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Luigi Tenco (21 March 1938 – 27 January 1967) was an Italian singer, songwriter. After his alleged suicide, he became an icon of love and despair. The true causes of his death have not yet been agreed upon.
Luigi Tenco in 1967
|Birth name||Luigi Tenco|
|Also known as|
|Born||21 March 1938|
Cassine, Alessandria, Italy
|Died||27 January 1967 (aged 28)|
Sanremo, Imperia, Italy
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, actor|
Tenco was born in Cassine (province of Alessandria) in 1938, the son of Teresa Zoccola and Giuseppe Tenco. He never knew his father, who died in unclear circumstances. It has been rumored that Luigi Tenco was the fruit of an extramarital relationship of his mother.
Tenco spent his childhood in Cassine and Ricaldone until 1948, when he moved to Liguria, first to Nervi and then to Genoa, where his mother had a wine shop called Enos in the quarter of La Foce. During high school, Tenco founded the Jelly Roll Morton Boys Jazz band, in which Tenco played the clarinet and another singer, later to become famous, Bruno Lauzi, the banjo. Gino Paoli, that soon will be one of Italy's most famous singer and songwriter as well, also played with Tenco in the band he was later involved in, I Diavoli del Rock (The Rock Devils).
Tenco made his debut in the world of Italian professional music with the band I Cavalieri (The Knights), which included Giampiero Reverberi and Enzo Jannacci amongst others. During this period he used the pseudonym Gigi Mai. In 1961 Tenco released his first single under his real name, entitled Quando ("When").
He started university studying electronic engineering, trying to comply with the wish of his mother and brother. He failed twice the Analytic and Projective Geometry exam (a course he took with professor Eugenio Giuseppe Togliatti, the elder brother of the leader of the communist party Palmiro Togliatti). Later he was enrolled in political science, where he only gave two exams.
Tenco was interested in cinema and videomaking. In 1962 he began a short-lived cinematic experience, with Luciano Salce's movie La Cuccagna. He also collaborated to the soundtrack of the film, also introducing his friend Fabrizio De André (unknown at the time) through the song La ballata dell'eroe (Ballad for a hero). In first instance, director Luigi Comencini considered the possibility of Tenco playing the role of Bube in his film La ragazza di Bube based on Carlo Cassola's novel. At last, he chose George Chakiris, the West Side Story star, instead. During this period he also formed a strong friendship with the Genoese anarchist poet Riccardo Mannerini. In 1963, however, his friendship with Gino Paoli broke up, due to a troubled relationship with the actress Stefania Sandrelli.
Tenco's first LP was released in 1962, Ballate E Canzoni. One of the songs, "Cara Maestra" ("Dear Teacher"), was censored by the then thriving Italian media censorship. The censors struck again in the following year, against his songs "Io Sì" ("I Would") considered too sexually explicit and "Una Brava Ragazza" ("A Good Girl") where Tenco express his admiration for a '60s "bad girl". In September 1964, he released "Ho capito che ti amo" a song written by him with musical arrangement Ezio Leoni. It was released on the Italian record label Jolly as Side A of a 45 rpm side B being "Io lo so già". In Argentina, "Ho capito che ti amo" was the soundtrack of popular soap opera El amor tiene cara de mujer.
In 1966, suffering through a period of compulsory military service, he released Un Giorno Dopo L'Altro (One Day after Another) for RCA. The military service didn't stop him from traveling to Argentina together with Gianfranco Reverberi to meet the fans of El amor tiene cara de mujer. How he actually managed to arrive to Argentina while his passport was still in possession of the Italian Army is still unclear. Moreover under the military service one wasn't allowed to leave Italy and the punishment was detention, which he didn't experiment according to what's written on his service record book.
In Rome during the same year, he met and befriended the Egypt-Italo-French singer Dalida. The two were eventually to become lovers.
