From time to time Adriano Celentano still speaks up on social media, and he does so under the name “L’Inesistente”, the non-existent, i.e. the man who does not exist. This is certainly one of the biggest understatements in music history, because hardly anyone has left such a broad mark on Italian popular culture in recent decades as he has. On January 6, Celentano will be 85 years old.
The catchy tune “Azzurro” made him world famous, he sold well over 100 million records in his long career and acted in dozens of films. The man with the raspy voice was born in 1938 as the son of immigrants from the south in poor circumstances in Milan. He learned the craft of watchmaking from his father, but soon became the man who brought rock ‘n’ roll to Italy. Inspired by Bill Haley & his Comets, he founded his first rock band and covered titles like “Tutti Frutti” or “Jailhouse Rock”. In 1960 he was allowed to play himself in Federico Fellini’s cult film “La Dolce Vita” and rocked the Caracalla thermal baths with “Ready Teddy”.
In 1959, Celentano won the Ancona Festival with “Il tuo bacio è come un rock” (“Your kiss is like rock music”). One hit followed the next, including “Il ragazzo della Via Gluck” (“The boy from Gluckstrasse”), an autobiographically inspired song in which he took up topics such as environmental protection and building sins as early as 1966 – and which fans would still listen to decades later sang along in the concert halls.
In 1968 came Paolo Conte’s “Azzurro”, a song about daydreams on a summer afternoon in the city and a distant woman, a piece of pure Italian feeling, the longing melody for the longing country of many Central Europeans. The inflation-plagued Italy of the 1970s was sung by Celentano in “Svalutation”, the title of which is an Anglicization of the word “Svalutazione” (devaluation).
In addition to the unmistakable voice, the distinctive teeth and the stringy hair, the peculiarly springy gait became Celentano’s trademark – which is why the Italians call him “Il Molleggiato” (“The Feathered One”). As such, he also made “bella figura” in front of the camera. He acted in about 40 films, most of them rather simple but often hilarious. These include “The Tamed Unruly One” and “Give the Monkey Sugar” with Ornella Muti or “The Greatest Am I”. Celentano also directed or wrote the screenplay for a number of films, in “Yuppi Du” both at the same time.
showman and gentleman
Viewers between Brenner and Brindisi, Padua and Palermo also know the “Showman”, as it is called in modern Italian, from their home screens, from TV shows such as “Fantastico 8” or “Rockpolitik”, for example. The Inter Milan fan talked a lot about topics such as the environment, animal welfare and big politics, sometimes falling into the role of a preacher. He also became known as a sharp critic of the four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
“Il Molleggiato” is married to the actress, singer and producer Claudia Mori. On July 14, 1964, they said yes in the church of San Francesco in Grosseto – in the morning at 3.30 a.m. to dribble out the paparazzi, as you can still read today. “Siamo la coppia più bella del mondo” (“We are the most beautiful couple in the world”) they sang as a duet in 1967, and who could contradict them? Apparently everything was not always “bello” in the marriage, because in the early 80s the two are said to have lived separately for several years. Rumors persisted about the singer’s affair with Ornella Muti. “I had something with Adriano Celentano,” Muti told the newspaper “Il Fatto Quotidiano” in 2014.
As far as is known, the professional relationship between Celentano and his duet partner Mina was free of conflict. In 1998 they released an album together simply titled “Mina Celentano”, a smash hit with sales of around two million. In 2016 – when they were already 78 and 76 years old – they sang together on the album “Le migliori” (“The Best”).
Where and how the Cantor celebrates his birthday is a private matter. “Esco di rado e parlo ancora meno” – I rarely show myself and speak even less – is the title of an album from the year 2000, a verse from a song by Celentano and probably also his life motto today. As “L’Inesistente”, Celentano occasionally comments on current politics online. Recently he called it “rivoluzionario” that Giorgia Meloni’s swearing in was the first woman to become head of government in Italy. Sometimes the transition between public and private is fluid for him: under a general sentence about the difficult world situation, he uploaded a video with old recordings of his wife and himself in the summer. Claudia and Adriano young and beautiful – la coppia più bella del mondo.