Fabrizio De André: The RAI Archive

This piece was originally published on January 11th 2009, on the tenth anniversay of Fabrizio De André’s death. The version of that website is now lost, but since it’s still one of the main reasons people reach this website we’ve decided to publish it once more, for De André would turn 75 today.

De André’s first TV apparition was in 1969. If you have Parole e Canzoni — an Einaudi collection — you definitely know something about it. The show was Incontro con… and it was hosted by Enza Sampò. Six years before his debut at a Bussola, in Viareggio, De André ended the debate on his refusal to sing live by simply saying: «I’m not prepared to entertain». Sampò conducted a pretty thorough interview, talking about I Viaggi di Gulliver, a childrens’ show for which De André had written the soundtrack and rhymes («I wrote 22 songs in 22 days»). There’s no available recording of it. During the half-hour show, the interview is mixed with a few songs from Tutti morimmo a stento (such as Girotondo, with a childrens’ choir and De André in the middle, La Guerra di Piero, Preghiera in Gennaio, Amore che Vieni Amore che Vai). The real treat is that New Trolls perform on the show as well, singing Tom Flaherty, which De André had written the previous year together with Mannerini.

After a ten-year gap is L’altra domenica with Renzo Arbore. It was 1978, Rimini had just been released and De André had just started the renovation of his Sardinian farmstead. The report was created by Fabrizio Zampa’s troupe, sent on location to Tempio Pausania. After a fun introduction (a passerby thought he saw De André sitting on a bench — it turned out it was just a man with the same haircut), the troupe went up the hills as a familiar version of Sally played in the background. Once they arrived on top the interview began. They only talked about work: De André explained that he bought that farmstead to earn some money, so that songs didn’t have to be the only way to make a living. As the two talked, suckling pigs were being cooked, people were singing Sardinian songs. It all ended with a great lunch, you can see it in Mindi’s TV documentary. Sitting at the table is also Massimo Bubola («this is the boy I’ve written my latest album songs with. It’s called Rimini. Yes, the album, not him.») Then, together with Cristiano and Dori, De André sang Andrea and Rimini. They made a toast to Arbore and ended with the Sorelle Bandiera jingle.

The report by Emilio Uberti and Luzzato Fegiz was broadcasted during Variety, in 1980. A short introductory scene reminds us of the recent kidnapping: De André, Dori and some friends are singing lying on the rocks while some suspicious men (they look like characters of a Sergio Leone film rather than representatives of a Sardinian gang) look at them, caressing their guns. De André (and co.) never share a single shot with the gang. I guess the idea — whose efficacy is yet to be proven — might have come up only during the editing process and I’m not sure whether the protagonists approved of it or not.

They of course talked about the kidnapping, even though with discretion. 1980 was the year De André worked on L’Indiano as Dori Ghezzi worked on Mamamadori. Fegiz hinted at the fact that publishing two albums right after being kidnapped might be interpreted as an advertising scheme: «You were kidnapped and now you’re releasing an album». De André annoyedly replied:«We’re two singers who happened to be kidnapped, not the other way round».

There’s one more tense moment when Fegiz asked about the train noise that could be heard in the cave where they were kept hostage. It was an element that could have helped the investigations. De André replied: «This is not the right place to talk about it».

After a shaky start, the report became calmer. They rehearsed some songs from Mamamadori (Mio signore, Mamamadori, Era notte) and joked about their relationship. Fegiz asked: «What if your love turned into business?» De André: «I don’t think that’s our case. The business would definitely not work out. Also, after four months of tests living in ½ a square metre, I think we can just say we fit well together».

The recording of the 1981 concert in Sarzana is listed in Rai archives, but it’s not actually present. You can find some extracts in various recent documentaries and on YouTube.

