Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   La ballata dell'amore cieco (o della vanità) -
   The Ballad of Blind Love (or of Vanity)

Un uomo onesto, un uomo probo,
tralalalalla tralallaleru
s'innamorò perdutamente
d'una che non lo amava niente.

Gli disse portami domani,
tralalalalla tralallaleru
gli disse portami domani
il cuore di tua madre per i miei cani.

Lui dalla madre andò e l'uccise,
tralalalalla tralallaleru
dal petto il cuore le strappò
e dal suo amore ritornò.

Non era il cuore, non era il cuore,
tralalalalla tralallaleru
non le bastava quell'orrore,
voleva un'altra prova del suo cieco amore.

Gli disse amor se mi vuoi bene,
tralalalalla tralallaleru
gli disse amor se mi vuoi bene,
tagliati dei polsi le quattro vene.

Le vene ai polsi lui si tagliò,
tralalalalla tralallaleru
e come il sangue ne sgorgò,
correndo come un pazzo da lei tornò.

Gli disse lei ridendo forte,
tralalalalla tralallaleru
gli disse lei ridendo forte,
l'ultima tua prova sarà la morte.

E mentre il sangue lento usciva,
e ormai cambiava il suo colore,
la vanità fredda gioiva,
un uomo s'era ucciso per il suo amore.

Fuori soffiava dolce il vento,
tralalalalla tralallaleru
ma lei fu presa da sgomento,
quando lo vide morir contento.

Morir contento e innamorato,
quando a lei niente era restato,
non il suo amore, non il suo bene,
ma solo il sangue secco delle sue vene.

La ballata dell'amore cieco (o della vanità) © 1966 Fabrizio De André

"La ballata dell'amore cieco (o della vanità)" was the B-side of the next to last 45 released on the Karim label. The first three verses of this song are taken from a French poem "La Chanson de Marie-des-Anges" by Jean Richepin. De André's father had studied French literature at university, and in the years following World War II De André grew up surrounded with books and music. One of his attractions was to the dark sensibilities of Baudelaire. The macabre lyrics of this song coupled with the lively music (Dixieland interludes!) show the influence also of George Brassens. And that "tralallaleru" refrain is no doubt related to Trallalero, a group harmony singing tradition from the Ligurian region that was taken up by Genoese dockworkers and became hugely popular in the first three decades of the 1900s.


An example of Trallalero:
An honest man, a man of probity
tralalalalla tralallaleru
fell deeply in love
with a woman who loved him not at all.

She told him bring me, tomorrow
tralalalalla tralallaleru
She told him bring me tomorrow
the heart of your mother for my dogs.

He went to his mother’s house and killed her
tralalalalla tralallaleru
from her chest he tore out her heart
and to his love he did return.

It wasn’t the heart, it wasn’t the heart
tralalalalla tralallaleru
It wasn’t enough for her, that horror,
she wanted another proof of his blind love.

She said darling, if you love me
tralalalalla tralallaleru
She said darling, if you love me
cut the four veins of your wrist.

He cut the veins in his wrist
tralalalalla tralallaleru
and as blood gushed out,
running like a madman he returned to her.

She said to him, laughing hard
tralalalalla tralallaleru
She said to him, laughing loud
your final test will be death.

And while his blood slowly drained out
and then his color was changing,
the cold vanity rejoiced,
a man had been killed for his love.

Outside, the wind blew gently
tralalalalla tralallaleru
but she fell into a state of consternation
when she saw him dying, contented.

Dying content and in love,
when for her nothing remained,
not his love, nor his well-being,
just the dried blood of his veins.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   Amore che vieni, amore che vai -
   You, Love, Who Comes and Who Goes

Quei giorni perduti a rincorrere il vento
a chiederci un bacio e volerne altri cento
un giorno qualunque li ricorderai
amore che fuggi da me tornerai
un giorno qualunque li ricorderai
amore che fuggi da me tornerai

E tu che con gli occhi di un altro colore
mi dici le stesse parole d'amore
fra un mese fra un anno scordate le avrai
amore che vieni da me fuggirai
tra un mese tra un anno scordate le avrai
amore che vieni da me fuggirai

