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
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.