(born 23 March 1945 in Riposto, Sicily) is an Italian singer-songwriter, composer, filmmaker and, under the pseudonym Süphan Barzani
, also a painter. Battiato's songs contain esoteric, philosophical and religious themes.He is and has been for decades one of the most popular pop singer-songwriters in Italy. His unique sound, song-crafting and especially his lyrics, often containing philosophical, religious, and culturally exotic references, as wells as tackling or painting universal themes about the human condition - unusual subjects for pop songs - earned him a unique spot on Italy's music scene, and the nickname of "Il Maestro" ('The Master', or 'The Teacher').Especially, but not only, at the beginning of his career, in the 70s and early 80s, his work was standing out sharply against the rest of Italian pop scene with sarcastic, provocative, and dark attitude and lyrics attacking ignorance, lack of professionalism, and the common expectations of popular audiences, including his own public.His work includes songwriting and joint production efforts with several Italian and international musicians and pop singers, including the long-lasting professional relationship with Italian singer Alice.His collaborations from 1994 onward with the nihilistic-cynical philosopher Manlio Sgalambro have added lyrical references to Emil Cioran, Friedrich Nietzsche and other anarchistic thinkers.Together with Alice, Franco Battiato represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest 1984 with the song "I treni di Tozeur".Early years and experimental periodFranco Battiato was born in 1945 in Riposto (in the former municipality of Jonia, that included also Giarre) in the province of Catania, Sicily.At the age of 22 he moved to Milan and in 1967 he obtained the first musical contract. His single La Torre was released and Battiato appeared on TV to perform the song. He scored some success with the romantic song È l'amore
. After further covers of pop songs, he met the experimental musician Juri Camisasca in 1970 and collaborated with Osage Tribe, an Italian psychedelic-progressive rock band. As a solo artist, he released the science-fiction single La convenzione
), one of the finest Italian progressive rock songs of the 1970s.Starting from 1971, Battiato devoted much of his efforts to experimental electronic music, producing a series of LPs that remained almost unknown at the time, but are now eagerly sought by collectors worldwide. Starting out with electronic Progressive Rock with some emphasis on vocals, his music became increasingly experimental, gradually moving into the realms of musique concrète and minimalism: Foetus
(1971, its cover was censored), Pollution
(1972), Sulle Corde di Aries
(1974) and M.elle le “Gladiator”
is a haunting yet largely conventional exploration in the electronic style reminiscent of Philip Glass and even German experimental rock band Can.In 1975, he moved to the Dischi Ricordi label, producing Battiato
(1975), Juke Box
(1976) and the experimental L'Egitto prima delle sabbie
(Egypt Before the Sands, 1977), which won the Stockhausen award for contemporary music.
After the Ricordi label failed to re-sign him, Battiato signed with EMI. He abandoned the Prog Rock experiments of the previous years and moved to a more pop-oriented style which afforded him ever increasing popularity with Italian audiences. In this period his albums were usually in collaboration with the renowned musician and violinist Giusto Pio, whose two later albums were produced by Battiato.After L'era del cinghiale bianco
(The Era of the White Boar, 1979) and Patriots
(1980), Battiato obtained astounding success with La voce del padrone
(His Master's Voice) in 1981, which was the first Italian LP to sell more than one million copies. The commercial success was confirmed by L'arca di Noè
(Noah's Ark) in 1982. Songs like "L'era del cinghiale bianco", "Prospettiva Nevskij" ("Nevsky Prospekt"), "Centro di gravità permanente" ("Permanent Gravity Centrepoint"), "Bandiera bianca" ("White Flag"), "Voglio vederti danzare" ("I Want To See You Dance") which were characterized by an original mix of middle-eastern melodies, lyrics which touched upon philosophical themes and electro-pop rhythms, established Battiato as one of the most popular musicians in Italy, with his strange mixture of Pop songs and intellectual attitude. Many of the songs of this era contained some lyrics in English and, most notably Arabic, a language that Battiato had started to study after a trip to Turkey. Battiato's albums were also released in Spanish and English versions.Orizzonti perduti
(Lost Horizons, 1983), which Battiato himself called a kipper
, was followed by the successful Mondi Lontanissimi
, 1985), which featured a solo version of the popular "I treni di Tozeur" ("The Tozeur Trains)", originally a duet with Alice performed at the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest, the science-fiction/metaphysical "Via Lattea" ("Milky Way") and "No Time No Space".1988's Fisiognomica
) sold more than 300,000 copies and it confirmed Battiato's success. The album, considered by Battiato himself his best work for the balance between music and lyrics, contained the hit "Nomadi" ("Nomads"), originally recorded by Alice and written by his old friend Juri Camisasca, who in the meantime had retired to a Benedictin monastery. The album also included the songs "E ti vengo a cercare", which was performed by director/actor Nanni Moretti in his 1989 movie Palombella Rossa
, and "Veni l'autunnu" with lyrics entirely in the Sicilian and Arabic languages.Come un cammello in una grondaia
(Like a Camel in the Gutter
, 1991), was divided into two parts, the second made up by classical German lieder. Among the pop songs, "Povera patria" ("Poor Homeland"), a poetical denouncement of Italy's lack of culture and honesty, became a kind of hymn of the civil society rebelling against the 1992 mafioso bomb attacks against judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.Pio and Battiato also worked as composers, musical arrangers and producers for several singers, including Alice and Giuni Russo, and for two of Milva's albums.Starting from 1987, Battiato also produced several classical operas: Genesi
(1992) and Il Cavaliere dell'Intelletto
(1994). In 1990 he also began to experiment with painting, initially under the pseudonym of Süphan Barzani
Collaboration with Manlio Sgalambro
In 1994 Battiato began to collaborate with the Sicilian philosopher Manlio Sgalambro, who was to write almost all the lyrics of his following albums.After the tentative L'ombrello e la macchina da cucire
of 1995, in 1996 the duo published what is considered their best work so far, L'imboscata
, containing the romantic hit "La cura" ("The care"), elected best Italian song of the year.Gommalacca
(1998, with an unusual stress on hard rock), Ferro battuto
(2000) and Dieci stratagemmi
(2004) continued on the same path, with variations mainly set by Battiato's unceasing desire for musical experimentation.In 2003 Battiato released his first feature film, Perduto amor
(Lost love), for which he also composed the soundtrack. The movie won the Silver Ribbon for the best debutant director. However, heavy criticism struck against his following movie, Musikanten
, a rather experimental work about Beethoven's last four years of life. The German musician was played by the Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky.In 2004 he hosted a cultural show named Bitte, keine Reclame
for a satellite channel of RAI, the Italian state network.In November 2012 he accepted an offer from newly elected Sicilian president Rosario Crocetta to become the new Regional Minister for Tourism and Culture, announcing he will not take any compensation for the job.
Battiato is not married; he had been very attached to his mother Grazia, who died in 1994. He prefers spending time in a personal retreat in Milo, a little town near Mount Etna, rather than socializing with the so-called "cultural elite".
- In 1999 Battiato released a collection of covers of Italian love songs, Fleurs. He repeated the experiment three years later with an album inexplicably numbered Fleurs 3. The median album Fleurs 2 was released unexpectedly in November 2008.
- Battiato's cover of The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday", originally released on Fleurs, is prominently featured in the 2006 film, Children of Men.
- In his album Fleurs 2 (2009) Anthony Hegarty performs, in Italian, "Del suo veloce volo", Battiato's cover of Antony and the Johnsons' song "Frankestein".