Venuto dal sole o da spiagge gelate
perduto in novembre o col vento d'estate
io t'ho amato sempre non t'ho amato mai
amore che vieni amore che vai
io t'ho amato sempre non t'ho amato mai
amore che vieni amore che vai

Amore che vieni, amore che vai © 1966 Fabrizio De André

"Amore che vieni, amore che vai" was the last song written by De André for the Karim label, and it was released in 1966 as side B to "Geordie." It treats a theme that appears regularly in De André's work, the mutability of love. The song is also featured in a 2008 movie of the same name, based on the novel Un destino ridicolo co-written by De André and Alessandro Gennari in 1996.


Those days long past of chasing the wind,
of asking each other for a kiss and wanting a hundred more,
one of these days you’ll remember them.
You, love who runs away, will come back to me.
One of these days you'll remember them.
You, love that flees, to me will return.

And you who with eyes of a different color
tell me the very same words of love,
in a month, in a year, you’ll have forgotten them.
Love who comes to me, from me you will flee.
In a month, in a year, you’ll have forgotten them.
Love who comes to me, from me you will flee.

Hailing from sunshine or from cold, cold shores,
lost in November or with a summer breeze,
I loved you always, I never loved you,
you, love, who comes and who goes.
I loved you always, I never loved you,
you, love, who comes, you, love, who goes.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   La ballata dell'eroe - Ballad of the Hero

Era partito per fare la guerra
per dare il suo aiuto alla sua terra
gli avevano dato le mostrine e le stelle
e il consiglio di vendere cara la pelle
e quando gli dissero di andare avanti
troppo lontano si spinse a cercare la verità
ora che è morto la patria si gloria
d'un altro eroe alla memoria

ma lei che lo amava aspettava il ritorno
d'un soldato vivo, d'un eroe morto che ne farà
se accanto nel letto le è rimasta la gloria
d'una medaglia alla memoria

La ballata dell'eroe © 1961 Fabrizio De André

"La ballata dell'eroe" was the B-side of the 45 released by Karim in 1961 that De André considers his first published work (the A-side was "La ballata del Michè"). With the Cold War raging between the US and the USSR, and in the context of the unfolding Berlin Crisis, this song was a simple yet powerful anti-war ballad. The song was re-recorded by Luigi Tenco in 1962 and appeared in the movie "La Cuccagna." The song was republished in 1964 as the B-side to "La guerra di Piero" and also reinterpreted and included on Volume III. Though not officially credited, according to the sheet music of the song the music was written by Elvio Monti, who worked for Karim as arranger and orchestra conductor and who collaborated on many of De André's songs released by that label.


He had gone off to fight in the war,
to give help to his country.
They had given him the patches and the stars
and the advice to fight to the bitter end,
and when they told him to move ahead,
too far he pushed on, searching for the truth.
Now that he’s dead, his fatherland boasts
of another hero added to its memory.

But she who loved him waited for the return
of a living soldier. What will she make of a dead hero
if beside her in bed she is left with the glory
of a commemorative medallion?


English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   La canzone di Marinella - Marinella's Song

Questa di Marinella è la storia vera
che scivolò nel fiume a primavera
ma il vento che la vide così bella
dal fiume la portò sopra una stella

Sola senza il ricordo di un dolore
vivevi senza il sogno di un amore
ma un re senza corona e senza scorta
bussò tre volte un giorno alla tua porta

Bianco come la luna il suo cappello
come l'amore rosso il suo mantello
tu lo seguisti senza una ragione
come un ragazzo segue un aquilone

E c'era il sole e avevi gli occhi belli
lui ti baciò le labbra ed i capelli
c'era la luna e avevi gli occhi stanchi
lui pose le sue mani sui tuoi fianchi

Furono baci e furono sorrisi
poi furono soltanto i fiordalisi
che videro con gli occhi delle stelle
fremere al vento e ai baci la tua pelle

Dicono poi che mentre ritornavi
nel fiume chissà come scivolavi
e lui che non ti volle creder morta
bussò cent'anni ancora alla tua porta

Questa è la tua canzone Marinella
che sei volata in cielo su una stella
e come tutte le più belle cose
vivesti solo un giorno, come le rose

E come tutte le più belle cose
vivesti solo un giorno, come le rose

La canzone di Marinella © 1964 Fabrizio De André

"La canzone di Marinella" is perhaps the most famous of De André's songs, and when it was covered with great success by the Italian artist Mina in 1967 it allowed De André to give up his day job and concentrate on songwriting. The song itself was based on the true story of a girl who became orphaned and then took to the streets to make money. She was murdered by a client. When he read the story, De André's impulse was to do something to help, in the only way he could - with a song, written as a way to change her death and to sweeten it somehow, given that we have no powers to change the events of someone's life already passed.