In 1967 he took part in the Italian Song Festival in Sanremo. It was rumored, that he participated against his will. The song he presented was "Ciao Amore Ciao" ("Bye, Bye my Love"), which he sang together with Dalida. The video of the performance is lost, however it's possible to listen to the audio track, taken from the radio. Tenco allegedly committed suicide on 27 January 1967, he was only 28 years old, after learning that his song had been eliminated from the final competition. Tenco was officially found by Dalida in his hotel room with a bullet wound in his left temple and a note: "I cared for the Italian public and I dedicated in vain five years of my life to them. I'm doing this not because I'm tired of life (I'm not) but as a gesture of dissent against the public who chose Io tu e le rose for the final night and against the commission that selected La rivoluzione. I hope this will clear somebody's head". On that morning Tenco and Dalida had privately announced their wedding to music producer Paolo Dossena.
Tenco was buried in Ricaldone. In 1974 the Tenco Award was instituted, and has been held every year since in Sanremo. Many of the most renowned Italian singer-songwriters from the 1970s declared explicitly the influence of Tenco on their work. Francesco De Gregori's album Bufalo Bill of 1976 contained a song, "Festival", about Tenco's suicide; it points out the hypocrisy with which the music establishment tried to minimize the dramatic event, in order to let the show go on.
In 2004 on TV program Domenica In, the detective who followed the inquiry, commissario Arrigo Molinari, when asked by host Paolo Bonolis, stated that he was sure that Tenco didn't commit suicide and he defined his death: "a collective murder". He also justified his own faults concerning the Tenco inquiry by declaring that he has been prevented to investigate properly. Shortly after the quoted interview, Molinari died, killed by a thief.
In 2005 The French television channel TV5 carried a full-length dramatization of the love affair of Tenco and Dalida. Tenco was played by Alessandro Gassman, while Dalida was played by Sabrina Ferilli. Notwithstanding the account of Tenco and Dalida love story on which the dramatization is based, at the beginning of the '90s Tenco's older brother Valentino met a woman, Valeria, who had in her possession several letters written by Tenco himself that would testify their love relationship started in 1964 and lasted until his death. In one of this letter, Tenco writes that his relationship with Dalida was nothing but a clumsy attempt to forget Valeria that, months before, had left him. He describes Dalida as a woman :"spoiled, neurotic, ignorant, who rejects the idea of being defeated in her profession as in private life". Valentino Tenco identified those letters as written by his brother.
The Italian judicial system later began re-examining Luigi Tenco's suicide. It was pointed out, that the bullet hole was on the left temple, while the singer was right-handed. It had also been revealed that no autopsy had been done on the singer's corpse, no paraffine test, and no calligraphic analysis on the suicide note with which he explained his final gesture.
On 15 February 2006, Italian police exhumed Tenco's body for further investigation. The next day, results from the new autopsy and ballistics analysis were reported. According to Italian experts, what had been thought to be the entry hole on the left temple was actually the exit site. The bullet trajectory was said to be compatible with suicide.
Nevertheless, criminologists Pasquale Ragone and Nicola Guarneri, in their book Le ombre del silenzio (The shadows of silence, 2013) pointed out the several incongruences between the shell case of the bullet found in Tenco's room and the bullet Tenco's Walter PPK gun would eject. Professor of ballistic forensics Martino Farneti proved that they don't match. As there's no proof nor official statement that declares that Tenco's Walter PPK was actually present in his room the night he died (from the police registers it results that the gun was actually found in his car) Guarneri and Ragone assume that Tenco might have been killed. The actual weapon might have been a Beretta 70, as on this type of gun (similar to Walter PPK) it's possible to put a silencer. In fact, the night Tenco died (allegedly in his hotel room) no one heard the sound of the gun shooting, not even singer Lucio Dalla, whose room was next to Tenco's, nor did journalist Sandro Ciotti, whose room was in front of Tenco's.
Music producer and friend Paolo Dossena stated that he drove Tenco's car from Rome (where the songwriter lived) to Sanremo and on the way, passing through a roadblock on the Aurelia, he discovered that Tenco had his Walter PPK in the dashboard of his car. He later confronted the songwriter who confessed that he took a gun because someone in the past few weeks had tried to drop him down a steep road near Santa Margherita ligure while he was driving.
The first witnesses who entered the room didn't even see the suicide note. It was journalist Piero Vivarelli that delivered the note to the police after having spent a few minutes in Dalida's room. Guarneri and Ragone assume that the alleged suicide note might have been in fact the last page of a document written by Tenco for a different aim.
