Venuto da molto lontano
a convertire bestie e gente
non si può dire non sia servito a niente
perché prese la terra per mano
vestito di sabbia e di bianco
alcuni lo dissero santo
per altri ebbe meno virtù
si faceva chiamare Gesù.
Non intendo cantare la gloria
né invocare la grazia e il perdono
di chi penso non fu altri che un uomo
come Dio passato alla storia
ma inumano è pur sempre l'amore
di chi rantola senza rancore
perdonando con l'ultima voce
chi lo uccide fra le braccia d'una croce.
E per quelli che l'ebbero odiato
nel Getsemani pianse l'addio
come per chi l'adorò come Dio
che gli disse sia sempre lodato,
per chi gli portò in dono alla fine
una lacrima o una treccia di spine,
accettando ad estremo saluto
la preghiera l'insulto e lo sputo.
E morì come tutti si muore
come tutti cambiando colore
non si può dire che sia servito a molto
perché il male dalla terra non fu tolto
Ebbe forse un po' troppe virtù,
ebbe un volto ed un nome: Gesù.
Di Maria dicono fosse il figlio
sulla croce sbiancò come un giglio.
Si chiamava Gesù © 1967 Fabrizio De André/Vittorio Centanaro
"Si chiamava Gesù" was another of De André's songs censored by Italian radio and television (RAI). Interestingly, the song was played on Vatican Radio; interesting because De André's anti-conformist concept of Christ was that he was not a deity, but rather a common man who, simply with the power of love, was able to rise above his own human-ness. To De André, Jesus as a common man was someone he could relate to and emulate, and whose teachings and example were thus far more powerful and immediate.
Coming from far, far away
to convert beasts and humans,
you can’t say it was for naught,
because he took the earth by its hand.
Dressed in sand and in white,
some said he was a saint,
for others he had less virtue -
he called himself Jesus.
I don’t intend to sing of the glory
nor to invoke the grace and forgiveness
of one who I think was not other than a man,
like God passed into history.
Yet inhuman, it is still forever, the love
of one whose last gasps are without ill will,
pardoning with his final voice
those who kill him in the arms of a cross.
And for those who had hated him,
in Gethsemane he wept farewell,
as for those who adored him as a God
and who said to him, "Praise be to you always,"
and for whoever brought to him as a gift at the end
a tear or a braid of thorns,
accepting at the final farewell
the prayer, the insult and the sputum.
And he died like everyone dies,
like everyone, changing color.
You can’t say it did much good,
because the evil from the land wasn't removed.
He had perhaps a few too many virtues,
he had a face and a name: Jesus.
Of Maria they say he was the son,
on the cross he turned white as a lily.
English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser
Volume I is De André’s first full studio album, released in 1967 on the Bluebell label. It was produced by Gian Piero Reverberi and Andrea Malcotti. Reverberi shares writing credits on the music of six of the songs.