This story of Marinella is the true story,
that she slipped into the river one spring.
But the wind that saw her so beautiful
carried her from the river onto a star.

Alone with no memory of sorrow,
you lived without the dream of a love.
But a king, without his crown and without escort,
knocked three times one day on your door.

White as the moon his hat,
and like the flush of love his cloak.
You followed him without any reason,
like a child chases after a kite.

And it was sunny and your eyes were beautiful,
he kissed your lips and your hair.
Then came the moon and your eyes were tired,
he placed his hands on your hips.

There were kisses and there were smiles,
then there were only fleurs-de-lis
that saw with the eyes of the stars
your skin trembling in the wind and the kisses.

They say then that while you were returning
you slipped into the river, who knows how?
And he, not wanting to believe you dead,
knocked a hundred years more at your door.

This is your song, Marinella,
that you flew to heaven on a star.
And like all of the most beautiful things,
you lived only one day, like the roses.

And like all the most beautiful things,
you lived only one day, like the roses.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.


A duet with Mina and De André recorded in 1997
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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   Fila la lana - Spin the Wool

Nella guerra di Valois
il Signor di Vly è morto,
se sia stato un prode eroe
non si sa, non è ancor certo.

Ma la dama abbandonata
lamentando la sua morte
per mill'anni e forse ancora
piangerà la triste sorte.

Fila la lana, fila i tuoi giorni
illuditi ancora che lui ritorni,
libro di dolci sogni d'amore
apri le pagine sul suo dolore.

Son tornati a cento e a mille
i guerrieri di Valois,
son tornati alle famiglie,
ai palazzi alle città.

Ma la dama abbandonata
non ritroverà il suo amore
e il gran ceppo nel camino
non varrà a scaldarle il cuore.

Fila la lana, fila i tuoi giorni
illuditi ancora che lui ritorni,
libro di dolci sogni d'amore
apri le pagine al suo dolore.

Cavalieri che in battaglia
ignorate la paura
stretta sia la vostra maglia,
ben temprata l'armatura.

Al nemico che vi assalta
siate presti a dar risposta
perché dietro a quelle mura
vi s'attende senza sosta.

Fila la lana, fila i tuoi giorni
illuditi ancora che lui ritorni,
libro di dolci sogni d'amore
chiudi le pagine sul suo dolore.

Fila la lana © 1965 Fabrizio De André

"Fila la lana" was presented as a translation of a popular medieval French song from the 15th century. In fact the French source song was "File la laine" composed by Robert Marcy in 1948, popularized by Jacque Douai in 1955. The War of Valois in De André's version is better known as the War of the Breton Succession (1341-1364). The original French version speaks of the "Monsieur of Malbrough" which refers to a 1709 battle in the War of the Spanish Succession depicted in one of the most famous of French folk songs, "Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre."


In the war of Valois
the Seignior of Vly died.
Whether he was a valiant hero
is unknown, it’s still not certain.

But the woman left abandoned
lamenting his death,
for a thousand years, maybe more,
will mourn his sad destiny.

Spin the wool, spin your days,
keep fooling yourself that he might return.
Book of sweet dreams of love -
open the pages to its sorrow.

They returned by the hundreds and by the thousands,
the warriors of Valois.
They returned to their families,
to their palaces, to their cities.

But the abandoned woman
won’t find her love again,
and the big log in the fireplace
will be of no use for warming her heart.

Spin the wool, spin your days,
keep fooling yourself that he might return.
Book of sweet dreams of love -
open the pages to its sorrow.

