Lucio Battisti (5 March 1943 - 9 September 1998) was an Italian singer-songwriter (cantautore). He is considered to be one of the best-known and most influential musicians and authors in Italian pop/rock music history.
Battisti started his career in 1966 and from 1969 to 1994 he released 18 albums in his home country. A significant part of his production was translated into Spanish (various albums) and English (one album). He was renowned to be an extremely reserved artist: during his successful career he performed only a small number of live concerts, and in the early 1980s he announced he would communicate only through his studio albums, completely disappearing from the Italian public scene.
Musician and composer edit:
Battisti was born in Poggio Bustone, a town in the province of Rieti (northern Lazio), and moved with his family to Rome in 1950. A self-taught guitarist, Battisti made his debut as musician in the 1960s, performing in local bands in Rome, Naples and later in Milan where he joined I Campioni (The Champions), the support band of then famous singer Tony Dallara. He also travelled abroad as a working musician, in Germany and the UK, where he absorbed the music of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Jimi Hendrix, blues and soul - among others - which he later introduced into Italian Pop music.
Mi ritorni in mente
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Mi ritorni in mente (1969)
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In Milan he found the support of the French talent scout, Christine Leroux, who worked for the Ricordi music label. Under Leroux's wing Battisti penned three sizeable hits in 1966 for other artists ("Per una lira" for Ribelli, "Dolce di giorno" for Dik Dik, and "Uno in più" for Riki Maiocchi). Leroux also introduced Battisti to lyricist Giulio Rapetti, better known as Mogol: though not impressed at first by Battisti's music, Mogol later declared to have started the collaboration after recognizing Battisti's humble, though determined, desire to improve his work. Mogol also pushed Ricordi to allow Battisti to sing his own songs: Battisti's voice became the focal point of his strength and originality. As a singer, he made his debut with the song "Per una lira" in 1966: despite the song's poor success (only 520 copies sold throughout Italy!), it allowed him to begin building his career as a singer.
Battisti continued to write for others, in the late 1960s: the US rock group The Grass Roots scored a hit stateside with one of Battisti's compositions, "Balla Linda", translated as "Bella Linda". With the same song, Battisti classified fourth in the Cantagiro, a then popular Italian Pop music competition. 1969 saw another one of Battisti's compositions, "Il Paradiso", become a hit in the UK when it was covered by the group Amen Corner as "(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice", hitting the number one spot on the singles chart. In the same period another English band, The Hollies - featuring Graham Nash - recorded a Battisti song in Italian, "Non prego per me".
Success as a solo singer in 1970s - The Mogol-Battisti duo edit:
In the same year Battisti took part in the Festival of Sanremo, with the song "Un'avventura", and his popularity began to increase. His first great hit was "Acqua azzurra, acqua chiara", which won the Festivalbar. The same year, Ricordi issued Battisti's self-titled debut album. During this successful year he met Grazia Letizia Veronese, who later married and lived with Battisti until his death.
Forming a strong and highly successful duo with lyricist Mogol, Battisti continued to issue solo albums on a regular basis throughout the 1970s: in almost every case they reached the highest places in his country's charts, and are regarded as classics of Italian Pop Music ("musica leggera"). He also became a popular TV presence.
In 1970 Battisti won Festivalbar for the second time in a row, with the song "Fiori rosa, fiori di pesco", and started to collaborate with Mina, who sang some of Mogol-Battisti's finest tunes. In December, Ricordi issued Battisti's second LP, "Emozioni", which was a compilation of previously released singles. Battisti was really angry about this, as he had composed a concept album called Amore e non amore, but his label chose to release the compilation rather than the album, which was considered to be too experimental and advanced for the Italian audience.
Amore e non amore was eventually released in July 1971, but in order to preserve their creative freedom, Battisti and Mogol moved over to Numero Uno, one of Italy's first independent record labels, founded by them in the fall of 1969.
