Bocca di Rosa
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  • Fabrizio De André
  • Bocca di Rosa
  • Released in: 1967

One of the most famous songs by Fabrizio De André, a popular Italian poet and songwriter, from his second in-studio work, Volume 1.

Review posted: 07/04/2014

Bocca di Rosa” is one of the most famous songs by Fabrizio De André, a popular Italian poet and songwriter. It appears in his second in-studio work, called Volume 1, released in 1967. As he himself has stated, it is one of the songs that best expresses his poetics and view of life.

"One of the most famous songs by Fabrizio De André."

The “bocca di rosa” of the title is a foreign girl who arrives in the calm town of Sant’llario, near Genova, “bringing love” and subverting the provincial order. Obviously, the women and wives of this little city, who see their life threatened by the newcomer, organize themselves and – following the advice of an old woman who has “never been a wife,” has no sons, and “no wills” –banish the foreigner. When the policemen reluctantly see the “bocca di rosa” off to the station, all the male inhabitants of Sant’llario run there, “from the chief of police to the sacristan,” to salute the woman who “for a while brought love to the town.” In little cities, news spread around easily. So, at the next station, she receives a regal welcoming. Many people are waiting for her: someone “sends a kiss,” someone else “makes a reservation for two hours,” and the priest wants her near him during religious processions, to bring with him the “holy and profane love.”

The poetics of De André, which would distinguish his artistic career, emerge in this song. He has always been interested in stories about marginalization and the outskirts, peppering his songs with critical jabs at institutions and the social order, in this case embodied by clerical figures and policemen. The lyrics are highly poetic, even in their usage of vulgar language. Within the same text, very rare words, like “il concupito” (meaning “the coveted” or “the lusted after”), are mixed with low language. De André quotes the women of the town as they talk about the foreigner: “Quella schifosa ha già troppi clienti, più di un consorzio alimentare.” He uses typical words that not only render a more powerful idea of the women’s rage but also portray the meanness and pettiness of small town mentality. In fact, the townswomen are presented in a bad light: they are “le cagnette” (sluts) or “le cornuted” (the cuckolded). On the contrary, the “bocca di rosa” is seen as a gentle figure. She “puts love on everything,” and that is the most important act of all.

Still today, “bocca di rosa” in Italian means “prostitute.” But this does not correspond exactly with what De André means. His heroine is not actually a prostitute, but rather someone who loves for passion: “C'è chi l'amore lo fa per noia/ chi se lo sceglie per professione /bocca di rosa né l'uno né l'altro /lei lo faceva per passione.” Far from being a typical Italian pop singer, Fabrizio De André is an author with a certain poetical and literary sensitivity. He truly expresses – or, rather, helps shape – the culture of a nation.



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