Knights who in battle
ignore the fear,
may your chain mail be tight,
your armor well-tempered.

To the enemy who assaults you
be ready to give riposte,
because behind those walls
you’re awaited without cease.

Spin the wool, spin your days,
keep fooling yourself that he might return.
Book of sweet dreams of love -
close the pages on its sorrow.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.
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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   La città vecchia - The Old City

Nei quartieri dove il sole del buon Dio
non dà i suoi raggi
ha già troppi impegni
per scaldar la gente d'altri paraggi,
una bimba canta la canzone antica della donnaccia
quel che ancor non sai
tu lo imparerai solo qui tra le mie braccia.

E se alla sua età le difetterà la competenza
presto affinerà le capacità con l'esperienza
dove sono andati i tempi di una volta per Giunone
quando ci voleva per fare il mestiere
anche un po' di vocazione.

Una gamba qua, una gamba là, gonfi di vino
quattro pensionati mezzo avvelenati al tavolino
li troverai là, col tempo che fa, estate e inverno
a stratracannare a stramaledire le donne,
il tempo ed il governo.

Loro cercan là, la felicità dentro a un bicchiere
per dimenticare d'esser stati presi per il sedere
ci sarà allegria anche in agonia col vino forte
porteran sul viso l'ombra d'un sorriso
tra le braccia della morte.

Vecchio professore cosa vai cercando in quel portone
forse quella che sola ti può dare una lezione
quella che di giorno chiami con disprezzo
pubblica moglie.
Quella che di notte stabilisce il prezzo alle tue voglie.

Tu la cercherai, tu la invocherai
più d'una notte
ti alzerai disfatto
rimandando tutto al ventisette
quando incasserai delapiderai mezza pensione
diecimila lire per sentirti dire
"micio bello e bamboccione".

Se ti inoltrerai lungo le calate dei vecchi moli
in quell'aria spessa carica di sale, gonfia di odori
lì ci troverai i ladri gli assassini
e il tipo strano
quello che ha venduto per tremila lire
sua madre a un nano.

Se tu penserai, se giudicherai
da buon borghese
li condannerai a cinquemila anni più le spese
ma se capirai, se li cercherai
fino in fondo
se non sono gigli son pur sempre figli
vittime di questo mondo.

La città vecchia © 1965 Fabrizio De André

"La città vecchia" is set in old Genoa where De André spent much time, with its little back alleyways, bars, prostitutes, and the hard lives of the poor people and criminals who lived there on the margins of society, the opposite of what De André experienced with his own upper-middle class upbringing. The song was inspired by a poem of the same name by Umberto Saba set in the port zone of Trieste. And the first two lines are quite similar to lines from a poem by Jacques Prévert, "Embrasse moi": "The sun of the good Lord doesn't shine on our parts/It already has too much to do in the rich quarters." Throughout his songwriting career, De André regularly took inspiration from and borrowed from other works of literature and music. (Translation notes: 1. "Giunone" is "Juno," but "By Jove!" is the common English expression. 2. In Italy, pensioners receive their checks on the 27th of every month.)



In the districts where the sun of the good Lord
gives not its rays,
it already has too many commitments
warming the people of other neighborhoods.
A little girl sings the ancient song of the whore:
that which you still don’t know,
you will learn only here in my arms.

And if at her age she might lack in competence,
she’ll quickly refine her skills with experience.
Where did the good old days go, by Jove,
when to practice the craft
still required a bit of a calling?

A leg here, a leg there, bloated with wine,
four pensioners half-poisoned at the table;
you’ll find them there, rain or shine, summer and winter,
guzzling it down and profusely bad-mouthing women,
the weather and the government.

They’re searching for bliss there inside a wineglass,
to forget having been taken for a fool.
There will be joy even in agony with strong wine.
They’ll wear on their faces the shadow of a smile
in the arms of death.

Old professor, what do you go seeking in that street door?
Perhaps she who alone can teach you a lesson,
she who by day you scornfully call
public wife,
she who by night sets the price for your desires.

You’ll search for her, you’ll invoke her
on more than one night.
You’ll wake up exhausted,
postponing everything til the 27th
when you will cash and trash half your pension,
10,000 lira to hear yourself say
“sweet pussycat" and "big rag doll.”

