“Wine is the divine juice of September” Voltaire wrote 3 centuries ago. It’s been years, and grape harvest goes on. A ritual, from year to year, that involves the whole of Italy and its rural regions from North to South, first with collection in September-October, then with wine production that transforms must into wine, within in a year or more.
Wines (and alcohol in general) are one of the most popular “ingredients” at parties, concerts and musical events, but how many are protagonists in songs? Let’s listen to our playlist and discover more about songs on this beloved “nectar”!
Italy is wine’s homeland, and excluding poetry and literary quotes, it is in popular songs that entertainment and jolly spirits are widespread by this magical drink. In La società dei Magnaccioni, Gabriella Ferri (before Claudio Villa, Lando Fiorini and many others) sang its virtues in Romanesque: è mejo er vino de li Castelli, de questa zozza società! (Wine is better than this filthy society). And who can blame her: happiness – as Albano and Romina sang in Sanremo – “is a glass of wine with a sandwich” (Felicità). Or perhaps it is a stranger combination, as Ligabue seems to think in Lambrusco e Pop corn (1991).
C’è un bicchiere di vigna
E un vassoio di mais già scoppiato.
Ballaci su questa terra
Faremo un po’ piovere.»
The song uses metonymies to speak about Ligabue’s double soul: Emilian roots (Lambrusco wine) and a US sound (popcorn). A gastronomical analogy opposing grapes to popcorn, that is nothing but puffed corn, as the American dream is sung of and enacted in movies and tv shows.
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Italian songwriter Fabrizio De Andrè (not an anonymous alcoholic) was a gifted crafstman when it came to wine songs: in La Collina from his album album “Non al denaro, non all’amore, né al cielo” inspired by the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, he sings about Jones, a figurative De Andrè, a music-player who lived his life doing what he wanted, with no regrets:
«Offrì la faccia al vento,
la gola al vino e mai un pensiero
non al denaro, non all’amore né al cielo.»
Wine is not only the darling of songwriters when they sing of themselves: it is often a detail that characterizes scenarios, as in La città vecchia, by De Andrè: “A leg here, a leg there, so swollen with wine, these 4 retired men sitting at the table”; or it can be an emblematic character, like the Killer Queen by Queen who keeps “Moet et Chandon in her pretty cabinet”.
Bandabardò praised their god, Wine, In 20 bottiglie di vino (from the “alcoholic” album Mojito Football Club): they sang a hymn to life, and the refrain concerns wine, a drink that can transform tears into smiles: “20 bottles of wine, some say more, some say less”.
Then in more recent times the Roman songwriter Mannarino sang Me so ‘mbriacato: with the same rhythm of his lively dialect, he compares the effect of love on his body to wine, saying that he is drunk with love for a woman. She can give him pleasure but also addiction, because when she is with him, he doesn’t need anything. He says that he can “walk better, because his back is upright” in a sort of drunk romanticism deriving from his real drunken state – as we discover at the end of the song.
Wine to celebrate, wine to sing… but also wine to forget: in so many songs, much as in real life, alcohol is a friend when one wants to drown bad thoughts or love’s labour’s lost. Jeff Buckley sings in Lilac Wine (1994) about the pain stemming from the absence of his soulmate: he tries to raise his spirits: “Lilac wine is sweet and heady, where’s my love? Lilac wine, I feel unready, where’s my love?”… but unfortunately it is not enough: despite wine merely dulling their effect, agony and trouble remain.
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«Rientrano tutte le notti ogni volta più sfatti
Dei loro misfatti ricordano niente
La luce del giorno li azzera la mente
(…) qualcosa bisognerà fare
Con un altro bicchiere»
A debauched portrait, describing in a rough and rugged way a piece of reality: wandering souls of all ages hanging out all night, assaulting venue after venue, drinking “just another glass”. What is happening in the night is vanishing because “daylight resets their minds”. Dellera’s alienating, dreamy counter-melody “This is just another glass” conveys the clouded minds from the song. Silvestri ends it with “a distant future, a distracting thought for them”: oblivion and alcohol are connected.
Women also sing about wine: with a sharp lightness, to let the world’s fast and chaotic routine slip away: Rossana Casale in Vino divino sings about “bodies that pay attention to particular things… but me: wine upon wine! divine wine!”, and Leda Battisti in Vino sei d’amore compared her sweetheart to a glass of Red wine: “my temple of senses, master and slave of my thoughts”.
Wine can also get people together for love (in life and in songs): Summer wine by Nancy Sinatra is an invitation to drink together, to get to know each other on a happy summer night. A great ‘60s success, but also an evergreen:
It can be wine, it can be champagne, it can be red, it can be white, it can be sparkling or o still: it is the protagonist at parties and dinners, it can be jolly, but it can also be a companion in loneliness, introspection and reflection. Wine has an important role Italian and international music: the best way to celebrate it is by dedicating a hymn to it, as the Champagne Supernova by Oasis, who in 1995 imagined a supernova star exploding in the sky.