The special episode of Mixer, in 1982, was made by Mario Mariani: it’s a bried interview taken before the concert at Teatro Tenda, in Firenze. The relation with the audience is once again analysed: «I think the fact that the audience still creates a certain emotional upheaval is due to educational reasons, perhaps a catholic and self-repressive education». The interview is mixed with some noteworthy clips: De André singing a fado (I don’t know which one), Hotel Supramonte during rehearsal, Quello che non ho(which was used to set the mixer before the concert), and the opening act of Tempi Duri (Cristiano De André and Carlo Facchini’s group).

Two years later, Mixer renews its interest in De André with a half-hour special dedicated to Crêuza de mä, which is still available on YouTube.

A 1985 episode of Enzo Biagi’s Linea Diretta is especially interesting. The topic is Sanremo Music Festival. They compare the ideas of various songwriters (Dalla, De Gregori, Paoli, Vanoni, Guccini and others). De André explained why he’s always refused to participate in the Sanremo competition. «As I’m not equipped for a singing competition, being there would mean expressing my feelings with a technique I can’t actually use to express them. That can’t be a matter of competition». His explanation continues quoting Tenco: «When you put your feelings in competition you might experience exaggerated reactions in case of a moral rather than professional defeat. It was this tragedy too that made me decide not to join Sanremo». Then a few more words. Biagi: «Does the life of a singer make a man reasonably happy?» De André: «I think the best conclusion comes from Pirandello who said that there are people who live life and people who write it. Well, up until this moment I think I’ve mostly written it. And I haven’t lived it at full».

In 1991, Gianni Minà hosted a gala called Momenti di Gloria, live from Palazzo del Gruppo Ferruzzi, an evening dedicated to Mauro De André. Live from Porto San Giorgio, before a concert, De André talked about his broche and explained the meaning of Le Nuvole: «It’s an attempt at social satire. If I haven’t reached the heights of the great classics such as Apuleio and Petronio, I think it’s only due to a lack of descriptive ability, not of material to talk about, which we have in plenty at the moment».

Minà: «Ok Fabrizio, I thank you for not giving up your “stimulating” role».

He sang Don Raffaè.

It’s still 1991 when the long report by Notte Rock is broadcasted. It was made by Ernesto Assante among others. De André sang and explained some of his songs. The true rarity if that one of the songs is Giugno ’73. «It’s the story of a happy love… until it last it was magnificent. Then, when it turned into a communion of bad moods during the day and bad smells during the night — as Flaubert said — it happily ended. Therefore, it was a happy love, indeed.»

In between Le Nuvole (1990) and Anime Salve (1996) his TV appearances were almost inexistent. Strangely enough, he wasn’t even part of a TV show called Aspettando…Fabrizio De André, during which collaborators and friends such as Cesare Romana and Mauro Pagani are interviewed. I’d also like to remind you of the (bad) imitation young Gigi Sabani did at Ci siamo, in 1993 (but make sure you watch De Gregori’s one, that was quite good). And lastly, his 1996 apparition in Tg2 — Costume e società, after the release of Anime Salve. They almost exclusively talked about the farmstead of Tempio Pausania, almost completely restored and turned into an agriturismo, listing its fees and general features.

My research stops in 1999. After that date, everything that has been released has been greatly advertised and I don’t think highlighting it once more makes sense. I’d just like to talk about a very interesting documentary I’ve watched on YouTube with interviews to many close friends of De André outside the show business. It would be customary, after such a simple list of the contents of an archive, to draw some conclusions on De André. I can’t draw any. I’ll simply state that the constant feature of his long-lasting appearance is that of bringing his songwriting towards (economically) minor territories. The fact that in 1996 he preferred promoting his agriturismo rather than his latest album is pretty meaningful. I think that’s a choice Italian people still haven’t understood nowadays, in 2008.

Anyone can have their own personal opinion on De André. I’d just suggest you create this opinion based on documents rather than on the various documentaries that will be broadcasted in the next few days. The documents are easy to find and you can access them for free inside any Rai archive. You just need an identity card and a couple of spare hours.

Written by Alessandro Romeo.

Originally published here.