If you enter along the walkways of the old piers,
in that thick air, laden with salt, swollen with odors,
there you will find the thieves, the assassins
and the weird guy,
that one who sold his mother to a dwarf
for 3000 lira.

If you will think, if you will judge
as a fine upstanding middle class person,
you'll condemn them to 50,000 years plus expenses;
but if you will understand, if you will search them
through and through,
even if they are not lilies they are always children,
victims of this world.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser



Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   La ballata del Michè - The Ballad of Mike

Quando hanno aperto la cella
era già tardi perché
con una corda sul collo
freddo pendeva Michè

Tutte le volte che un gallo
sento cantar penserò
a quella notte in prigione
quando Michè s'impiccò

Stanotte Michè
s'è impiccato ad un chiodo perché
non poteva restare vent'anni in prigione
lontano da te

Nel buio Michè se n'è andato sapendo che a te
non poteva mai dire che aveva ammazzato
perchè amava te

Io so che Michè
ha voluto morire perché
ti restasse il ricordo del bene profondo
che aveva per te

Vent'anni gli avevano dato
la corte decise così
perché un giorno aveva ammazzato
chi voleva rubargli Marì

Lo avevan perciò condannato
vent'anni in prigione a marcir
però adesso che lui s'è impiccato
la porta gli devono aprir

Se pure Michè
non ti ha scritto spiegando perché
se n'è andato dal mondo tu sai che l' ha fatto
soltanto per te

Domani alle tre
nella fossa comune cadrà
senza il prete e la messa perché d'un suicida
non hanno pietà

Domani alle tre
nella terra bagnata sarà
e qualcuno una croce col nome la data
su lui pianterà

E qualcuno una croce col nome e la data
su lui pianterà.

La ballata del Michè © 1961 Fabrizio De André/Clelia Petracchi

"La ballata del Michè," released in 1961, was the first song De André claimed as his own (the first two De André songs released by Karim he wrote off as "abortions" and "sins of youth"). He often said that the success of the song was enough to prevent him from giving up his songwriting career and instead becoming a criminal lawyer. The song was inspired by an actual news event, and includes a number of elements common to De André songs: a tolerance, understanding and respect of the common man and his circumstances, along with a critique of both the law and the church for certain of their hard-line and merciless principles.



Live, 1990s, verses rearranged
When they opened the cell
it was already late because
with a cord ‘round his neck
there hung Mike, all cold.

Every time I hear a rooster
crowing, I’ll think
of that night in prison
when Mike hanged himself.

Tonight Mike
hanged himself from a nail because
he couldn't remain twenty years in prison
far away from you.

In the darkness Mike went off knowing
he could never tell you that he had murdered
because he loved you.

I know that Mike
wanted to die so that
the memory of the deep feeling he had for you
would remain behind with you.

Twenty years they had given him.
The court decided it so
because one day he’d killed
someone who wanted to steal his Marie.

They had him condemned therefore,
twenty years in prison to rot away.
But now that he hanged himself
they have to open the door for him.

Even if Mike
didn’t write you explaining why
he left this world, you know that he did it
only for you.

Tomorrow at three o’clock
he'll fall into the common grave,
without a priest and the mass, because for a suicide
they have no pity.

Tomorrow at three o'clock
he'll be in the wet ground
and someone will plant a cross over him
with the name and the date.

And someone will plant a cross over him
with the name and the date.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser



Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   La canzone dell'amore perduto
   The Song of Love Lost

Ricordi, sbocciavan le viole
con le nostre parole
“Non ci lasceremo mai, mai
e poi mai”

Vorrei dirti ora le stesse cose
ma come fan presto, amore
ad appassir le rose
così per noi.

L'amore che strappa i capelli
è perduto ormai,
non resta che qualche svogliata carezza
e un po' di tenerezza.

E quando ti troverai in mano
quei fiori appassiti al sole
d'un aprile ormai lontano,
li rimpiangerai.

Ma sarà la prima
che incontri per strada, che tu
coprirai d'oro per un bacio mai dato,
per un amore nuovo.

