By Francesco Ciabattoni (Georgetown University)

“Via del campo” (1967) offers a glimpse on one of Genoa’s most intense areas: the famous downtown street, with its filth and lust for life, becomes almost a synonym for the unnamed prostitute around whom the song revolves. De André describes her first as a pretty woman, then as a child, and finally as a whore, showing that all moral judgment is the eye of the beholder. If a man falls in love with her he must be a fool, but that’s how love works: we laugh when it answers our call but cry when it leaves us alone in the street. The setting, tone and protagonists are De André’s favorite: the dirty corners of his native port city, where real life happens to real people, far from the well-off neighborhoods of bourgeois Genoans (to which the songwriter was born). The music of this song is indebted to Enzo Jannacci’s “La mia morosa la va a la fonte” (1965), with lyrics by Dario Fo: the duo had performed it in their play Vengo anch’io no tu no!. One year later, songwriter Oscar Prudente reused the tune (which Jannacci claimed to have taken from a XVI century folk song) for his lullaby “Dormi dormi.” De André’s lyrics show a debt to Pridente’s lyrics too.

Dormi dormi (Oscar Prudente, 1966)
Dormi dormi che io ti canto
e verrà un sonno di rose e argento
non farci caso, è soltanto il vento
che urla e piange intorno a te.

Se chiudi gli occhi non ci badare
se tutto intorno senti gridare
le cose tristi non le guardare
che crescon fiori intorno a te.

Più gente crepa più crescon fiori
e più si brucia più han bei colori,
colori dolci ma senza odori
non li guardar cerca di dormir.
Colori dolci ma senza odori
non li guardar cerca di dormir.