Battiato came along at a bad time. Spring-summer 1982, for those who remember. When (ehm… ) songs had taken a back seat, and we were a bit distracted by other matters. And yet it still made a big splash: everyone was furiously singing “sul ponte sventola bandiera bianca” and “Cuccurucucù Paloma” with the same fervour as when, a few years earlier, people were singing Lucio Dalla “Caro amico ti scrivo” and Bennato “Seconda stella a destra, questo è il cammino”. Music was listened to on those radio-recorders that were cool to carry over the shoulder, with the sleeves of the “Fruit” T-shirt rolled up to the armpits and (those who could) the packet of Marlboros above the shoulder blade. Free radio and dedication programmes were all the rage: ‘from Marco to Cristina, saying see you on Sunday at the Apogeo’. And making half of Valdichiana aware of his intentions. That was the golden age of the ‘singer-songwriters’, but Battiato was immediately perceived as an absolute novelty. The seven pieces that made up ‘La Voce del Padrone’ were all very special and original, and that irresistible, cryptic nonsense won us over instantly: the sunglasses ‘to have more charisma is symptomatic mystery’ or even ‘I prefer salad to Beethoven and Sinatra’ were a kind of irreverent ideological manifesto. “What would Dionysian-style tantric shivaism be?” we asked the philosophy professor. He fumbled a lot. We knew Battiato for his debut album with a title that was a whole program (“L’era del cinghiale bianco”), but with “La Voce del Padrone” in 1982 he achieved an epochal “longplaying”; capable of pulverising the million copies sold and putting in line, in the hit parade, Julio Iglesias, Baglioni and “Il Tempo delle Mele”. Miguel Bosè and the summer hits “Paradise” and “Der Kommissar”, because the energy of those seven songs was unbeatable. The power of those inspired albums which artists did not always know how to follow up on: like Venditti who, after ‘Sotto il segno dei Pesci’, went downhill, or De Gregori who did not find the suggestions of ‘Rimmel’ any more, except occasionally. For Battiato too, perhaps, that distant 82 album was the unsurpassed zenith of his production, despite the fact that he then scattered his path with fabulous pearls: such as ‘La Cura’, which rightfully ranks among the top ten Italian songs of all time. I have appreciated him in the great, evocative concerts with the great international orchestras, and in exclusive venues (memorable the one, at sunset, at the Abbey of San Galgano). The influence of a philosopher like Manlio Sgalambro and the collaboration with the singer Alice, in duets that had a very refined quality and never went below the crest of banality… Not even when it came to writing verses a bit like this, such as “One day on the Nevski Prospect by chance I met Igor Stravinsky”… Which was the way to write “sun, heart, love” in a more sophisticated way: in the style of Battiato, to be precise. He died ‘without realising it’, his family said. I am happy about that. To die without realising it, and perhaps without suffering, is one of the most shameless fortunes that can happen to a man. In his case, that ‘without realising it’ also seems to refer to the Alzheimer’s, which had compromised the last years of his life. It was a fateful twist of fate for an intellectual who had made vivacity and originality his hallmark in life. After all, the sky, he said in a song, is not always clear and regal, as some naive poet would have us believe. Many times, even something as beautiful as the sky can have something infernal about it. And I agree with him.
May the earth be kind to you.