E sarà la prima
che incontri per strada, che tu
coprirai d'oro per un bacio mai dato,
per un amore nuovo.

La canzone dell'amore perduto © 1966 Fabrizio De André

"La canzone dell'amore perduto" was written when things were no longer going well between De André and his first wife "Puny" Rignon, though they continued to live together for a while. It's interesting that De André wrote this break-up song from the woman's point of view. The song was extremely popular and was covered by many other Italian artists. The music is from Georg Philipp Telemann Adagio from "Concerto in D Major for trumpet, strings and basso continuo").



Remember? The violets used to bloom
along with our words,
“We’ll never, ever leave each other,
never.”

I’d like to say the same things to you now,
but how quickly, love,
the roses fade,
just like the two of us.

The love that drove us to our wits’ ends
is now lost.
Nothing remains but some limp caresses
and a bit of tenderness.

And when you find yourself
with those wilted flowers in hand,
withered in the sun of a now-distant April,
you’ll be filled with regret.

But there will be that first woman
you meet out on the street whom you’ll
cover in gold for a kiss never given,
for a new love.

And there will be that first one
you meet on the streets whom you’ll
cover in gold for a kiss never given,
for a new love.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   La guerra di Piero - Piero's War

Dormi sepolto in un campo di grano
non è la rosa non è il tulipano
che ti fan veglia dall'ombra dei fossi
ma sono mille papaveri rossi

lungo le sponde del mio torrente
voglio che scendano i lucci argentati
non più i cadaveri dei soldati
portati in braccio dalla corrente

così dicevi ed era inverno
e come gli altri verso l'inferno
te ne vai triste come chi deve
il vento ti sputa in faccia la neve

fermati Piero, fermati adesso
lascia che il vento ti passi un po' addosso
dei morti in battaglia ti porti la voce
chi diede la vita ebbe in cambio una croce

ma tu no lo udisti e il tempo passava
con le stagioni a passo di giava
ed arrivasti a varcar la frontiera
in un bel giorno di primavera

e mentre marciavi con l'anima in spalle
vedesti un uomo in fondo alla valle
che aveva il tuo stesso identico umore
ma la divisa di un altro colore

sparagli Piero, sparagli ora
e dopo un colpo sparagli ancora
fino a che tu non lo vedrai esangue
cadere in terra a coprire il suo sangue

e se gli sparo in fronte o nel cuore
soltanto il tempo avrà per morire
ma il tempo a me resterà per vedere
vedere gli occhi di un uomo che muore

e mentre gli usi questa premura
quello si volta, ti vede e ha paura
ed imbracciata l'artiglieria
non ti ricambia la cortesia

cadesti a terra senza un lamento
e ti accorgesti in un solo momento
che il tempo non ti sarebbe bastato
a chieder perdono per ogni peccato

cadesti a terra senza un lamento
e ti accorgesti in un solo momento
che la tua vita finiva quel giorno
e non ci sarebbe stato un ritorno

Ninetta mia crepare di maggio
ci vuole tanto troppo coraggio
Ninetta bella dritto all'inferno
avrei preferito andarci d'inverno

e mentre il grano ti stava a sentire
dentro alle mani stringevi fucile
dentro alla bocca stringevi parole
troppo gelate per sciogliersi al sole

dormi sepolto in un campo di grano
non è la rosa non è il tulipano
che ti fan veglia dall'ombra dei fossi
ma sono mille papaveri rossi.

La guerra di Piero © 1964 Fabrizio De André

"La guerra di Piero" was the B-side of a single released in 1964, and it received little notice. However, in 1968 the song became an anthem to militant anti-war students in Italy and achieved the stature of Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." The song has its origins in stories told to De André by his uncle, who served in World War II in the Albanian campaign and spent almost two years at the Mannheim concentration camp as a prisoner of war. He never recovered from the wartime trauma, but his stories made an indelible impression on the young De André. Even though credited only to De André, the music of the song was co-written with guitarist Vittorio Centanaro. "La giava," translated as "square dance," was in fact a fast waltz that became popular in France after World War I, considered by some an indecent dance because it involved touching the hips of the girl (gasp!).



