Luigi Tenco

(Cassine, 1938 – Sanremo 1967)


Italian ‘cantautore’ (singer/songwriter), a romantic icon of the 1960’s whose budding career ended in a tragic suicide at the age of twenty-eight. Luigi grew up in Cassine and Ricaldone Marazion (province Alessandria), the offspring of an illegitimate union between his mother Teresa and a man whose name he never learned. The man whose name he bore, Giuseppe Tenco, had died as a result of an accident (apparently, he was kicked in the head by a cow!) before Luigi was born. In 1948, Teresa took her son to Genoa where she opened a liquor store, selling Piedmontese wines. While studying at Andrea Doria High School, Tenco learned to play clarinet and piano (later adding alto sax) and formed a jazz band, the Jelly Roll Morton Boys. This venture only lasted a year, but he went on to assemble other groups: ‘I Diavoli del Rock’ (1958) (whose theme song he also composed) and ‘I Cavalieri’ (1959) (which he fronted under the alias ‘Gigi Mai’). In 1958, he went on tour through Germany with Adriano Celentano. Having signed a contract with the recording label Ricordi in 1961, Tenco turned out his first single, ‘Quando’. He also briefly flirted with film acting and got a small part as a rebellious, introverted youth in Luciano Salce’s La cuccagna (1962), in which he also performed the song “La ballata dell’eroe”.

Though frequently hamstrung by censorship from Commitee Rai, Tenco was embraced by the public and emerged over the next five years as one of the most popular romantic balladeers on the Italian music scene, releasing hits like “Notturno Senza Luna” (1961), “Mi sono innamorato di te” (1962), the torch song “Vedrai, Vedrai” (1965) and the hauntingly beautiful “Senza Fine” (1961), written by his one-time friend and collaborator Gino Paoli). By 1965, now under contract with RCA, he found his career momentarily put on hold when he was conscripted for military service. Released on medical grounds in March 1966, Tenco moved to Rome where he met the Egyptian-Italian singer Dalida with whom he became romantically involved, prompting a feeding frenzy among the paparazzi. To what extent this was a publicity stunt is unclear, since, at the same time, Tenco conducted various other affairs, even proposing marriage to a girl named Valeria, a university student who was expecting a child by him. Valeria was later hit by a car and lost the child.

Tenco’s life had already begun to unravel by then. Suffering from depression, he had begun experimenting with cocktails of LSD and mescaline, taking psychotropic drugs against stage fright, becoming obsessive about collecting and carrying firearms. When his entry for the 1967 San Remo Festival failed to make the finals, Tenco committed suicide by gunshot to the right temple in his hotel room, on January 27. Controversy over his death raged for many years. There were allegations that the original police investigations into his death had been botched, that he had, in fact, been murdered. However, thirty-nine years after his death, the original verdict of suicide was confirmed after an autopsy conducted at the Civil Hospital of Acqui Terme in February 2006.

1. Descrivi il tipo di ambiente sociale da cui proveniva Luigi Tenco
2. Rifletti sui testi, sulle musiche, sull’espressione vocale e sull’immagine di Lugi Tenco: in che modo il suo stile si allontana dalla canzone romantica alla Claudio Villa o Luciano Tajoli?
3. Ricerca su internet (e non solo!): cosa diceva il biglietto di addio che Tenco scrisse prima di suicidarsi?

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