Sunday, 23 February 2014

In memoriam, Francesco Di Giacomo (1947-2014)

I have just learned that Francesco Di Giacomo, the lead singer of Italian progressive rock band Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, has tragically died in a car accident on the 22th of February. With him, Porgressive rock lost one of it's greatest singers.

Italy for some reason, really took to progressive rock in the 70s in a way that few, if any, countries did. Prof. Bill Martin in his book about the music, "Listening to the Future" argues that this is due to the romantic currents which run deep in Italian culture. The Italians could therefore sympathize with the music of the (mainly) English progressive rock bands, which took deep influences from earlier English romanticism, both in poetry and music (Martin also points out that the English romantic poets, especially Byron, often took inspiration from the Italian landscape).

This did not only mean the mass-popularity of the English original bands In Italy (It was the only country in which "Pawn Hearts" by Van Der Graaf Generator not only made the album charts, but went all the way to number one), but also that the Italians created their own progressive music.
This rock music "sprang fully-grown from the head of Jupiter" in Italy, Martin notes, as it was the first kind of rock music to catch on there

Perhaps the best of all Italian Progressive rock bands, certainly one of the best, was Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso. They, like many of these bands took the English style and made it their own, adding Italian folk music and opera into their music.  Their very distinct sound was defined by their two keyboardists, the brothers Gianni and Vittorio Nocenzi; and of course Di Giacomo's beautiful and warm tenor, which often was operatic in style. He sang, like most bands in the Italian progressive rock movement, in Italian (with the exception of some lesser recorded efforts in English). Two of their best records were 1972's "Darwin!" ( a concept album about evolutionary theory) and 1973's "Io sono nato libero" ("I was born free", a hymn to freedom,with a 15 minute long opening track in support of the political prisoners in Latin American fascist dictatorships).

Even when one doesn't know Italian, one is often greatly moved by Di Giacomo's wonderful singing, which shows his power as a singer; the ability he had to convey emotion and move listeners all over the world just with his voice, many who didn't understand the language he spoke and sang. Hopefully he will continue to do so through the records he made.

Here are some testaments to that, recorded at an reunion concert in the early 90s. I hope they show a little of his range as a singer and, of course, the abilities of the band. Both selections are from "Darwin!"

No comments:

Post a Comment