You sleep buried in a field of grain.
It’s not the rose, it's not the tulip
that stands vigil over you by the shadow of the trenches,
but a thousand red poppies.

Along the banks of my stream
I wish the silver pikes would swim past,
no more the cadavers of soldiers
carried in the arms of the current.

Thus you were saying, and it was winter.
And like the others, towards the inferno
you go, sad as one who must.
The wind spits snow in your face.

Stop Piero, stop now,
let the wind pass over you a bit.
You carry with you the voice of the battle dead -
whoever gave his life had a cross in exchange.

But you didn’t hear it, and time passed
with the seasons at the pace of a square dance,
and you arrived to cross the frontier
on a beautiful day in spring.

And while marching, shouldering your spirit,
you saw a man down in the valley
with the very same mood as yours,
but the uniform of a different color.

Shoot him, Piero, shoot him now,
and after a hit shoot him again
until you don’t see him, lifeless,
falling to the ground to cover his blood.

And if I shoot him in the forehead or in the heart,
he’ll only have time to die.
But time will remain for me to see,
to see the eyes of a man who is dying.

And while you give him this consideration,
he turns, he sees you and is afraid
and, his artillery raised and aimed,
he doesn't return the same courtesy to you.

You fell to the ground without a cry
and were aware in an instant
that there would not be enough time for you
to ask pardon for every sin.

You fell to the earth without a cry
and realized in an instant
that your life was ending that day,
and there would be no return.

My Ninetta, dying in May
takes way too much courage.
Beautiful Ninetta, straight to hell
I would have preferred to go in winter.

And while the grain stood to hear you,
in your hands you were gripping a rifle,
in your mouth you clenched words
too cold to melt in the sun.

You sleep buried in a field of grain.
It’s not the rose, it's not the tulip
that stands vigil over you by the shadow of the trenches,
but a thousand red poppies.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tutto Fabrizio De André:
   Il testamento - The Will

Quando la morte mi chiamerà
forse qualcuno protesterà
dopo aver letto nel testamento
quel che gli lascio in eredità
non maleditemi non serve a niente
tanto all'inferno ci sarò già

ai protettori delle battone
lascio un impiego da ragioniere
perché provetti nel loro mestiere
rendano edotta la popolazione

ad ogni fine di settimana
sopra la rendita di una puttana
ad ogni fine di settimana
sopra la rendita di una puttana

voglio lasciare a Bianca Maria
che se ne frega della decenza
un attestato di benemerenza
che al matrimonio le spiani la via

con tanti auguri per chi c'è caduto
di conservarsi felice e cornuto
con tanti auguri per chi c'è caduto
di conservarsi felice e cornuto

sorella morte lasciami il tempo
di terminare il mio testamento
lasciami il tempo di salutare
di riverire di ringraziare
tutti gli artefici del girotondo
intorno al letto di un moribondo

signor becchino mi ascolti un poco
il suo lavoro a tutti non piace
non lo consideran tanto un bel gioco
coprir di terra chi riposa in pace

ed è per questo che io mi onoro
nel consegnarle la vanga d'oro
ed è per questo che io mi onoro
nel consegnarle la vanga d'oro

per quella candida vecchia contessa
che non si muove più dal mio letto
per estirparmi l'insana promessa
di riservarle i miei numeri al lotto

non vedo l'ora di andar fra i dannati
per riferirglieli tutti sbagliati
non vedo l'ora di andar fra i dannati
per riferirglieli tutti sbagliati

quando la morte mi chiederà
di restituirle la libertà
forse una lacrima forse una sola
sulla mia tomba si spenderà
forse un sorriso forse uno solo
dal mio ricordo germoglierà

se dalla carne mia già corrosa
dove il mio cuore ha battuto il tempo
dovesse nascere un giorno una rosa
la do alla donna che mi offrì il suo pianto

per ogni palpito del suo cuore
le rendo un petalo rosso d'amore
per ogni palpito del suo cuore
le rendo un petalo rosso d'amore

a te che fosti la più contesa
la cortigiana che non si dà a tutti
ed ora all'angolo di quella chiesa
offri le immagini ai belli ed ai brutti

lascio le note di questa canzone
canto il dolore della tua illusione
a te che sei per tirare avanti
costretta a vendere Cristo e i santi

quando la morte mi chiamerà
nessuno al mondo si accorgerà
che un uomo è morto senza parlare
senza sapere la verità
che un uomo è morto senza pregare
fuggendo il peso della pietà

cari fratelli dell'altra sponda
cantammo in coro giù sulla terra
amammo in cento l'identica donna
partimmo in mille per la stessa guerra
questo ricordo non vi consoli
quando si muore si muore soli
questo ricordo non vi consoli
quando si muore si muore soli.

