Quando hanno aperto la cella
era già tardi perché
con una corda al collo
freddo pendeva Michè
Tutte le volte che un gallo
sento cantar penserò
a quella notte in prigione
quando Michè s'impiccò
s'è impiccato a 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
L'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 sarà
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 and Clielia 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 on 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.
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.
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
Volume III, released in 1968 just three months after the release of Tutti morimmo a stento, included four new songs along with re-recorded versions of other songs released previously as singles. The new songs weren't originals, however: two translations of Georges Brassens songs, a 13th century Italian sonnet set to music, and a traditional 14th century French song. The lack of originals and the timing of the release points to the fact that De André's label wanted to release something on the heels of the huge success of the Mina cover of "Marinella" that was released at the end of 1967. Volume III had strong sales for two years following its release.
Fabrizio De André, the revered Italian singer/songwriter, created a deep and enduring body of work over the course of his career from the 1960s through the 1990s. With these translations I have tried to render his words into an English that reads naturally without straying too far from the Italian. The translations decipher De André's lyrics without trying to preserve rhyme schemes or to make the resulting English lyric work with the melody of the song.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
La ballata del Michè - The Ballad of Mike
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