The new label released Umanamente uomo: il sogno (1972) followed by the even more successful Il mio canto libero (1972). The latter topped the Italian charts for 8 weeks: one of its songs - "Io vorrei, non vorrei, ma se vuoi" - was later recorded by Mick Ronson with lyrics translated by David Bowie, as "Music Is Lethal" (on the album Slaughter on 10th Avenue). The song "Il Mio Canto Libero" has remained one of the most popular songs among Italians. Another successful album was Il nostro caro angelo (1973).
Anima Latina (1974) is considered Battisti's most complex and multi-layered work, a new personal approach to Prog Rock music with an increased attention to rhythms and increasingly cryptic lyrics by Mogol; nonetheless, their work enjoyed a good success, remaining for 13 weeks at number one in Italian charts.
Lucio Battisti, la batteria, il contrabbasso, eccetera, released in 1976 and including the hit "Ancora tu" was an even bigger success; many of the songs clearly showing the artist's interest in the then-emerging Disco sounds and production values that would have a large influence on his three subsequent albums.
In 1977 he released Io tu noi tutti. He also relocated to Los Angeles, and issued an album, Images, that featured some of his biggest hits re-recorded in English. However, the attempt to equal his European success in the United States failed. In 1978 Battisti released Una donna per amico: recorded in London and produced by Geoff Westley, it was his best-selling LP. This was followed in 1980 by Una giornata uggiosa, produced by the same team. It contained Battisti's last great success, "Con il nastro rosa". Considered one of the duo's best compositions, it featured a very fine (and long) guitar solo by Phil Palmer. Battisti's songs written with Mogol continue to be covered by artists with an international reputation; a more recent example is Tanita Tikaram's "And I Think of You" ("E penso a te").
Battisti, a rather shy person, had always been reluctant to talk about himself and his work. In the early 1980s he declared he would no longer make public appearances nor release any interviews: in his words "he was going to speak no more, since an artist must communicate with the public only through his work". In some very rare occasions, though, he appeared as a TV guest in other countries such as France, Switzerland and Germany, and only after 1982 can his vow be considered completely fulfilled, with a perseverance similar to that of J. D. Salinger and other famous recluses.
The "Second period" edit:
In 1981 Battisti broke the partnership with Mogol, switching to a more experimental, sometimes weird inspiration, based often on electronic instruments. The LPs of his "second period", starting from E già of 1982 (with lyrics by his wife), received a mixed reception from both critics and audiences. Mogol started to work with Riccardo Cocciante; in 1990, he declared he had not listened to Battisti's LPs for many years.
From 1986, starting with Don Giovanni, to 1994, the lyrics on Battisti's albums were written by the poet Pasquale Panella. Don Giovanni combined a return to classic "Battistian" melodies with lyrics which some felt were weird and often seemingly meaningless. Others, however, understood the lyrics to be cryptic: an intellectual mind game of sorts. Don Giovanni had a reasonable success in Italy.
The following L'apparenza (1988), however, again contained rather impervious lyrics; its success was worse than the one had by Don Giovanni, in chart position as well as in sales volumes. La sposa occidentale (1990) was released for CBS, and marked another fall in sales and success. The declining sales were hardly a concern for Battisti: it was rumoured that in the 1990s he was earning 4-5 billion lire a year (approximately 3 million Euro in 2006) solely from author rights of his 1970s songs.
Battisti's last albums were Cosa succederà alla ragazza (1992) and Hegel (1994).
On 9 September 1998, Battisti died in a Milan hospital. The New York Times said the cause was cancer. The news spread quickly throughout the country, generating an unprecedented wave of emotion for the singer-songwriter. He was later buried in the cemetery of Molteno, the town where he had spent his last years with his family.
Several compilations of his best tracks have surfaced after Battisti's death, including 2000's Battisti and 2001's Canzoni d'amore. His catalogue is published by BMG Music Publishing.
Influence and praise edit:
Through the years, Battisti consolidated his status as one of the most well-known Italian singers. His songs remain immensely popular in Italy, and are often performed live by other notable musicians.