1968 sells over 100 thousand copies. Experimental music takes over in 1971 and Battiato changes all the cards on the table and what he had sown in those years. Just in 1972 he released his first album entitled “Fetus” – it sold 7 thousand copies – with a portrait of a fetus on the cover, of course it was censored.
An album breaking between Mediterranean music, guitar and synthesizers. Also in the same year “Pollution” is released. “Sulle corde di Aries” from 1973, on the other hand, reflects the more intimate and intellectual soul with the inspirations of Arabic music in the background, without sacrificing electronics. “Click” came out in 1974 and marks the path in the contemporary avant-garde. The work is dedicated to the musician and friend Karlheinz Stockhausen.
A little curiosity: one of the songs “Propiedad prohibida” is the opening theme of TG2 Dossier.
“M.elle le Gladiator” of ’75 contains ten minutes of musical experiments and twenty minutes of organ sounds, recorded in the cathedral of Monreale.
Between 1971 and 1975 you temporarily set aside your recording career to experiment with different collaborations and avant-garde experiments. In 1977 she signed for Dischi Ricordi and released three little appreciated albums: “Battiato” and in 1978 “Juke Box” and “Egypt before the sands“.
In the meantime, Battiato crosses his artistic path with the musician Giusto Pio who will also teach him the violin. The turning point took place in 1979 “The era of the white boar”, under contract with Emi, which is part of a great moment of personal reflection of the Master marked by the spiritual experience of Sufism.
“The era of the white boar” – where the wild boar is the sacred animal emblem of spiritual knowledge – has two stages of processing. In the first, the bass, the drums are missing and the work done is discarded, then with the addition of Tullio De Piscopo and Julius Farmer we arrive at the definitive version. At Emi they are not very convinced but they publish the album anyway.
Among the songs contained the great classic “Stranizza d’amuri“. Critics turn up their noses but something starts to move and the attention on Battiato lights up.
Opening the 1980s is the album “Patriots” – the original title was “The telegraphs of Mardi Gras” – which gets a good commercial response and contains the famous “Up patriots to arms”, “Nevski Prospect” and “The eagles. “.
A work inspired by great masters of culture from Leopardi to Carducci. The artistic production of this period is characterized by the use of quotation and there is no history, no linear theme as much as situations – apparently – meaningless. The consecration to the great commercial success comes in 1981 with “La voce del padrone”, a title inspired by the writer Georges Ivanovic Gudrjieff but also by the record company.
It is the disc that contains the famous “White Flag” – memorable his performance on a stage and the megaphone -, “Permanent center of gravity” which becomes a real hit and the reinterpretation of “Ccucccurucucù” by Caetano Veloso, where in the choir is our friend Giuni Russo. In one year, the album scores over a million copies sold. The subsequent “Noah’s Ark”, with a pessimistic and apocalyptic tone, sold 550 thousand copies. In the tracklist there is “I want to see you dance” which will never be missing in Battiato’s concert schedule. Electronics mixes with classical music.
Electronics reigns supreme in the 1983 album “Lost Horizons”, where mysticism makes its way into folk tales. Among the songs stands out another great classic from the Maestro’s repertoire “The season of love”.
In 1985 “Mondi faranissimi” was released, an example of classical music that is intertwined with music produced by computers.
The very distant worlds are the planets of the Solar System but also the inner worlds of our consciousness. Another artistic and personal turning point with “Fisiognomica” in 1988, when he decides to leave Milan to move to a villa in Milo, on the slopes of Etna. The disc is inspired by the homonymous work by Aristotle and contains cult songs such as “And I come to look for you”.
The record sells over 300 thousand copies. The 90s opened with 1991’s “Like a camel in a gutter”, recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios, a quote from the 12th century Persian scientist al-Biruni. The sounds are markedly religious and spiritual with a proximity to the classical symphony from Wagner to Beethoven.
The song that took off was “Povera Patria”, whose words are still extraordinarily current. “Il Caffè de la Paix” of 1993 – the famous Parisian venue of 1862 – marks the return to 80’s pop with bass, guitars and keyboards with sounds related to world music. In 1994 the artistic partnership that will last for the rest of Battiato’s career with the philosopher Manlio Sgalambro, the first album together is “The umbrella and the sewing machine” – quote from a phrase from the epic poem ‘Canti del Maldoror’ by French poet Lautreamont – with a strong intellectual matrix and very far from commercial success.
In 1996 Battiato signed for Mercury and published “L’imboscata” which brought Battiato back to sales success with electronic sounds. The disc contains one of the most popular songs in the songwriter’s repertoire: “La cura”.
In 1998 he returned to electronics and rock with “Shellac”, which represents not only one of his most convincing experiments but also an excellent sales success. The songs that dragged the album were “The dance of power” and “Shock in my town”.
Battiato also addresses one of the themes most dear to him such as reincarnation in the song “Parallel Lives”. Between 1999 and 2008 the “Fleurs” trilogy comes out.
The first chapter of “Fleurs” comes out in 1999 and contains two unreleased songs and ten songs signed by other authors from Sergio Endrigo to Jacques Brel. There is also a tribute to Fabrizio De André with “The song of lost love”. In 2003 “Fleurs 3” was released and in 2008 “Fleurs 2” which contains the hit song “The whole universe obeys love” with Carmen Consoli. In addition to the trilogy was released in the middle “Wrought iron” in 2001 which sees the collaboration of the leader of Simple Minds, Jim Kerr, in the song “Running against the grain”. In 2004 he released “Ten stratagems” with Sony Music where among the singles stands out “Between sex and chastity”.
In 2007 “The void” was published and two years later “Inneres Auge – the whole is more than the sum of its parts”, an anthology with two unpublished and some covers. A very harsh indictment of politics. Five years after the previous album of unreleased only, “Open sesame” was released in 2012, which not only lashes out against politics but against the morals and customs of those years. A work that stands out not so much for the music that confirms the graft of pop with electronics, as for the clear and clear texts against social discomfort.