2nd September 2014
More than a year ago I was contacted by a man with an exotic name - Georgio ‘the Dove’ Valentino – an American journalist/performer living in Brussels who needed information about the burial place of one of Livorno’s best loved singer-songwriters of the past, Piero Ciampi.
Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t know where Ciampi was buried, so I wasn't much help, but I became engrossed in Georgio’s story and his obvious passion for the singer. Although Piero Ciampi had, and still has a great following in his home country, he was not well-known outside Italy, so I was amazed to learn that Georgio and his band had been playing tribute concerts to the Livornese singer in Brussels, Amsterdam and London. What's more, Georgio also told me that he was writing Ciampi's biography which, as far as I know, has never been done in English before.
So why this interest in Piero Ciampi? I asked. This is what Georgio replied:
It was exactly five years ago. I had just arrived in Europe from Detroit and I was listening to a lot of Italian soundtracks and library records and at some point I must have followed a trail of bread crumbs from Marchetti or the Reverberi brothers to Piero Ciampi. And there it was: everything I dug about soundtracks à la Morricone + everything I dug about crooners à la Tenco.
In August last year Georgio came to Livorno for the first time, for ‘Ciampi tourism’, as he described his visit, paying tribute to Piero Ciampi's grave which he had eventually tracked down to the Purificazione cemetery (and later passing on detailed information about where exactly in the cemetery the grave is located). He came to get a feel for the Tuscan city that was hometown to Ciampi.
Meanwhile the writing of the Ciampi biography continued, slowly but surely, and plans were made to record some of Ciampi’s tracks here in Livorno. Unfortunately though, it was hard to drum up any local interest in the project, so the tracks were recorded in Belgium, France, Scotland, Holland and the USA, nevertheless with excellent results.
In June 2014, Georgio and his band, La Société des Mélancoliques, released their double album, Mille Plateaux, a whole side of which is dedicated to Piero Ciampi, featuring covers of some of his best known compositions. And on 17th July, the biography of Piero Ciampi was officially launched at an event at Luxembourg’s contemporary arts museum, MUDAM.
Naturally, one of Georgio’s biggest aspirations is to play a tribute to Ciampi and present his book in the singer's birthplace, Livorno. He has made some progress through contacts in Rome, but as yet there are no firm arrangements in place. So if there is anyone in Livorno reading this who would be interested in hosting a local event, please contact Georgio at this email address – firstname.lastname@example.org -, or through me at Livorno Now (email@example.com).
Here are the opening lines of the Piero Ciampi biography by Georgio Valentino:
"Not a single word has been published about Piero Ciampi in the English language. A shameful omission, no doubt, but such an offense is not without its inherent consolations. To wit, there are worse things than a tabula rasa. We consider Ciampi's fortunes in his native Italy, where his is certainly not a household name, where he is rather little known, but where - and this is already a world of difference - he exists."
Listen to a cover of Piero Ciampi's "Il Vino" by Georgio Valentino and La Société des Mélancoliques: