About a year ago, Michele Torpedine published his beautiful book, RICOMINCIO DAI TRE (Pendragon edition).
In that book there is so much news about the life of Michele Torpedine, that, as happened to me when I read it, I discovered a part of Torpedine’s life, really sad, that I never expected.
Catching sentences, here and there from the book, I try to give you a summary of what happened to Torpedine, you will be amazed at so many things.
In my story, you will find pieces of true stories of artists, such as Andrea Bocelli, IL VOLO, or rather, among their stories, you will find mine, that of an Apulian child emigrated to Bologna, of that boy who from a studio apartment in a small white house (the Apulian houses are often white), it went to the oval room of the White House.
I loved the music, I still love it, the world of music, less.
I was born on 12 May 1952 in a small town in northern Puglia. I don’t remember anything about this place, because I moved to Bologna when I was 5 months old.
My father was called Salvatore, he was a tailor, he was severe, hard.
My mother’s name was Titina, I lost her when I was 27 years old. I carried her down in my arms, wrapped in a sheet, to the mortuary chamber.
She was 51 years old. Hunger, misery and cancer, this was her life, she struggled like a beast, then from one day to the other she fell ill and flew away in less than a year, I still haven’t managed to forgive her for leaving me so early.
In Bologna, we come in search of work and survival, we are poor, but really poor. We lived five in one room.
My parents found a job in tailoring, so the money to eat is insured.
At the age of 8, I started to work, from a shoemaker, straightening the nails that were extracted from the soles.
At 12 I started working as a bartender, then as a waiter and bellhop.
My brother Nino, at the age of 17, assembles his first battery of drums (drum set), I, who was five years younger than him, begin to follow him and learn.
By day I work and in the evening I go to the places where you can play.
At the age of 14 I entered a local orchestra.
At 16, my first dream comes true, a friend of mine called me on a Sunday afternoon and tells me that he was given the task of hiring six bands to open the Jimi Hendrix concert and ask me if I want take part. I accept immediately, I am excited.
Our band is the last one, before Hendrix entered. Bad fate because people couldn’t wait any longer and filled us with booze and popcorn.
Things improve, they call me more and more often.
A group of African musicians, lose the drummer, call me to replace him, play a month with them.
One evening, all together, we go to see a concert of musicians playing with Ray Charles, the place is packed, that evening he is there too, Ray Charles, at a certain point they tell me they don’t have a drummer and they ask me to play. My legs are shaking, I am paralyzed with fear, but then I calm down and play.
Torpedine says that the battery (of drums) is his life, not women, nothing for him is as reliable as a drum set.
Everything goes well, time passes, I was good, but not a genius, I understand that it is better to change.
They propose me to be a road manager, that is the one who takes contact with the local promoters, pays the musicians, takes the money, checks that everything goes well.
I plan a series of concerts for artists like Paoli-Vanoni, a great success, things are getting better and better, from one day to the next I became a millionaire, looked for by everyone.
I start a partnership with Zucchero Fornaciari, he is good with soul singing, nobody in Italy sings like that.
Time passes and Zucchero is very successful, one day he comes to me with a beautiful and sad song: “Miserere”, and he says “this song should be sung with a tenor … let’s try to ask Pavarotti?”
Pavarotti is in America, I have to bring him a demo of the song to make him listen. Contact all the tenors, nobody wants to do a demo with Zucchero, join the lyric, with the pop was not contemplated by the classical tenors.
By pure chance, a friend tells me that in Tuscany, in a club, in the evening, there is a blind boy who plays the piano and is very good, he also sings tenor songs, his name is Andrea Bocelli.
It was the first time I met Bocelli. No one believed in him, not even himself.
He agrees to do the demo, with a lot of fear, because he will be heard by Pavarotti. He is very good and likeable, he sings the demo in a special way. I tell him to persist with music and he replies that he has won a receptionist competition and that the music will remain his passion.
I fly to Philadelphia to give Pavarotti the demo, who immediately tells me that he will never sing a song of light music. I ask him at least to listen to the demo, he accepts. I explained to him that the boy who sings is not a tenor but a simple boy who plays for passion and Pavarotti tells me if I’m kidding him, because for years he hasn’t heard such a beautiful voice.
I go home and call Bocelli and to him incredulously, I propose a contract. Bocelli doesn’t believe it’s all true.
At first it was difficult, nobody wanted Andrea. Too risky.
There were always so many slashes on American newspapers, but people loved him, that’s the only thing he has always counted on.
The live reaction of the people was a show in the show.
Andrea was a great interpreter of emotions, he knew how to take on the feelings of ordinary people. This was its added value: to be a common mortal with a divine voice.
WOMEN, I love them, but I’m afraid of them.
I can’t trust the exclusive relationship with a woman.
I saw mothers trying to get into bed, just to get a TV pass for their daughter.
I’m afraid of falling in love, going to New York for work, calling home and being told that she loves me, and then finding out that she’s in bed with another, the fear that it might happen, would make me live badly.
I am not so naive as not to understand that beautiful women are with me even for what I do, I am wealthy, I ride with beautiful cars and I have some power.
I never married, but I was almost doing it. How it ended makes me feel bad today.
I was 30, she was from Bologna, beautiful and intelligent. We decide to get married.
For work, I leave for Lake Garda, we agreed that she would join me on Sunday.
On Friday, I do a “bachelor party”, two Norwegian sisters, they ask me to go to bed with them and I take them to my room.
In the morning, I hear a knock on the door, and convinced that it was one of the musicians, I go to open, and instead there was my girlfriend who made me a surprise by arriving earlier than expected.
I understand that it is useless to lie. It ends like this.
MY MOTHER, whom I loved very much, left me early, too early, without giving me a way to show her all my love for her. My mother could not share with me that little bit of success, of well-being, that I wanted to give her after so many hardships. I had everything from her, and she, she had no way to say with pride “That is my son”. I feel guilty about this.
But there is another woman who has always been important in my life, and it is my sister Liliana, a little friend, a little mother, and always with me even at work, especially in the most important moments.
I must admit that other female figures have been very important in my career. At the beginning, Cristina Gelsi, who followed me in the 16 years with Bocelli.
Now Barbara Vitali, omnipresent in all my activities, almost my alter ego, she lives traveling the world to assist IL VOLO.
Last, Eliana Monti, who follows the production of IL VOLO concerts.
The easiest way to reach me is to call these two women.
Many disappointments, mainly human and partly, even professional.
At some point, I found myself feeling more disappointed than ever with music, with the environment I mean.
There was never gratitude around me.
I found myself tired, eager for simplicity, for pure things.
The horizon seems closed to me.
One night I was at home, sitting on the couch, three boys, fourteen, fifteen, appear on TV.
Of course they are good, and if I tried to really put them together? A trio, here’s what I could do: IL VOLO.
I think those three determined boys saved me from depression and from the desire to leave everything. Three teenagers, yes, but already great, in all respects. Already great since I first saw them: Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca.
I hope I have given you a summary of the personality of Michele Torpedine. I was amazed reading these pages, I discovered a very sensitive man, in some respects, I did not expect.
A person for whom family affections are in first place, but then he is afraid to create his own family.
A determined man, but also very fragile.
A man with a particular flair for talent.
Thanks Michele for recognizing and supporting three worthy guys.
Credit to owners of all photos.