Renato Zero (Italian pronunciation: [reˈnaːto ˈdzɛːro]) is the stage name of Renato Fiacchini (born 30 September 1950), an Italian singer, songwriter, producer, dancer and actor whose career spans a full 6 decades, from the 1960s to the 2010s, with 40 million records sold, becoming one of the best-selling Italian music artists.
Early life and career
Zero was born Renato Fiacchini in downtown Rome, in Via di Ripetta, next to the famed Via del Corso.
He quit his studies early to devote himself to his true passion, the arts, more specifically playing music and singing - though initially with little success. From an early age, he would wear make-up and cross-dress. He replied to the criticisms he received (including the recurring insult Sei uno zero! - "You're a zero!") by taking on the pseudonym Renato Zero. He recorded his first songs in 1965: "Tu", "Sì", "Il deserto", "La solitudine", which were never issued. His first published single, "Non basta sai/In mezzo ai guai" (1967), sold a total of 20 copies and was quickly forgotten.
He had several different jobs, including an appearance in an advertisement for ice-cream, work as a dancer in a TV show, playing and dancing in two musicals and a couple minor roles in two Fellini movies.
In the late 1960s/early 1970s Zero's career was given a boost by the glam-rock movement, from which he benefited with his sexual ambiguity and androgynous appearance. At the same time, this led him to being accused of emulating other celebrities like David Bowie and, in particular, Marc Bolan. In 1973 he issued his first LP, No! Mamma, no! (recorded live), but still with little success. The follow-up Invenzioni met the same fate.
Birth of "Zeromania"
It was not until 1976 that he scored his first hit with the single "Madame", a collaboration with songwriter Franca Evangelisti and composer Piero Pintucci, with whom Zero continued to work in the years that followed. "Madame" and the album including it, Trapezio, established a regular and loyal audience for Zero. This was to increase exponentially in the following years, until he could boast a huge following of die-hard fans that he dubbed Sorcini ("Little Mice"). Among his greatest hits at the time, all of them topping and breaking the Italian charts for quite some time, "Mi vendo", "Morire qui", "Triangolo", "Baratto" still are really popular in Italy, and were among all disco clubs playlists.
The late 1970s-beginning of 1980s were indeed years of great success for Zero's character, with the LPs Zerofobia ("Zerophobia", 1977), Zerolandia (1978), Erozero (1979), "Tregua" (1980), "Artide Antartide" (1981), "Via Tagliamento" (1982) and "Calore" (1983) topping the Italian charts. At this time Renato Zero was amongst the two or three most popular singers in Italy and his songs "Il cielo", "Il Carrozzone", "Amico", "Più su" and "Spiagge" were already regarded, also by critics, as some of the best Italian songs ever.
The name Zerolandia referred also to the moving theatre (a circus tent with a capacity of 5,000) in which he gave shows throughout Italy. On numerous occasions fans would participate in the gigs, made-up like Zero and dressed in his typical bird-like and strass-decorated costumes.
In 1979 Zero played as himself in the movie Ciao Nì (his usual greeting to his fans, which is a term of endearment that can be roughly translated as "hi dear!"). In Italy this film grossed more than the American blockbuster Superman.
The 80s: career dip
In the 1980s he began to abandon make-up and greasepaint, but this did not rid Zero of his mania for grandeur: in the 1980 tour, for example, he entered the scene riding a white horse. In 1982 he began a collaboration with the opera director Renato Serio, who was to write the string arrangements for almost all of Zero's following LPs. In late 1982 he took part in RAI's Fantastico 3, then the most popular Italian TV show.
His career continued to be successful until 1984. That year, however, new album Leoni si nasce, that he presented in a press conference disguised as a lion and escorted by four aborigines, was a commercial failure, even if it peaked at #1. The album Zero of 1987 marked the lowest point of his career, peaking at #13 and almost immediately disappearing from Italian charts.
1990s: The comeback
In 1991 Renato Zero participated to the Sanremo Music Festival with "Spalle al muro", and from that moment on his career began to rise again. In 1993 he ranked #1 on the Italian charts with the LP Quando non sei più nessuno. The following year L'imperfetto repeated this success. His concerts would regularly sell out, and he returned to his famous dress changes, although in a more balanced style.
In the mid-1990s Zero dubbed the character of Jack Skellington and sang the songs in the Italian release of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.
In 1999, he sang at Pavarotti and Friends his hit song Il cielo together with tenor Luciano Pavarotti, and later the same year, Italian diva Mina paid him a tribute with her album Mina n° 0, containing ten Zero's songs, including one sung in duet with him.
2000s, 2010s: the Emperor's Reign
In 2004 his tour "Cattura il sogno/Il sogno continua" (Catch the dream/The dream continues) was awarded from Pollstar magazine as the most successful of the year in Italy and as well as one of the most successful worldwide (#30). The recording of the Roman concerts, held at Olimpico Stadium in June, was the top selling musical DVD in 2004.
