A living folk legend is about to appear in Tuscany, an Italian Buffalo Bill scanning the deserts of the American West as well as the busy highways of Italy.
Luigi Grechi De Gregori is a rare and exceptional combination of Italian singer-songwriter playing in the true tradition of the American folk style with his acoustic flat-picking guitar. A real purist when it comes to performing live, his first concerts were at the famous Folkstudio in Rome, a small club founded by American artist and musician Harold Bradley in 1961, right in the heart of Rome’s famous Trastevere neighborhood—it’s where a very young and then unknown Bob Dylan played during his travels in Italy. Luigi played on the Folkstudio stage with Francis Kuipers, Tom Russell, Claudio Lolli, Townes Van Zandt along with his brother Francesco De Gregori, who, at that time, was already on his way to stardom with his own songs and recordings.
Luigi’s main home was in Milan where he followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps as a librarian, though he remained incurably dedicated to live performances and writing controversial and provocative songs such as “Elogio del tabacco” (Ode to tabacco) or “Il mio cappotto” (My coat), splendid examples of alternative discography. Although far from being on the hit parade, he began to acquire attention and admiration from a niche of followers with a fine ear. His first album finally came out in 1975, Accusato di libertà (Accused of freedom), followed by 11 other albums up to his latest in 2013 Tutto quel che ho (All I have).
In 1993 his song “Il Bandito e il Campione” (The Bandit and the Champion), pulled to fame by his brother Francesco, won him Italy’s prestigious Tenco Prize of San Remo for best song of the year.
Throughout his itinerant life De Gregori has traveled through the U.S., Ireland and Italy, playing in alternative festivals and radio stations as well as local cantine and obscure places for those who happen to come across his spontaneous and less publicized concerts. His next appearance will on October 7 at 9pm at Scandicci’s Casa del Popolo di Vingone, a small community center just outside of Florence where a similar ambience to Rome’s Folkstudio hosts limited listeners who will witness a rare moment in the history of folk music.