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Rino Gaetano died on June 2, 1981 following a tragic accident. But of this artist, whose catchy melodies and light voice still resonate today, the memory remains through his texts which, in reality, contained very little levity.

Rino Gaetano was born in Crotone on October 29, 1950, but for many, the singer-songwriter is a “Roman doc”. In fact, he was viscerally linked to the capital. And in this place, which saw him grow artistically and even tragically lose his life, the singer-songwriter is, today, celebrated as one of the greatest Italian artists.

Rino Gaetano San RemoRino Gaetano, Sanremo 1978 @Credits Ansa

His catchy music accompanied by a voice that many even describe as “out of tune” also (and above all) resonates with generations who have not experienced it directly. The lightness emerges from these texts which, at first sight, are almost songs. Texts actually loaded with meaning, social denunciation, reflection and also courage, beyond censorship. Current songs that live and relive over the years and which describe an artist, perhaps, too little known.

But the sky is getting bluer

From Gianna to Berta Filava, from Ma the sky is always bluer to Nuntereggae più, up to this song of a faded love that can be reborn that is A mano a mano, makes Rino Gaetano immortal today. An aspiring surveyor, he soon realized that his true passion was art. Inspiration, creativity and talent quickly gave life to a singer-songwriter capable of tackling strong themes and social denunciation with the “light force” of songs that imprint themselves on people’s minds. His contemporaries are such giants as Renato Zero, Lucio Dalla, Battisti, Mia Martini. And, in this world already made up of “giants”, it seems difficult to impose oneself. And that, Rino Gaetano understood, when he was too often misunderstood.

Rino Gaetano singer-songwriterRino Gaetano on TV show ‘Aquario’ (1978) @Credits Ansa

He officially entered the Italian discography in 1973 with a single in which he performed the song I love you Marianna under the pseudonym of Kammamuri. He released his debut album, Free Admission, in 1974, which was virtually ignored by industry pundits and the public. It is very likely that the charm of his texts was difficult, which lay not only in the telling of romantic stories and dreams, but also of injustices and disillusions. A year later comes But the Sky is Always Bluer, one of Rino Gaetano’s masterpieces. An innovative song, both in its structure and in its content. But the sky is always bluer and charged with an intense meaning that, through the contradictions of society, tells uncomfortable stories with a pleasant and engaging rhythm, bringing together: “Who flies, who fights, who was a spy “.

Rino Gaetano in Sanremo

1976 is the year of My brother is an only child, which includes the song Berta filava. This second album brings together the marginalized, the excluded, but also feelings. All told with a harsh and raw irony, but without halftones: a clear social denunciation. A short career cut short at only 31 years old, but full of valuable content. And further proof is Aida, the third album from 1977. Here the arrangements are more accurate, but what stands out is the sarcasm of Rino Gaetano. In the album, there is a parallel with a woman who remembers her history which, then, is none other than that of Italy itself. Aida is Verdi’s opera, the opera of a nation. But with Gaetano, it becomes an illusion; illusion of liberation from fascism leading to scandals and corruption.

singer Rino GaetanoRino Gaetano sings in a dressing gown (1978) @Credits Ansa

The songs on this album blend in contrast to what surrounds the singer-songwriter era and the whole thing is amplified by the almost awkward, rough and provocative way of singing. Also in 1978 Nuntareggae, with the criticism of a man who had never taken sides politically and tried to offer a 360° vision. In the same year, Gianna and her participation in Sanremo arrive. A text that Rino Gaetano does not seem to have liked too much, and today we could venture to say, unfairly. Once again there is everything: there is him, there is Rino Gaetano who gives a catchy “air” that someone, by mistake, hums like a song. There is irony, there is history, there is history, there is criticism of a world that too often gives up its ideas, in order not to give up comfort. “But the night the party is over… he who lives will see.” Tailcoat, striped shirt and snorkel in a performance that will go down in history and which will give him third place at the 28th Italian Song Festival (too little, we can venture today).

A tragic end and an immortal memory

Rino Gaetano returns the following year with the album Resta vil male where you go. Still many successes until the crisis period of 1980, from which (at the time) he will find no redemption, facing a tragic death the following year. June 2, 1981 is a painful date. On his way home at first light in the morning, via Nomentana, near via Carlo Fea, the singer collided with a truck in the opposite lane and violently hit his head. When help arrived, Rino Gaetano was already in a coma. For many, however, the causes of his death still remain unclear. In fact, rushed to the Policlinico Umberto I, in the absence of an adequate service for emergency operations on the skull, he was transferred to Gemelli where he died at 6 am.

For many, the ballad of Renzo, which tells a similar fact and almost a prediction of the future. Perhaps there remains today the regret of not having been able to savor the innovations of his texts and his music and of all that he could still have told. But for those who today have truly understood the meaning of his art, Rino Gaetano is immortal living every day through the lyrics of his songs, like this flower that “even winter can never freeze”.

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