In 2005 he took part in the Italian staging of Live 8, in the Circo Massimo. In November his new album Il dono ("The Gift") topped the charts and maintained the #1 position until the end of the year. In December 2005 he performed in the Vatican with a song dedicated to Pope John Paul II. Renato Zero's 2006 tour was entitled Zeromovimento and involved 25 concerts. After 40 years of his musical career, in February 2006 he refused the Career Award at the national Festival of San Remo, stating that the award should be for artists who had reached old age.
In 2007 he toured again in major Italian cities, filling sports stadiums. The tour was called MpZerO, and attracted 270,000 spectators on 7 dates, of which 120,000 filled the Olympic Stadium of Rome, his hometown. He's often called the Emperor of Rome.
Presente, his 30th album, was released in Europe, South America and North America on 20 March 2009. It went multi-platinum in Italy, with 80,000 copies sold In the first week. Following the release of Presente, Renato toured again in autumn 2009; the "Zeronove tour" collected 30 sold-out dates and was the most successful gig of the year in Italy. On 10 December "Ancora qui", the first single from the album Presente, won the best Italian video of the year. In September 2010 Presente (CD edition + special CD+DVD edition) was certified by FIMI as the top selling album in Italy during the 2009–2010 years. In 2012 Sei Zero was certified as the top selling DVD of 2011.
In 2013 he released two new albums, "Amo - capitolo I" and "Amo - capitolo II": both peaked at No. 1 on Italian chart. During 2013-2014 he also toured again, after a three years hyatus; his new show, "Amo in tour", collected a stunning 59 sold out, out of 59 concerts, with a record tenure in Rome (20 dates), Milan (8 dates) and Florence (8 dates).
In November 2015, Renato Zero FB, Twitter and Instagram pages hinted that he plans to release a new album in 2016 and launch a new concerts tour to be held in sports stadiums.
On February 13, 2016, he was honor guest at Sanremo Music Festival. On that occasion he announced his next album, "Alt", to be released on April 8. On March 2 "Chiedi", first single from "Alt", peaks at No. 1 on iTunes chart. In its first week of release, " Alt" debuts at No. 1 on Fimi official Italian albums chart.
Renato Zero is the only artist to have reached No. 1 on Italian chart in 5 different decades (70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s). He had no fewer than 26 albums in the Top 10.
Renato Zero has an album (Presente) certified Diamond by Fimi, a goal officially achieved in italian charts history by five artists only (Vasco Rossi, Ligabue, Jovanotti, Modà and, indeed, Renato himself).
He likes to work with other artists, and wrote songs for numerous other singers as well. With his particular approach in performances, shows and tours, he is a leading live performer in his country and obtained a unique spot in the Italian musical scene.
Throughout his career, Renato Zero has been a crusader against drug abuse. His grand force is regarded to be having shown the normality of the diverse, convincing the public that diversity feeds our human abilities to feel and act with love, respect, solidarity and faith.
Though the general consensus was that he is bisexual or gay, a conservative one, who fancies no outings and no public displays of it except in his art, Zero has admitted of being heterosexual during an Italian talk-show. Enrica Bonaccorti, a famous tv host, and Lucy Morante, his former secretary, are the only two relationships Zero made official.
His image has changed through the decades, from the flamboyant, makeup-wearing transvestite of the mid-1970s, reminiscent of Marc Bolan or The Rocky Horror Picture Show 's Frank'n'Furter, to today's somber, blue-suit-clad icon of no specific gender and unspecified age, his only affectation a head of jet-black hair and a thin veil of foundation and lip gloss.
|Album||Year||Peak||Weeks||Label||Year end |
|No! Mamma, No!||1973||-||-||RCA||-|
|Via Tagliamento 1965/1970||1982||1||21||Zerolandia/BMG||4|
|Leoni si nasce||1984||1||16||Zerolandia/BMG||36|
|La coscienza di Zero||1991||5||8||RCA||70|
|Quando non sei più di nessuno||1993||1||23||Zerolandia/BMG||42|
|Passaporto per Fonopoli EP||1993||1||13||Zerolandia/BMG||-|
|Sulle tracce dell'imperfetto||1995||2||21||Fonopoli/Sony||19|
|Amore dopo amore||1998||2||51||Fonopoli/Sony||2|
|Amore dopo amore Tour dopo tour (live)||1999||1||34||Fonopoli/Sony||14|
|Tutti gli Zeri del mondo||2000||3||19||Fonopoli/Sony||53|
|La curva dell'angelo||2001||1||40||Tattica/Sony||10|
|Figli del sogno CD (live)||2004||2||39||Tattica/Sony||17|
|Figli del sogno DVD||2004||1||60||Tattica/Sony||1|
|Zeronove tour DVD||2010||1||13||Tattica||14|
|Sei Zero DVD||2011||1||20||Tattica||1|
|Amo - Capitolo I||2013||1||28||Tattica/IndipendenteMente||11|
|Amo - Capitolo II||2013||1||16||Tattica/IndipendenteMente||27|
|Arenà (live CD/DVD)||2016||9||Tattica/IndipendenteMente|