Icons | Rino Gaetano


Life and death of a unique songwriter 

We entered Rino's legacy through his 1975 hit Ma il cielo è sempre più blu, which we discovered as part of the soundtrack of a French tv show telling the story of a violent struggle for power within a Corsican family. His records have been spinning continuously ever since. And that song has become one of the anthems Italians keep singing from their balconies to symbolize unity and resistance in the midst of the current crisis.

Born in Crotone, Calabria, in 1950, Salvatore Antonio Gaetano moves to Rome with his family at age 10 and becomes, in his late 20s, the most talked about, irreverent, extravagant and original Italian songwriter of the 70s before turning into a true myth after his tragic death at age 30.

Master in irony, his highly metaphorical work carries social messages hidden behind apparently light and distanced lyrics. Many times censored, he is a unique, satirical and incisive voice in a country torn apart by social, economical and political issues.  

Ironically enough, his break out occurs at the most popular and traditional Sanremo Music Festival. On January 28, 1978, it's a quasi unknown Gaetano who enters the stage of the Ariston theatre. Wearing white tie adorned with military medals, a black top-hat and sneakers, he holds a ukulele to present his unreleased song Gianna in a performance which is still vividly remembered to this day. Demonstrating an unprecedented level of freedom in a rather conformist event, Rino imposes his irony and lightness to an institution of Italian popular music.

The rest is history.

Becoming a hit in the nightclubs of the Riviera Ligure, the song makes it to the Top Ten for 14 weeks in a row and puts Rino in the spotlight.

With a whole new level of fame, Rino gets back to his satirical songwriting with Nuntereggae più in the same year of 1978. The song triggers a great deal of controversy by mentioning the names of highly visible politicians and business figures of the time, culminating in Rino leaving the Discomare '78 festival after the Italian public television channel Rai tried to prevent him from performing the supposedly outrageous song.

With numerous musical projects ongoing, his life and career are put to an early end in Rome on June 2, 1981. 

Driving back home at 3am that night, Rino is hit by a van and admitted to a clinic that lacks the necessary equipment to treat his severe cranial injuries and tries, in vain, to transfer him to another hospital that could assist him properly. He is pronounced dead at 6am.  

Already one of the most iconic songwriters of his time, the circumstances of his premature death bring him to cult status, a dimension even reinforced by the premonitory nature of "La ballata di Renzo", an unpublished song written 10 years before his death in which a boy dies in a car crash after being rejected by all the hospitals in Rome due to a lack of beds. Describing the exact circumstances of Rino's death, the song even namely mentions 3 institutions that refused to treat Rino in the night of his own death.

This story - troubling if there's one - seals the myth of this iconoclastic figure who met popular success while staying true to his satirical songwriting and social commitment to the people, from the "operaio della Fiat" to "Berta", "Aida" and "Lucia". 

One of the voices of a very troubled period in Italian history, Rino Gaetano has been a visionary in some of the deepest and most current issues of our modern societies. Poet of the simplest human interactions where friendship, love and family are the most prized wealth, his music has never been more relevant.

We're very proud to be able to add our modest contribution to Rino's legacy.

Please enjoy his music now.

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