Francesco "Franco" Battiato (Italian: [ˈfraŋko batˈtjaːto]; born 23 March 1945, Ionia, 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 well 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"). 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. Together with Alice, Franco Battiato represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest 1984 with the song "I treni di Tozeur".
Early years and experimental period
After graduating from high school at the Liceo Scientifico "Archimede" of Acireale, and following the death of his father (truck driver and longshoreman in New York), in 1964 he moved first to Rome. Franco Battiato moved to Milan at age 22, and soon after won his 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 (The convention), 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 (1973), Clic (1974) and M.elle le “Gladiator” (1975).
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. His commercial success was confirmed by L'arca di Noè (Noah's Ark) in 1982. Songs such as "L'era del cinghiale bianco", "Prospettiva Nevskij" ("Nevsky Prospekt"), "Centro di gravità permanente" ("Permanent Gravity Centrepoint"), "Bandiera bianca" ("White Flag"), and "Voglio vederti danzare" ("I Want To See You Dance") established Battiato in Italy. Orizzonti perduti (Lost Horizons, 1983), which Battiato himself called a kipper, was followed by the successful Mondi Lontanissimi (Faraway Worlds, 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.
1988's Fisiognomica (Physiognomy) 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. In 2013 he signed a publishing deal with Roberto Mancinelli and Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
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 November 2012 he accepted an offer from newly elected Sicilian regional president Rosario Crocetta to become the new Regional Minister for Tourism and Culture, announcing he will not take any compensation for the job, but was subsequently fired soon after his controversial claim that there were "troie in Parlamento" (whores within Parliament).
Battiato is vegetarian.
- La Convenzione (single, 1971)
- Fetus (1971)
- Pollution (1972)
- Sulle corde di Aries (1973)
- Clic (1974)
- M.elle le “Gladiator” (1975)
- Feed Back (1975)
- Battiato (1976)
- Juke Box (1977)
- L'Egitto prima delle sabbie (1978)
- L'era del cinghiale bianco (1979)
- Patriots (1980)
- La voce del Padrone (1981)
- L'arca di Noè (1982)
- Orizzonti perduti (1983)
- Mondi Lontanissimi (1985)
- Echoes of Sufi Dances (1985, in English)
- Ecos de Danzas Sufi (1985, in Spanish)
- Nomadas (1987, in Spanish)
- Fisiognomica (1988)
- Giubbe Rosse (1989, live)
- Come un cammello in una grondaia (1991)
- Caffè de la Paix (1993)
- Unprotected (1994, live)
- L'ombrello e la macchina da cucire (1995)
- Battiato studio collection (1996, collection)
- L'imboscata (1996)
- Shadow, Light (1996, collection)
- Battiato Live Collection (1997, live)
- Gommalacca (1998)
- Fleurs (1999)
- Campi magnetici (2000)
- Ferro battuto (2001)
- Fleurs 3 (2002)
- Last Summer Dance (2003, live)
- Dieci stratagemmi (2004)
- Il vuoto (2007)
- Fleurs 2 (2008) (3X Platinum)
- Inneres Auge – Il tutto è più della somma delle sue parti (2009) (Platinum)
- Apriti sesamo (2012)
- Live in Roma with Alice (2016)
- 1965: L'amore è partito (Love's gone)
- 1965: E piu ti amo (The more I love you...)
- 1967: La torre / Le reazioni (The tower / The reaction)
- 1967: Triste come me / Il mondo va così (Sad like me / The world goes like this)
- 1968: È l'amore / Fumo di una sigaretta (It's love / Smoke of a cigarette)
- 1969: Sembrava una serata come tante / Gente (It seemed it was an ordinary evening / People)
- 1969: Bella ragazza / Occhi d'or (Beautiful girl / Golden eyes)
- 1970: Lacrime e pioggia (Rain and tears)
- 1971: Vento caldo / Marciapiede (Warm wind / Pavement) - recorded 1968
- 1972: Energia / Una cellula (Energy / A cell)
- 1972: La convenzione / Paranoia (The convention / Paranoia)
- 1978: Adieu/San Marco - Elektra Records, t 123 310
- 1979: L'era del cinghiale bianco / Luna indiana (The era of the white boar / Indian moon)
- 1981: Bandiera bianca / Summer on a Solitary Beach (White flag / ...)
- 1984: I treni di Tozeur / Le biciclette di Forlì (The trains of Tozeur / The bicycles of Forlì) - with Alice
- 1985: No Time No Space / Il re del mondo (... / The king of the world)
- 1985: Via lattea / L'animale (Milky Way / The animal)
- 1996: Strani Giorni/Decline and fall of the roman empire (Strange days / ...)
- 1996: La Cura (The Cure)
- 1998: Shock in my town
- 1998: Il ballo del potere (The Dance of Power)
- 2001: Running against the grain/Sarcofagia/In trance (... / ... / Into a trance)
- 2004: Tra Sesso e Castità/Le aquile non volano a stormi/Ermeneutica (Between sex and chastity / Eagles don't fly in flocks / Hermeneutics)
- 2007: Il vuoto (Emptiness)
- 2007: Aspettando l'estate (Waiting for summer)
- 2007: Niente è come sembra (Nothing is as it seems)
- 2008: Tutto l'universo obbedisce all'amore (The entire universe obeys love)
- 2013: "Quand'ero Giovane" (When I was Young)
Singles in Spanish
- 1985: La estación de los amores (Love's season)
- 1991: Pobre Patria (Poor homeland)
- 1986: Yo quiero verte danzar (I want to see you dancing)
- Genesi (1987)
- Gilgamesh (1992)
- Messa arcaica (1993)
- Il Cavaliere dell'Intelletto (1995) - not published on CD
- Campi magnetici (2000)
- Telesio (2011)
- Perduto amor (2003, also screenplay)
- Musikanten (2005)
- Niente è come sembra (2007)
- Auguri Don Gesualdo (2010)