Bruno Lauzi

Asmara, 1937 – Peschiera Borromeo, 2006

(By Marianna Orsi, University of Hawaii)

Bruno Lauzi was born in Asmara in 1937, the son of Francesco Lauzi and Laura Nahum, who had to hide her Jewish origins to escape racial laws. The young Bruno grew up in Genoa, the city of his father, a liberal and anti-fascist man, who passed onto Bruno the ideals of tolerance and liberalism. In Genoa the young Lauzi attended school with Gino Paoli and Luigi Tenco. With the latter, he shared a passion for jazz, formed the “Jelly Roll Morton Boys Jazz Band” in  1953, and wrote his first songs. Like Fabrizio De André, Lauzi also listened to the French songwriters. In 1956 he moved to Varese and worked for a newspaper, L’Altolombardo, with writer Piero Chiara with whom he became a friend. Lauzi was passionate about poetry and literature and an avid reader, but he chose a different career, starting Law School in Milan. He never graduated, giving up just a few exams away from graduation to devote himself completely to music. Instead, he graduated with a degree in English from the Scuola Interpreti e Traduttori of Milan. Since he did not have a driver’s license (he would never obtain one), Lauzi traveled by train, surrounded by students and workers. These are the years of mass immigration from the south to the north of the country, a phenomenon which inspired him to compose “La donna del sud” [“The Woman from the South”].

In 1963 Lauzi released “Ritornerai” [“You Will Come Back”], in which the song’s narrator predicts (or perhaps insists in threatening tones) that his woman will come back to him. The song became a hit thanks to being featured by Vittorio Gassman in Il sorpasso. In Milan Lauzi performed in the famous cabaret club “Derby” and met the artists of the “Milanese School” such as Enzo Jannacci. Lauzi’s only participation in the Sanremo Festival was in 1965, with “Il tuo amore” [“Your love”], a waltz inspired by the French chansonniers, which was far from the taste of the public and did not qualify for the finals. His first album, Lauzi al cabaret, was released the same year with an introduction by Piero Chiara. Some of the songs are deeply influenced by the writer. For instance “Vecchio paese” is a song about an “old hamlet” with “four houses and one café,” “grannies going to the Church between one and three every afternoon,” “the good pharmacist who used to be a socialist,” “the poor lunatic who has verbal outbursts”. A village where playing cards—amidst screams and curses—is the only social activity. The same environment described in “Il poeta” [“The Poet”]. The album, however, also includes songs of a very different spirit. In “I cargo” [“Cargos”], for instance, a disenchanted observer watches the big ships that depart each night, “bringing with them the immigrant’s hopes.” Far from the dreams of an exotic new land, he sees them as “sea trains that carry their livestock to slaughter in faraway lands even more inhospitable than the one you’ve just left behind.” “Il casermone” [‘Barracks’], finally, is a noir song (quite common style within the Scuola genovese, see for instance De André’s “La ballata dell’amore”, 1966), probably inspired by a true femicide (such as  De André “La canzone di Marinella”).

When Luigi Tenco kills himself in Sanremo, in 1967, Lauzi is terribly shaken and will only be able to talk about the tragic episode many years later, criticizing the rhetorical celebrations, including De André’s “Preghiera in gennaio” [“Prayer in January”], and denying that his own “The poet” was about Tenco.

In 1968 Lauzi married Giovanna Coprani who will be his wife and collaborator until the end of his life and with whom he will start a farm and produce Barbera wine. At the end of the 1960s Lauzi began his friendship with Lucio Battisti, which brought a long and fruitful collaboration; Lauzi interpreted the songs written by Battisti and Mogol, taking them to the top of the charts, “E penso a te” [“And I think of you”], “L’aquila” [“The eagle”], “Amore caro, amore bello” [“Dear love, beautiful love”]. He won several awards, collaborated with international artists such as Vinicius De Moraes, Toquinho, Petula Clark, Dionne Warwick, Tony Bennett. Among the countless Italian collaborations we should at least mention “Angeli”, recorded with Lucio Dalla, “Naviganti” [“Sailors”] with Ivano Fossati; “Piccolo uomo”[“Little man”] and “Almeno tu nell’universo” [“You, at least, in the universe”], written for Mia Martini. In the 1990s he founded the music label Pincopallo and published collections of his own poems, I mari interni (Crocetti, 1994) and Riapprodi (Rangoni, 1996), later republished together in Versi facili (Maritime Editions, 1999), followed by Esercizi di sguardo (Edizioni marittime, 2002) and by Agli immobili cieli, published posthumously (Edizioni Associazione “Il dor-so della balena”, 2010). Another collection, titled Limericks, remained unpublished. Lauzi is also the author of prose texts: Della quieta follia… dei piemontesi (Club di Papillon, 1997), Il caso del pompelmo levigato (Bompiani, 2005), Le storie di nonno Bruno (Coccole e caccole, 2006) e dell’autobiografia Tanto domani mi sveglio. Autobiografia in controcanto, uscita postuma (Gammarò, 2006).At the beginning of the 2000s, the singer-songwriter was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but he did not give up his live engagements and literary production. Struck by liver cancer, Lauzi died in 2006. An unconventional artist, passionate about literature and politics, fan of Sampdoria soccer team, great mush

Bibliography:

  • Berselli, Edmondo, “Io, Tenco, Paoli e gli altri amici e nemici in musica”, La Repubblica, 29 ottobre 2006,

Translated songs: