Farewell to Pino D'Angiò

In the pneumatic vacuum of pop, Pino D’Angiò is a breath of fresh air

Yesterday came the news of the death of singer-songwriter Pino D’Angiò. In the 80s he was a character of rupture and innovation and his hit “Ma che idea” became a cult song.

We remember him with this interview he gave us last September

Pino D’Angiò is a river: “I have never had a press office.

My press office has always been the people. I argued with the record companies because I didn’t accept the fact that there was someone telling me how I should dress, what I should say: they were all people who had a quarter of my culture and 4% of my intelligence. It was the people who made me a cult artist. If it had been up to CBS and EMI, I would never have become Pino D’Angiò: they only financed international shitty stars. And yet I won 9 Gold Records. And I’m the only Italian artist on the DVD ‘World Tribute to Funk’, the complete encyclopedia of funk selected by Sony Music. And no one ever noticed. Someone called me ‘the dark innovator of Italian music’. I’m neither an innovator nor dark. You will be blacked out, you shitty journalists, who can’t see beyond your nose: those of the time only wrote about international artists from multinationals, as employees as they were”. The voice on the other end of the phone is the same as in “Ma quale idea” (the 1981 hit that launched the artist from Campania), only it is affected by the six operations that Giuseppe Chierchia – this is the real name of .Pino D’Angiò – has had to undergo over the years due to throat cancer: “Today I sing almost without vocal cords,” explains him, who tonight, at 71, will perform live in Verona on the stage of “Arena Suzuki dai 60 ai 2000”, the three-day revival hosted by Amadeus, on TV Saturday 23, Wednesday 27 September and Wednesday 4 October. In the pneumatic vacuum of today’s pop, a character like this is a breath of fresh air.

“Ma quale idea” has 40 million streams on Spotify: when did it become a cult?

“Look, I don’t know. I only know that thirteen years ago I had completely withdrawn, after throat cancer. I had lost my voice. I was still for eleven years and I was completely disinterested in everything that was happening in the world of music. I started writing stories and poems. But in the meantime something must have happened that I still can’t explain. And that I couldn’t control: thanks to word of mouth, many of the things I did were discovered by kids, who when I sang ‘Ma quale idea’ hadn’t even been born. I knew nothing about all this”.

And how did you find out?

“It happened that a guy started stalking me, even tracking down my son, tracing him back to me by his last name. I even found him outside my house, this one. It was like that for four or five months. He wanted to hear from me. I wouldn’t let him find me, I sent my son to talk to him. Then one day my son got fed up: ‘Dad, enough. You talk to him: I can’t take it anymore’. I talked to him: ‘Pino, you have to go back to doing shows. Is it possible that you’ve literally disappeared?’”.

And who was he?

“Tommaso Zucchini, a DJ from Milan. Today he is my manager. I let myself be guided. Three years ago he organized a night in Milan, at the Apollo: sold out. ‘Let’s do another one’, he told me. That one was sold out too. ‘Let’s do a third one’. Guess what? The third one was sold out too. So we started doing nights elsewhere too, at the Alcazar in Rome, in Naples. Now I don’t know where I sleep, where I eat. They take me around like a spinning top (laughs). And tonight I’m in Verona with Amadeus, who asked me to sing ‘Ma quale idea’”.

How did the Pino D’Angiò phenomenon arise?

“By chance. Because I never wanted to be a singer. I was 23. I was a medical student. I left Pompeii, where I was born, to go and attend classes in Siena. To earn a little extra money, in addition to what they sent me from home, I did little cabaret shows, saying unlistenable nonsense, with the guitar. But people had fun. Strange, people. One day someone approached me and gave me a note: ‘Come and visit me in Milan’. His name was Ezio Leoni. He was Mina’s producer, but I discovered him years later”.


“Nothing, goodbye and thank you. A few years later I moved from Siena to Milan. I still had that note. I called him. ‘It took you a long time to come and see me,’ he told me. We met in his office. ‘D’Angiò, can you let me listen to those things you did in Siena again?’. I played them back to him, a little embarrassed. He asked me: ‘Do you want to make a record?’”.

And you?

“Put yourself in the shoes of a student away from home who is offered the chance to make a record. At the time, by the way, there was a lot of money in the record industry. I accepted. And quickly, too. And so in 1979 the 45 rpm ‘È libero, scusi? / La bottega di Mefistofele’ was released. It won a competition organized by free radio stations, but it was a resounding flop. Yes, some radio stations played it. But that was the end of it. And I thought my recording career was over too”.

And instead?

“After seven months that Leoni called me back.

