Goodbye to Clem Sacco, he was 91 years old

Goodbye to Clem Sacco, he was 91 years old

Clem Sacco, precursor of Italian rock, died last night at the age of 91. Born in Cairo, Egypt, to a Sicilian father and Piedmontese mother, he grew up there with his peer Yolanda Gigliotti who a few years later found fame in Paris with the stage name Dalida.

Clemente will go to Milan, study and graduate in singing, as Michele Bovi reports in his article on the Huffington Post. He shows up at an audition in Mantua where they are looking for a young baritone for the opera season. Clem comes second and decides to turn to pop music. It's 1955, a new rhythm called rock and roll arrives from America which will also make inroads in our parts.

Among the pioneers of the genre there is also Clem Sacco. Which will be followed by names that will become famous such as Baby Gate (Mina), Adriano Celentano, Giorgio Gaber. Sacco wrote his own songs but was vetoed by the censors with songs such as “Enea con il neo”, “Il deficiente”, “Spacca, rompi, pushi”, “Oh mama I want the soft-boiled egg” and “Baciami la vena varicose ”, as well as outraging the common sense of decency by presenting himself to the public in leopard-print underwear.

“In the aftermath of that performance, it was 1961 at the Smeraldo – said Clem Sacco – I went to the offices of my record company, Durium, convinced that I would receive an ecstatic welcome from the president Krikor Mintangian, because in Milan they talked about nothing else if not my soft-boiled egg in my underwear. She dragged us into shame with that disgusting show! Instead, Mintangian shouted in my face, inviting me to go out and at the same time warning me from appearing before him again. So the embargo of the RAI was soon joined by that of the record companies and publishers”.

Clem does not lose heart: in 1961 he is the lead singer of Ribelli, the Celentano Clan group: he replaces Adriano who left for military service. “With Adriano's consent, this writing appeared on the posters: The Celentano Clan presents the Rebels, sings Clem Sacco – recalls maestro Natale Massara, then saxophonist of the Rebels – Clem was the only one in the square who could replace the Chief whose everything he reproduced the repertoire then adding his own pieces which were exhilarating and explosive. People had a blast: Clem was a force of nature.”

Once the military service was completed, Celentano returned and Sacco formed a new group, the Califfi, with Gino Santercole, Dino Pasquadibisceglie and Enrico Maria Papes, later percussionist and voice of the Giganti, on guitars. Sacco was hired to make 5 Cinebox films, the ancestors of the music video. Censorship from radio, television and record companies pushed Clem Sacco to create his own label to record his songs.

“In Milan, in front of the Messaggerie Musicali shop, Clem Sacco's camper was perpetually parked – says the conductor Vince Tempera – it was his personal supermarket: he sold his records, cassettes and a thousand other things, from nail clippers to poker cards with naked women.

I, who had had the opportunity to play the piano in his group and therefore knew the artist's talent well, found that situation absurd and mortifying. Yet he lived her life to the fullest: always cheerful, vital, courageous. In one of his songs there is a line that goes “dad, I want a quarter of a lion”. Well, his father had certainly satisfied him. I met Clem a few years ago: only a pair of lenses and a few more wrinkles than then; in manners, voice and spirit he remained the lion of half a century earlier”.

To get by he made do by doing a thousand jobs. “An impresario told me: there is nothing for you. – Sacco said – Unless… but I don't even dare suggest it. It's a job that everyone refuses, even those who are a little… different… let alone you… I replied that I would accept any job. He told me that it was a six-month contract as an attraction at the Alexander Bar, an exclusive place for homosexuals. I didn't make him repeat it twice: I quickly accepted. I bought a long hair wig and changed my name: for six months I was Clementina Gay, a sort of horrible transvestite who however sang crazy rock. With a wife and two children to support, I welcomed the Alexander Bar as a gift from heaven.”

Since the 1980s he had lived in Tenerife: there he sang everything everywhere, rock, classics and folk in restaurants and nightclubs. He returned to perform in Italy in the summer of 2006, invited by Musicultura in Macerata. Three young groups have recorded his songs: Gaby and Batmacumba, Serf and Cabona Abusers.

In January 2007 he hosted the Dossier Storie with Renzo Arbore dedicated to 50 years of Italian rock and was awarded by Gene Gnocchi for Raidue's Grande Notte as “the most transgressive artist in the history of Italian rock”.

Between 2009 and 2010 he was hired by Raiuno for two programs: “I Migliori Anni” by Carlo Conti and “Ciak si canta” by Pupo in which he performed the video “Baciami la vena varicosa”. His last Italian performance dates back to August 2014, on the stage of the Fonclea Riverside in Rome: a challenge between rock and beat, Clem Sacco against Mal of the Primitives, both accompanied by a group of old glories of the 45 rpm record. “Today many rappers pepper their songs with insults and insults – says Vince Tempera – the market accepts and indeed blesses every provocation. Lots of obscenity but no transgression. Clem was the first to challenge respectability. And he was genuine: he paid for his art and his audacity with the disapproval of moralists and the veto of pigtails. Without ever even complaining. The authentic proto-crazy person of rock is gone.”