Everything or Nada

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This article is published in number 10 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until March 9, 2021

To see her today, that the stage smokes it with taste, with full lungs, as if it were one of her cigars, with a hoarse soul that comes out like thunder from her throat, that title can only seem a mistake: The little girl who didn’t want to sing. Why Nothing has been singing for more than 50 years. For a lifetime, always. And everything can be thought of, except that it is not music, even now, that sets fire to the fuse of its existence.

But it hasn’t always been like this: a confession – assuming that it is – that the Tuscan singer-songwriter had already entrusted to her first novel, My human heart, published in 2008 and now back in the bookstore. And that on March 10 arrives in prime time on Raiuno, in a TV movie that is based on that book. The story of a little girl, raised between the 1950s and 1960s in Gabbro, in the Livorno countryside, and her mother Viviana. Which, yes, she wanted that little girl to sing. And became famous.

Have you seen the movie?
“I have seen it, and I think very well of it. The director Costanza Quatriglio, who really knows me, almost like a sister, and who had already signed a documentary based on the book, did just the job I expected: she was delicate, she focused on feelings, she captured the emotions. Of course, the book tells a lot more, but I think it has a good synthesis of it ».

Does the fact that the director is a woman have a specific weight?
“This is a female story. I tell my childhood, my family, I tell all the women I grew up with in the village: grandmothers, aunts, neighbors. I tell of their solidarity, their fatigue, even their poverty. The director, as a woman, has grasped these bonds. Do you know what I really liked about the film? That I, in seeing it, I almost forgot that I was there. There is my story, but I saw it as a story of feelings that affects everyone a bit. That of a little girl who feels unloved and who suffers because she has a mother suffering from depression, and who tries to understand what surrounds her. The strength of the film is its universal being. That I, then, if I could, I would get out of the way… ».

Gives My human heart, which returns to bookstores from March 3 for Blu Atlantide, is based on the TV film The little girl who didn’t want to sing, directed by Costanza Quatriglio, broadcast on Raiuno on 10 March. In the role of Nada is Tecla Insolia; in those of his mother, Carolina Crescentini.

How much of the relationship with his mother is reality, and how much novel?
«I tell a story of many years ago, but seen with the eyes of now: for me it was a real journey into memory, which allowed me to discover and deepen many aspects of my life, right at the moment in which I was writing them. I enriched it with pictures and colors, but the story, unfortunately, is true. Mine was not a sad childhood, I had many people close to me who loved me. But, of course, the relationship with my mother conditioned me ».

That is?
“For years I have been terrified of depression, I was afraid it could affect me too. Also because by nature I am – how to say – quite weak, I pass from enthusiasm to sadness very quickly. Maybe I give the impression of always being light and smiling. And they are. But I also have a dark side, and like all sensitive people I get overwhelmed by the need to delve into things, to really understand them. Sometimes I close in on myself, I get caught up in anxiety and doubts. But it is part of life, it is something that, in some way, is resolved ».

Her mother wanted her to sing. And she, perhaps, thought she could heal her just by singing.
“He had a passion for music, and I wanted his attention, always. According to her, I was talented. In retrospect, perhaps he was also right. For her, success was a sort of redemption, and she did everything she could to make what happened then happen ».

How much courage did it take to write the book?
“I left my country almost against my will, I was a little torn away. I lost contact with those people who raised me and loved me. Even when I returned, over the years, for them I was no longer the Nada I was before, I had become “the one who is on television”. I couldn’t relate to them anymore, we got lost. Growing up, you understand how important your childhood is, the places where you grew up, how much those years have affected your character. These are thoughts that have often given me the strength to overcome difficult times. When as a young girl I found myself in situations greater than myself, which I did not understand, I thought of those women, who had worked all their lives, who had been in war, who had overcome everything. And I said to myself: “But what fear can you ever have now?”. Well, for me, writing this book was like giving a gift to those people, declaring all my love to them. Even if many of them are no longer there ».

And what was he afraid of?
«The first years, those of exaggerated success, I did not live well. I often asked myself: but who knows if they love me, or something they imagine about me. Even today, at times, it seems to me that love is never enough for me ».

When did you realize that your mother’s happiness, fortunately, also corresponded to your own happiness?
“It took quite a few years. When I told her, she replied: “But now I’m no longer convinced that I was right to push you!”. “But how”, I said, “we never agree, then?”. My mother was a very intelligent woman. He understood that they are not there
only the applause, in this profession, but also suffering, work, misunderstandings. I don’t want to say that she felt guilty, but she certainly understood that not everything was pure wonder, as it might have seemed to her at the beginning ».

Not even today is it all wonder?
«I am very happy with everything, yes, for years. And it is his merit ».

His mother is the protagonist of many of his songs.
“In all my albums there is always a song that, in some way, speaks of her. In my latest unreleased album there is Or mother: a discovery, even for me. As if there had been a clarification, as if I had found her again, understood, forgiven … As if for the first time I felt like her, too. So much so that on the next album there won’t be a song about her. Obviously I have worked out, the knot has been resolved ».

What kind of mother was she?
«Well, I tried to be a good mom … But, here, I don’t know. But that’s not all, you are always a mother. I know that he is also wrong, sometimes for too much love ».

He doesn’t like celebrations, does he?
“No, not at all. I know that time passes, it is natural and right, and you have to accept everything, imagine. That’s not it. It’s just that I still have a lot of things to do, I work like crazy. Celebrating means stopping and looking back. And I don’t stop ».

But I can’t help but remind her that exactly 50 years have passed since her victory at the Sanremo Festival, when she triumphed in 1971. The heart and a gypsy. Not even a thought?
«But yes, I am grateful for life, making horns! I’m here to talk about it, this is the most important thing. But I don’t like to sleep on my laurels ».

Does that mean he feels he still has to prove something?
“Not in that sense. I feel I have to do things, I like to go on, always on. I have a strange relationship with time. I don’t know how to say … I don’t feel it. Here, I’ve never heard of it. As I wrote in my last book, Leonidas: “I never felt young, I don’t even feel old” ».

Nicola Di Bari and Nada, triumphs of the Festival in 1971 with The heart and a gypsy. In total, the singer participated in the competition in seven editions of the event: the first in 1969 with But how cold it is; the last in 2007 with Full moon.

Ignoring it is the best way to face time.
“I see it, but I don’t feel it. I see the wrinkle, the two strands of white hair I see them, but that’s okay, that’s not what interests me. I have never even felt young or beautiful. I felt, and that’s it ».

Did you feel, in some way, also the emblem of a generation that recognized itself in you?
“For nothing. Never heard of a model, nor a prototype. Maybe I was, but I didn’t feel it: I’m a bit of an anomaly, I realize it. “

The book is dedicated to Gerry, his partner.
“Yes, because he is the person who has always been close to me.”

Even your relationship, therefore, just doesn’t feel it as time goes by.
“Indeed. We have been together for a lifetime ».

So it is not true, in the end, that the heart is a gypsy.
“For nothing. Not at all. “

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