Antonello Venditti: "Dignity for popular music"

Antonello Venditti: “Dignity for popular music”

Mass conference for Antonello Venditti, who this morning presented the reprint of “Cuore”, forty years later, at the Ministry of Culture in Rome, “in the absence” of Minister Sangiuliano, who arrived an hour late.

“Minister or no minister, life goes on,” he said and sat down at the piano to play “Night Before the Exams.” The thing that was most important to Venditti, a law graduate with a master's degree in legal philosophy, was to launch the bill to include contemporary popular music in the Constitution: «No government has ever thought of protecting it. Neither this nor others”, he said. “It cannot be entrusted to talent, multinationals or anything else. We need to be recognized, give dignity to everyone, from De André to Geolier. If there had not been contemporary popular music this country would not have been united. Adequate spaces are needed, because every citizen, from south to north, has the right to see the same concert. I would rather be remembered more for this law than for my songs.” .

Lawyer Luca Pardo explained the need for legal validation: «Music accompanies us since birth, but in the Constitution it only has a generic reference, as if it were a minor art form. Yet the Nobel was awarded to Bob Dylan. The sector needs legislative support.” Gianmarco Mazzi, undersecretary of culture, says he takes it seriously: «I give all my support to the proposal. Music is culture, and it must be reiterated even more today that there is an impoverishment of the literary part in songs.”

Music, therefore. Records, if they capture the spirit of their time, don't age. And indeed, listened to again from a distance, they are reconfirmed, even forgiven, and take on other meanings. “Cuore” will be reissued on June 14th with the addition of the previously unreleased “Di' una parole”, a cover of “Say Something” by the American duo A Great Big World (in collaboration with Christina Aguilera they already won a Grammy): «It's a cover as much mine as it was “High tide”” he explained. Isabella Ferrari will be in the video. It will be premiered live on May 19th at the Verona Arena (guests Fulminacci and Gazzelle), on the 18th, 19th and 21st from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, then off throughout Italy. Venditti and superband, after the long tour paired with De Gregori.

The patronage of the Ministry of Culture is not a trifle. When the album was released in 1984, it was a huge success, but quite a few accused Venditti of disengagement, because “he had taken a more commercial path”. Today, however, those songs are collective heritage, and photograph a piece of national history. There is the public, the private, the political, in each of the eight tracks.

On a personal level, the making of “Cuore” was a rebirth.

Two years of exile in Brianza and a strong depression had distanced Venditti from Rome, which is much more than an address to live in. It was and is a place of the soul, a fixed reference point for his poetics. It is no coincidence that the first notes he played on the piano, as soon as he returned to the city, were those of “Thanks Roma”, published in 1983. Immediately afterwards he composed “Night before the exams”, since then the soundtrack of the graduates (in the conference there were also the students of Giulio Cesare and Visconti high schools), and looting material for films, TV series, and who knows what else. «A song that came out like a miracle» said Venditti «It came straight away. I found myself dazzled by what I had certainly written, but perhaps, who knows, it came from elsewhere.” Of the song, he found the original tapes, oxidized, in an old box: «They allowed us to have a crazy sound in the reissue» he assures. .

From the same piano he took out “Ci would like a friend”, dedicated to Lucio Dalla who had found him a new home in the capital, forcing him to rejoin it: «If Dalla hadn't been there, with his irony, his madness, the his genius, “Heart” would not have been born” he recalled.

“Night before exams” and “Ci would like a friend” Venditti sang them live for the first time on 30 May 1984 at the Circus Maximus, to comfort the Giallorossi after their defeat in the Champions Cup final. This isn't a coincidence either. The Circus Maximus, like the Basilica of Maxentius, the Imperial Forums, and other places that had until then been elitist or abandoned, had been returned to the citizens, who in the years of lead, of the massacres and the P38, preferred to stay at home. The Roman Summer invented by Renato Nicolini brought them back together on the streets.

In 1984 Venditti made a completely Roman album. He puts his maturity into it: «I didn't sleep the night before, I arrived at school on my motorbike from Florence that same morning». Then the clashes of '68 in “Qui”, the Folkstudio: «The four guys I mention in “Night before exams” were me, De Gregori, Bassignano and Locascio. We called ourselves the young people of Folk, that is, of the Folkstudio, but people expected us to make folk songs and got pissed off. The others had guitars, but I had the piano, which was never there in the places we played. It was like the cross of Christ for me.”

And again the bombs, Bob Marley's concert in 1980 in “Piero and Cinzia”… There is the whole present of that time which in some way makes him predict the future: in “The Optimist” he satirizes the greedy socialists , eight years before the bribery scandal; in “Never any video ever” he senses that hedonism and the cult of the image could lead to the loss of reality and collective meaning, as then happened with the internet. In “Stella” he calls for the end of hatred and power, and since 1992 he has brought it up to date by dedicating it to the agents of Giovanni Falcone's escort who died in the Capaci massacre. Finally, in “Non è la cocaine”, later used in Verdone's film “Too strong”, he talks about the spread of drugs (Vasco Rossi was arrested on 20 April, exactly two months before the song was released) and invites us to use more kind of drugs. The most powerful: being together at a concert.

In fact, he is the one to sing chorally, shamelessly. He talks about the tribulations of love, and many people frequent them. You say Venditti, you think of the Greek versions, of Dante and Ariosto, of Nietzsche and Marx shaking hands. If you don't think about it, maybe you'll want to go and read who I am. Gazzelle and Fulminacci paid homage to Venditti at the last Sanremo Festival. He called them to the Verona Arena. Mixing Rome and feelings, he showed the way to new singer-songwriters. But he, we rediscover, did not lose sight of culture, politics and society in pop. Who knows, maybe this is also what makes the songs last.