This is not how we meant to start the new year, but it happened. Pino Daniele died in the night of January 5th.
I am sure he is known across the world, but I am not sure how many around the world knew him, so if I have to summarize his career in one sentence I’d say that he is the artist who evolved the Neapolitan songs tradition into the new age by means of melting.
Pino Daniele mixed the traditional Neapolitan sounds with the ones from Blues, from Jazz, from Pop music. By doing so he also got in touch with musicians from across the globe, and played with many of them on stage during incredibly effective performances. In this way he evolved the Neapolitan sound into a global, modern, inclusive, universal sound. This sound was coupled with perfectly matching lyrics, the result of a melting process as well: sometimes in Italian, often in Neapolitan, mixed with English words, in the same song. Those lyrics and music, his artistic work, manage to tell the soul of Naples in an international language that everyone can understand, deeper than a tour guide, more effective and syntethic than a sociology manual.
We were lucky to see him many times in concert, lately in Rome a few years ago in the wonderful context of Ostia Antica Roman theater, and again just a few weeks ago in a memorable reunion concert where he played many of his most successful pieces with the old band members, infusing a more mature and sophisticated coating to the still strong original heart of the songs.
Hard to choose a song to represent his work, but if I had to I’d pick these two versions of “Napule è“, both live, one with Eric Clapton and the other one with Luciano Pavarotti. You can find the original lyrics side by side with their English translation here. If you don’t know Naples, or if you don’t Know Pino, this is a good starting point to learn both.