I missed Woodstock – but I was in Naples on January 7th for the addio to Pino Daniele. How not to be with the napoletani for their final tribute to beloved poet/songwriter Pino Daniele who had sung his praises to Naples in a blend of traditional Neapolitan music, blues and rock?
That morning, there had been a funeral in Rome – where the Neapolitan singer had died on January 4th of a heart attack at the age of 59 – but “his” Naples merited the final addio that evening, over 100, 000 joining for a leave-taking as it should have been: applause as his coffin was carried into the piazza, all united in singing his songs after the funeral Mass on a stage in the piazza center.
The Pino Daniele tributes were evident as soon as I arrived in the city: in front of the train station, the edicolaio sold Pino Daniele photos as well as newspapers and magazines at his newsstand. Posters covered city walls – and black and white funerary announcements, too. Pino Daniele’s songs blared out of loudspeakers from stores, backdropped the clatter of cups and saucers in coffee bars. And anyone I asked was happy to share their “Pino Daniele” memories.
At a tiny grocery store near my B&B, owner Patrizia – knitting as she awaited customers – put it simply: ” I grew up with his music – it marked my life stages.” At the shop next door, I stopped to chat with Salvatore, surrounded by limoncellos and pasta varieties. “He’s a map – of Naples – and he brought us to the world,” he summed up
Across the piazza, I stopped to take a photo of a tribute poster, street-cleaner Vincenzo munching a sandwich in front of it. For him, Pino Daniele “was an idol for us all.” At a nearby street market Lorenzo, a vendor of old stamps and coins, remembered Pino Daniele this way; “He always sang in the true napoletano dialect, bringing it to another level, making it live on.”
At a nearby market stall, four old friends shared their feelings with me. For Gennaro (named after Naples patron saint – a name as common there as Francesco is here in Assisi): “An idol for us all – for anyone living here in Naples”. Pasquale lauded him as “ an artist who lived the ‘Neapolitan reality’ in music” and for Giuseppe, “He’s a legend. Always will be.” Salvatore murmured, “ We lost a piece of our ‘napolitanita’ – but he’s not dead for us – only dead as a person.”
I felt that “napolitanita’ “- the quality of being Neapolitan, or “Neapolitan-ness” – that night at the gathering of over 100, 000 people for Pino Daniele in the spacious Piazza del Plebiscito. This was the last time he’d “take the stage” there: he’d performed in the piazza more than once and many at the funerary Mass wistfully remembered those concerts. The gathering on January 7th turned into yet another concert – of sorts – though this time, his fans did the singing.
At the end of the Mass, all joined as one voice in singing his “Napul’e’“ as some of his greatest hits were played for the public over the loudspeaker. Some in the crowd held up their favorite Pino Daniele records, cassettes and CD’s; a young man lifted a guitar in homage high above the crowd and a few teen-agers stretched out blue and white Naples soccer team scarves over their heads. One young man held up his cell phone so a friend could hear and join in with him as he belted out the song.
Pino Daniele linked all across the ages: the young of today the young of yesterday sang as did mothers and sons, mothers and daughters, the guards in front of Palazzo Salerno on the piazza, a stooped elderly lady in a wheelchair, embracing older couples, hugging younger ones, the emergency rescue volunteers in front of the ambulances. Tears streamed down cheeks and umbrellas opened as a few raindrops slid down, scenes in perfect harmony as thousands sang together “Quanno chiove” (in napoletano, ‘When it rains”). Voices joined in “Voglio o mare”, Amore Senza Fine, Yes I Know My Way, A Testa in Giu.
Once again, Piazza del Plebiscito was his and so was all of Naples – and always will be. As Enrico, Neapolitan jeweler put it: “Pino Daniele is Naples. Naples is the real artist, the mother of all; he’s an expression of her. And only in Naples could the Piazza del Plebiscito gathering happen. Without the ‘tam-tam’ of the social network – a spontaneous union of napoletani for our Pino.”
Read more about Jan 7th in Piazza del Plebiscito
Read about a favorite Naples spot
Read more on another favorite Neapolitan spot
Read about my need for Naples
Read more about my need for Naples
Read more on Naples street life
Read about Naples’ link to the Mediterranean diet
Hear Pino Daniele sing about his beloved Naples