Il testamento © 1963 Fabrizio De André

"Il testamento" was the A-side of the fourth 45 released by Karim, in 1963. De André was no doubt familiar with similar type songs by the French singer/songwriters Georges Brassens ("Le testament," 1955) and Jacques Brel ("Le moribond," 1961), as well as with the 15th century French poet François Villon, whose poem "Le testament: Ballade des dames du temps jadis" was the inspiration for Brassens's song. While these works may have given De André the idea for the setup of the song - the last will of a dying man - the lyrics themselves are classic De André, filled with humor, making fun of the well-to-do and siding with the have-nots. (Translation note: "rendita" means income earned on capital, like interest from a savings account or bond, and the most accurate translation is "unearned income." That translation would suggest that prostitutes earn their living without having to work for it. De André's intent here was to put the (good) money that could be made by a prostitute on the same plane as the (easy) money made by the moneyed class on their capital, or to posit a social outsider like a prostitute being able to earn and save enough so as to be able to receive "unearned income," probably to the chagrin of mainstream owners of capital.)

When death calls for me,
maybe someone will protest
after having read in the will
what inheritance I am leaving them.
Don’t curse me, it won’t do any good,
I’ll be so far into hell already.

To the protectors of the hookers
I leave an accountant's task
so that experts in their line of work
keep the populace informed

at the end of every week
about the capital gains of a whore,
at the end of every week
about the capital gains of a whore.

I wish to leave to White Mary,
who doesn’t give a damn about decency,
a certificate of merit
that might pave the way to marriage,

with all good wishes to whoever fell for it
to keep themselves happy and betrayed,
with all good wishes to whoever fell for it
to keep themselves happy and betrayed.

Sister Death, leave me the time
to finalize my will,
leave me the time to say goodbye,
to pay my respects, to give thanks to
all the great masters of ring-around-the-rosie
‘round the bed of a dying man.

Mister gravedigger, listen to me a little.
Everyone dislikes your work,
they don’t consider it such a great joke
to cover with earth whoever rests in peace.

And for this reason I am proud
to award you the golden spade.
And for this reason I am proud
to award you the golden spade.

For that lily-white old countess
who doesn't move an inch from my bed,
so as to extract from me the insane promise
of reserving for her my lottery numbers,

I can’t wait to go among the damned
to reveal all the wrong ones to her.
I can’t wait to go among the damned
to reveal all the wrong ones to her.

When death asks me
to give it back my freedom,
perhaps a tear, maybe just one,
on my tomb will be spent,
perhaps a smile, maybe just one,
from my remembrance will sprout.

If from my meat already eaten away,
where my heart beat out the time,
should one day be born a rose,
I give it to the woman who offered me her tears.

For every beat of her heart
I’ll render to her a red petal of love.
For every beat of her heart
I’ll render to her a red petal of love.

To you who were the most sought-after,
the courtesan who didn’t give it up to just anyone,
you who now, at the corner of that church,
offer likenesses to the beautiful and ugly alike,

I leave the notes of this song.
I sing the sadness of your illusion
to you who, to scrape by, are
compelled to sell Christ and the saints.

When death calls me,
no one in the world will realize
that a man died without speaking,
without knowing the truth,
that a man died without praying,
fleeing the burden of piety.

Dear brothers of the other shore,
we sang in chorus down there on earth,
we loved in hundreds the same woman,
we departed in thousands for the same war.
This memory might not console you all -
when people die, they die alone.
This memory might not console you all -
when people die, they die alone.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser



Tutto Fabrizio De André was released in 1966 and is a compilation of singles released between 1961 and 1966.
Back to Album List         Back to Song List