French journalist and novelist Philippe Brunel wrote a fiction book, La nuit de San Remo, in which he dramatizes the arduous search for truth about Tenco's death.
This section needs expansion with: more tributes. You can help by adding to it. (June 2016)
Shortly after his death, his friend and songwriter Fabrizio De André wrote for him the song Preghiera in gennaio (A prayer in January) where he describes a benevolent God welcoming those who committed suicide in Heaven, in spite of the moral condemnation of the bigots.
- 1962: Luigi Tenco
- 1965: Luigi Tenco
- 1966: Tenco
- Compilations / Unreleased materials
- 1972: Luigi Tenco
- 1972: Luigi Tenco canta Tenco, De André, Jannacci, Bob Dylan
- 1977: Agli amici cantautori
- 1984: Luigi Tenco
- 1967: Ti ricorderai di me...
- 1967: Se stasera sono qui
- 1969: Pensaci un po'
- 1959: "Mai"/"Giurami tu"
- 1959: "Mi chiedi solo amore"/"Senza parole"
- 1959: "Amore"/"Non so ancora" (as Gigi Mai)
- 1959: "Vorrei sapere perché"/"Ieri" (as Gigi Mai)
- 1960: "Tell Me That You Love Me"/"Love Is Here to Stay" (as Gordon Cliff)
- 1960: "Quando"/"Sempre la stessa storia" (as Dick Ventuno)
- 1961: "Il mio regno"/"I miei giorni perduti"
- 1961: "Quando"/"Triste sera"
- 1961: "Una vita inutile"/"Ti ricorderai"
- 1961: "Ti ricorderai"/"Quando"
- 1961: "Ti ricorderai"/"Se qualcuno ti dirà"
- 1961: "Quando"/"Se qualcuno ti dirà"/"Ti ricorderai"/"I miei giorni perduti"
- 1961: "Senza parole"/"In qualche parte del mondo"
- 1962: "Come le altre"/"La mia geisha"
- 1962: "In qualche parte del mondo"
- 1962: "Quello che conta"/"Tra tanta gente"/"La ballata dell'eroe"
- 1962: "Angela"/"Mi sono innamorato di te"
- 1962: "Quando"/"Il mio regno"
- 1963: "Io sì"/"Una brava ragazza"
- 1964: "Ragazzo mio"/"No, non è vero"
- 1964: "Ho capito che ti amo"/"Io lo so già"
- 1965: "Tu non hai capito niente"/"Non sono io"
- 1966: "Se sapessi come fai"/"Un giorno dopo l'altro"
- 1966: "Lontano lontano"/"Ognuno è libero"
- 1967: "Ciao amore, ciao"/"E se ci diranno"
- 1967: "Quando"/"Mi sono innamorato di te"
- 1967: "Ti ricorderai"/"Angela"
- 1967: "Guarda se io"/"Vedrai vedrai"
- 1967: "Io vorrei essere là"/"Io sono uno"
- 1967: "Se stasera sono qui"/"Cara maestra"
- 1968: "Pensaci un po'"/"Il tempo dei limoni"
- 1970: "Vedrai vedrai"/"Ah... l'amore l'amore"
- 1984: "Serenella"
- Tenco, Luigi. "Luigi Tenco - La ballata dell'eroe".
- Discografia Nazionale della Canzone Italiana - HO CAPITO CHE TI AMO/IO LO SO GIÀ
- Guarneri Ragone (2013). Le ombre del silenzio. Castelvecchi.
- Tenco, Luigi. "Ciao Amore Ciao live in Sanremo".
- "Festival Loser Kills Himself". The New York Times. 28 January 1967. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
- "Intervista di Paolo Bonolis ad Arrigo Molinari".
- Guarneri, Ragone (2013). Le ombre del silenzio. Castelvecchi.
- "Tenco: confermata l'ipotesi del suicidio." 16 February 2006. Retrieved on 1 March 2009. Il Corriere della Sera (Google's automated translation)
- "Unsung Heroes No.4 – Luigi Tenco" Retrieved 23 June 2015
- "Testimonianza di Paolo Dossena".
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