Piero Ciampi was one of the most important Italian singer-songwriters of his time, although his importance was only really recognised after his death. He was born in Via Pellettier, in the San Marco district of Livorno in 1934 and was active throughout the 70s and 80s. He died in 1980, at the age of only forty-six.
Ciampi's life was dominated by a profound sense of malaise which often led him to wander aimlessly from country to country, his greatest companion, the bottle. In the 1950s he spent a period in Paris where he began to write his own songs, performing them in bars in the Latin Quarter. He discovered and became an admirer of the songs of Georges Brassens.
Ciampi's songs are often deeply melancholic, while others ironic, bitter and angry.
He made his first recording in 1961, for the Italian independent label Bluebell Records under the pseudonym "Piero Litaliano" ('the Italian'), as he had been known in Paris. His first album, entitled Piero Litaliano, was released in 1963 on the CDG label (re-released in 1991 on CD), but received poor reviews.
In the years that followed, Ciampi wrote several songs for well-known singers of the time, such as Tony del Monaco ("Lungo Treno del Sud"), Katyna Ranieri ("Nessuno mai mi ha Mandato dei Fior"), Giorgia Moll ("Nato in Settembre" and "Per un Amore Perduto"), Milly ("Autunno a Milano"), and Gigliola Cinquetti who came fourth at the 1965 Festival di San Remo with "Ho Bisogno di Vederti" (also recorded by Connie Francis).
In 1970 Ciampi met producer Gianni Marchetti with whom he was to write some of his best works. The first single to derive from the partnership was "Barbara Non C'è". This was followed by what was probably his best album entitled "Piero Ciampi" (1971), containing the much-covered song "Il Vino" which celebrates his love of wine. At the time it sold badly, but is now considered to be one of the most significant Italian albums of the 70s. In 1973 the album "Io e Te Abbiamo Perso la Bussola" was released, and in 1975 another entitled "Andare Camminare Lavorare". His last album, "Dentro e Fuori" came out in 1976. His talent was also recognised by the Italian singer Gino Paoli who recorded some of his songs and tried to promote his work. He later dedicated a whole album to Ciampi's work.
During the 70s, Ciampi enjoyed a certain degree of success as a writer for other artists, most notably Dalida ("La Colpa è Tua"), and Nada, also from Livorno, who in 1973 dedicated a complete album to Ciampi's songs - "Ho Scoperto che Esisto Anch'Io".
In 1976 he made a famous appearance at the Club Tenco festival in San Remo, which was recorded and released many years later on CD (1995).
Towards the end of the 70s Ciampi appeared in public less and less, mainly because of his problems with alcoholism. He died from throat cancer on 19th January 1980 in Rome, and is buried in the Cimitero della Purificazione in the city of his birth, Livorno.
Since his death, many artists have paid and continue to pay tribute to Piero Ciampi by recording and performing his songs or dedicating songs to him. These include Nada, Gino Paoli, Bobo Rondelli, Luca Faggella, La Crus ("Il Vino"), Marmaja ("6 Marzo"), Marco Panattoni ("Il Vino"), Renato Zero ("L'Aquilone Piero"), Claudio Lolli ("I Musicisti di Ciampi"), Vinicio Capossela ("Adius"), Morgan (with "Qualcuno Tornerà" and an English version of the same song entitled "That Someone").
Websites dedicated to Piero Ciampi: Song lyrics
An annual song contest called the Premio Ciampi takes place each year in Livorno.
Documentary about Ciampi by Todomodo
Related article: Georgio 'the Dove' Valentino writes and sings Ciampi