Luciano Ligabue

Correggio (Reggio Emilia) (1960 – )

(By Erika Deboni, Università di Pisa)

Luciano Riccardo Ligabue,[1] aka Ligabue, was born in Correggio, in the province of Reggio Emilia, on March 13, 1960. A multifaceted artist well known in Italy, Ligabue expresses his genius through music, screenwriting and writing, and he also has a recording label: Mescal.

During his thirty-year career, he has received sixty awards for his musical activity, among which two Targa Tenco awards, the Premio Tenco award, the Parole della musica award; five awards for his activity as a writer, among which the Premio Lunezia for the musical and literary quality of the album Miss Mondo; twelve awards for his cinematographic activity; an honorary degree in Publishing, Multimedia Communication and Journalism and an honorary degree in Music.

After obtaining his diploma in accounting, he worked at various jobs, but his love for music led him, at the age of eighteen, to write his first song entitled “Cento lampioni” (“One Hundred Street Lamps”), which was never published. In 1986 he founded his first musical group, Orazero, with whom he participated in various regional and national music competitions with Sogni di rock’n’rollAnime in plexiglassSarà un bel souvenirBar Mario and Figlio d’un cane.

With Orazero, he recorded his first 45 rpm: Anime in plexiglass / Bar Mario (1988)[2], now exceedingly hard to find, which led to victory in a regional music competition, “Terremoto Rock”. In the same period, with preparations in full swing for what would become his first album, Ligabue, the song “Eroi di latta” is actually an early version of “Balliamo sul mondo”.

In the same year, he was noticed by Pierangelo Bertoli, who decided to include “Sogni di rock’n’roll” in his 1988 album, Tra me e me, and “Figlio d’un cane” in the 1989 album Sedia elettrica, Bertoli, moreover, introduced Ligabue to his producer, Angelo Carrara, thanks to whom his first album, Ligabue, was born in 1990, recorded together with Clan Destino [26]. During that same summer, Ligabue participated in Festivalbar 1990 with “Balliamo sul mondo,” where he received the Disco Verde award for the best emerging singer.

Lambrusco coltelli rose & pop corn is his second album, released in 1991,[3] which features the singles “Libera nos a malo” and “Urlando contro il cielo,” repeating the success received with his debut album. In the wake of this success, Ligabue began to work as a producer: he collaborated on “Male non farà,” a song on the third album by Timoria, an emerging band that in 1992 opened for Ligabue’s concerts.

Ligabue’s third project, Sopravvissuti e sopravivventi (Survivors and survivors), however, did not garner the public success of the first two, because of the dark themes addressed in the texts, leading the singer to a period of emotional crisis. The only tune played on the radio was “Ho messo via,” and the rocker decided to part ways with the producer.

In 1994 Warner Music Italy released A che ora è la fine del mondo? The album includes eight songs which Ligabue defines as “scattered shards,” because he draws inspiration for the lyrics from the Italian political trends of the period, and because it contains reworkings of his own songs. In the same period, he creates the label Mescal with Valerio Soave and produces La Crus, Massimo Volume, Modena City Ramblers and Stefano Belluzzi.

His long-awaited consecration comes in 1995, with Buon compleanno Elvis, an album inspired by American rock. His fame reaches national levels and songs such as “Vivo, morto o X,” “Hai un momento, Dio?,” “Leggero and Certe notti” (winner of the Targa Tenco as best song of the year), win over the hearts of young people, managing to sell over 1,200,000 copies, for which he won the European Platinum Record IFPI and the Italian Music Award PIM three times.

The singer’s success continued in 1997 with Su e giù da un palco, a double live album with three unreleased tracks: “Il giorno di dolore che uno ha,” “Tra palco e realtà” and “Ultimo tango a Memphis.” In 2006 the album would once again surpass one million copies sold. In 1997 the artist also made himself known from  a different perspective: Ligabue emerged as a writer with a first novel entitled Fuori e dentro il borgo. His novels include: La neve se ne frega (2004, but also published as a graphic novel in 2005), Lettere d’amore nel frigo (2006), Il rumore dei baci a vuoto (2012), Scusate il disordine (2016) and È andata così (2020).

In 1998, Ligabue directed his first film, Radiofreccia. The singer-songwriter also created the soundtrack for his film, which includes “Ho perso le parole,” “Metti in circolo il tuo amore” and “Siamo in onda.” The resulting album took its title from the film and displays the author’s inspiration from international artists such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Highly notable is the participation of Francesco Guccini as an actor in the film.

Four years after Buon compleanno Elvis, Ligabue released two works: the single “Il mio nome è mai più” by LigaJovaPelù, a pacifist rock ballad performed with Lorenzo Cherubini and Piero Pelù, the proceeds of which went to the charity Emergency; in the same year, 1999, Ligabue also published his sixth album, Miss Mondo, in which the author explores new musical and thematic horizons. The autobiographical mood in “Una vita da mediano,” “Si viene e si va” and “Almeno credo” took the album to the top of the charts. In November, Ligabue performed in Dublin on the stage of the 1999 MTV Europe Music Awards, presenting “L’odore del sesso” to an international audience.

His collaboration with Francesco Guccini continued, and in 2000 the latter released the album Stagioni, whose track “Ho ancora la forza” was written with Ligabue, and won the Targa Tenco. In the first years of the new millennium, Ligabue entered the record market with the album Fuori come va? (2002). That year he also released his second film, Da zero a dieci, where Ligabue appears, as he had in Radiofreccia, in a small cameo.

In 2003 Ligabue recorded his second live album, Giro d’Italia, but the most anticipated event took place in 2005, when he celebrated the first fifteen years of his career with a concert at the Campovolo airport in his hometown of Correggio, to an audience of over 165,000 people. The show lasted nearly three hours, with the rocker supported by La Banda, the group with which he recorded Buon compleanno Elvis, and the classic band Clan Destino. Audio problems caused some of the audience to leave the concert early. In response to this episode, Ligabue wrote a letter of apology to his fans directly on his official website.

After the release of his eighth album, Nome e cognome, featuring a young Giovanni Allevi, Ligabue dedicates body and soul to countless concerts, including the one at the Opening Ceremony of the IX Paralympic Winter Games of Turin 2006, and the Seven Nights in the Arena in 2008, from which a live album was also produced.

Arrivederci, mostro! of 2010 is a box set that contains both new music and old favorites recorded live, and Ligabue decided to pay homage to each city that hosted his concerts by inserting a version of the pieces played during those nights.

In 2013 the Arena of Verona again hosted his concerts, on six evenings from September 16th to 23rd, where he presented Mondovisione, released just ten days before and with the pre-release single “Il sale della Terra,” followed by “Tu sei lei.” The two tracks pushed the album to number one on the FIMI chart, where it would remain for four consecutive weeks, thus winning seven platinum records.

To celebrate the twenty-fifth year of his career, Ligabue in 2015 returned to Campovolo, organizing a three-and-a-half-hour show in front of an audience of more than 150,000 people, where he communicated the date of other performances that would take place before the release of his eleventh album: Made in Italy, in 2016. Made in Italy is also the title of his third film, from 2018, starring Stefano Accorsi and Kasia Smutniak.

The twelfth album, Start (2019), is a prelude for the next show at Campovolo, originally set for September 12, 2020, but postponed to June 4, 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

December 2020 saw the release of the box set titled 7. Ligabue appeared on Rai1, singing “La ragazza dei tuoi sogni.” From this latest venture (at the time of writing) come the popular singles “Volente o Nolente,” “Mi ci pulisco il cuore” and “Essere Umano.”


[1] Luciano Ligabue and Massimo CottoÈ andata così – Trent’anni come si deveMondadori, 2020.

[2] The 45rpm record was released in a limited number of copies and is now unobtainable.

[3] Riccardo Bertoncelli, Una vita da mediano, Giunti 1999

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