We The Italians | Great Italians of the Past: Giorgio Gaber

Great Italians of the Past: Giorgio Gaber

Great Italians of the Past: Giorgio Gaber

  • WTI Magazine #125 Mar 16, 2020
  • 1699

Giorgio Gaber, by name of Giorgio Gaberscik (25 January 1939 – 1 January 2003), was an Italian singer, composer, actor, and playwright. The life of Giorgio Gaber can be read through his songs, intense autobiographies that analyse and reflect the realty in which he lived and the generation that he belonged to.

He was one of the forerunners of new popular music and the first singer to make rock’n’roll records for Ricordi - Ciao ti dirò (Ciao, I will tell you) - 1958 written with Luigi Tenco). Giorgio Gaber won popular acclaim with his discography production based on intelligent lyrics. He communicated with people in a direct and simple language, a poetic synthesis in which he affronted themes relevant to his times: politics, love and social issues, interspersed with moments of philosophical reflection and great intensity. Concepts and thoughts never expressed with resignation, but with vital strength and always with an ironic tone, trusting in man’s ability to redeem himself.

He was born into a simple music-loving family - his father played the accordion and his brother the guitar - and he too grew to love this art, firstly learning to play the guitar and then learning to sing. Musical composer, author and interpreter, at the beginning of his career he played in various Milanese locations amongst which the Santa Tecla in 1959, legendary café where he met Sandro Luporini, painter and coauthor. The two artists developed a great friendship and a long term musical collaboration.

In the ’60s Giorgio Gaber made his name in television as a singer, interpreter and performer. As a composer he put to music texts by the writer Simonetta, in particular ballads inspired by the folkloristic Milanese music. In this period Gaber performed on the stage alongside the musician Enzo Jannacci and the singer Maria Monti, with whom he soon started a love affair.

At this time Milan was undergoing great cultural ferment, influenced by artists like Dario Fo, Paolo Grassi, Giorgio Strehler and Franco Parenti. Gaber moved with ease inside this artistic panorama promoting his songs with performances and theatrical monologues. His type of music touched his audience and he was different from all others. In his compositions he was able to convey his situation with all his problems, an amity and talent that made him loved and followed by many.

In 1965 he married Ombretta Colli and the following year his daughter, Dalia, was born.

From 1969 to 1970 he was the protagonist of a tournée with Mina and on his return he decided to abandon television renouncing the possibility of publishing his works, dedicating himself completely to the stage with the exclusive aim of having direct contact with his public. His stages became a focus of intense energy and his shows won over even the critics.

In 1969 he released one of his best known successes, "Com'è bella la città" ("How Beautiful the City Is"), an example of the introduction of social matters in a song. The following year, he showed at Piccolo teatro his first ediction of Il Signor G ("Mister G"), a recital he repeated in many Italian squares.

In 1973, he recorded the one song by which he is most recognized by international audiences: Far Finta di Essere Sani which was covered in English as Tomorrow's Got to be Sunny by Tony Orlando and Dawn on their 1975 album He Don't Love You (Like I Love You).

A year later, he was given the very first Premio Tenco award, and many years later, also received the Targa Tenco in 2001 for his song "La razza in estinzione" ("The Dying Race") and in 2003 for the album Io non mi sento italiano ("I Don't Feel Italian"). After the Tenco award Gaber abandoned television and began to tour only in theatres, as one of the founders of the teatro canzone genre. He would appear again in TV, although sporadically, only in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Every one of Giorgio’s shows became a step forward in his individual evolution and an analysis of reality. A continuous experimentation of new expressive means and a new direction of articulated writing that led him to discoveries and successes. With him, theatre and music attained a symbiosis expressed in increasingly different and balanced styles, swaying between ironic and tragic, sentimental, elegiac and introspective. In Gaber’s shows the genius was the fact (that what happened) together with and the tangible (that what existed) and this was what captured the public and engaged them. The appeal of the artist lay in acutely perceiving the sense of what was real and it was by this that his public was swayed, in an intimate exchange between the actor and his plateau. Sandro Luporini always worked as co-author of the texts.      

His discographic production was closely linked to the registration of his shows.

The monologue prevailed on Gaber’s stage in the ’70s; it was linked to the songs in which he asked questions that were often ironic. In 1980 he published “Io se fossi Dio” (If I were God) a 14 minute single disc written after the killing of Aldo Moro and published much later because it was censured. This piece was considered the culminating moment of the phase of work by Gaber and Luporini.

At the end of the ’80s the two artists experimented with prose in “Teatro d’evocazione” (The theatre of evocation) where, in a monologue, the actor brought to life the characters that were in his memory, persons that reflect and communicate: “Non è un monologo del teatro classico ma è l’Io Interiore che parla” (It is not a classic theatrical monologue but an inner self that speaks). (Gaber)

From 1986-1988 he presented “Parlami d’amore Mariù” (Tell me of love Mariù) and in 1989 he won the Curcio theatrical prize for best actor. From 1989 to 1990 he made “Aspettando Godot” (Waiting for Godot) with Enzo with whom, thirty years before, he had created the duo “I due Corsari” (The two Corsairs).

Then in 1991 the anthological show “Il Teatro-Canzone” (The Theatre-Song) presented at the festival “La Versiliana”. The idea was to re-present and verify, years later, the topicality of the themes enunciated and sung by Gaber and from which transpire the talent of the artist to anticipate ideas and concepts.

In 1993 he put “Il Dio bambino” (God the child) on the stage. It was defined as a theatrical romance and in 1994 he published the book “Gaber in prosa” (Gaber in prose), a collection of texts from “Parlami d’amore Mariù, Il Grigio (Grey), and il Dio Bambino”. Between 1995-1996 he took up the “Teatro-Canzone” again and from 1996 to 2000 he composed texts and songs that had the individual as both object and analysis.

2001 marked Gaber’s return to discs, a nostalgic look back at his origins expressed in “La mia generazione ha perso” (My generation has lost), a philosophical choice of theatric monologues and texts selected by the artist from his 40 years of activity.

A lifelong smoker, Giorgio Gaber died on New Year's Day 2003 after a long battle with cancer, in his country house in Montemagno near Camaiore, in Tuscany, and is buried at the Monumental Cemetery of Milan.

In 2004, the refurbished underground auditorium of the Pirelli Tower in Milan was dedicated to him.

In 2012 Patti Smith recorded the cover of Io come persona, translated into English "I as a person", contained in the anthological album ...io ci sono.

24 days after his death, on January 1st, 2003, his last work “Io non mi sento italiano” (I do not feel Italian) was published. From this work Giorgio Gaber emerged as the politician, a person in constant antithesis with the realty that surrounded him and in continuous evolution, a choice that removed him definitively away from the mass-media.

“Loneliness is no madness. It is necessary. Without her you will loose yourself in someone else”.