He wanted to talk to me: ‘We have to come to an agreement, we have to look for some songs because we’ve decided that you have to make an LP’. I thought: ‘But this guy is crazy’. But I decided to follow him in his follies. That’s how in 1981 we put together ‘Balla’, the album of ‘Ma quale idea’. After three months they called me from Ri-Fi, the label that published the album: ‘We have to go and promote it in France, Brazil, Argentina, Spain’. I didn’t understand. ‘What the fuck is happening?’, I thought. From that moment on I didn’t understand anything anymore. I let things happen. They told me from Siae that my songs generate revenue in 96 countries”.

The vinyl of “Balla!” is a rarity: on Discogs there are those who sell it for 2,000 euros.

“What are you saying? People are crazy.”

That style, between singing and speaking, with a sound halfway between Italo disco, funk and a prototype of rap singer-songwriter, has set a precedent: do you know Franco126?

“Of course. We met a year and a half ago, I think. He told me he was a fan of mine. He wanted to ask me for permission to record a cover of one of my songs, ‘Gente Intelligente’. And he asked me to record the intro to one of his songs, ‘Scandalo’. I jumped at the chance: we’re making a tribute album in which artists from that circuit will sing my songs again. I won’t name names, though. It’s still too early to reveal all the details”.

Whose idea was the bass riff in “Ma quale idea,” which contributed so much to the song’s success?

“They said I had taken it from ‘Ain’t no stoppin’ us now’ by McFadden & Whitehead, released two years earlier. Bullshit. If you take the two songs and transcribe the notes of the riff on a score, do you know how many of them match? Three. That riff was invented by me and Stefano Cerri, a phenomenal bass player: he came from jazz and was the son – I speak in the past tense because, unfortunately, Stefano is no longer with us – of the great Franco Cerri. We invented it by humming it, sitting in front of each other: ‘Pa-pa-pa-rappappa…’. We tried and tried, until in the end that riff came out”.

“You are as ugly as a toad in the night, but you are rich, so rich and I will never leave you”. And again: “As fat as you are, you climbed over my feet and hurt me so much”, you sang in “Così grassa come sei”. Today in the era of political correctness could you rewrite it?


Because I, fortunately, am very politically incorrect. I’m the guy who smoked on TV in the ’80s. Nobody did that. But what the fuck does ‘politically correct’ mean? I’ve never conformed and I never will. Who fueled this nonsense? Yes, I wrote that song. And I still sing it. Do I offend fat women? Maybe fat idiots, those who don’t have a shred of brain.”

“Run and cook, there’s nothing to eat,” you said in “Make Me a Sandwich.” Haven’t feminists noticed yet?

“But real feminists don’t exist anymore. There are only people who ride certain trends to get publicity, go on TV and say a couple of bullshit things.”

Can you tell the story of Mina’s phone call?

“I met her thanks to that Leoni. She said to me: ‘D’Angiò, meet me in the office with your guitar: I’d like Mina to listen to some of your songs’. For me she was the Madonna. I found her with a magazine in her hand, sitting on an armchair. I started singing. She didn’t even look at me, but in the end she thanked me. She didn’t record the song: I don’t even remember which one it was. After about ten years, my home phone rang. My wife answered, because I was out. When I came back she said to me: ‘A certain Mrs. Mazzini called: she was looking for you’. ‘And who is this? I don’t know any Mrs. Mazzini’. But then she called back. And this time I answered: ‘Am I speaking to Pino? It’s Mina’. I’d like a piece of yours, ironic, intelligent. I’m making an LP that talks about love’. I didn’t let her finish. I sent her ‘Ma chi è quello lì’, which she recorded in 1987 for the album ‘Rane supreme’”.

And what about when Marvin Gaye came to your house for lunch?

“I didn’t even know he was Marvin Gaye. We were doing a show together, in the ’80s. He was one of the international guests. We met in the dressing rooms and this big guy introduced himself as Winnie. I invited him to my house, this Winnie. He wanted me to make him spaghetti. When he was introduced during the show as Marvin Gaye, I had a shock: ‘This asshole’. I told Winnie: ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’. ‘Not for you, not for you…’, he smiled”.

What happened in Sanremo in 1989?

“It happened that the record producer Alfredo Gramitto Ricci decided to send me to Sanremo that year. Only I didn’t want to do it and I told him: ‘I don’t give a shit about Sanremo’. He insisted. ‘Okay, let’s go do this fucking Sanremo’, I resigned myself. I did it reluctantly. I looked around and thought: ‘Fuck you’. Since I understood that they would eliminate me before the final, I invented a way to not go unnoticed. I faked fainting. Result: the newspapers only talked about me (laughs)”.

How has the illness changed the way you perform?

“The disease has changed my voice, as you can hear. But not my approach. I go on stage to have fun, not to entertain. I don’t give a shit about anything else.”