Unfortunately, today another great Calabrian and Italian has left us, the very famous singer and Crooner Tony Bennet, a singer who despite having had from the showbiz all the success that a man can ever aspire to, he certainly does not need introductions, he had never forgotten his Bel Paese and his origins and, in particular his native land, Podargoni, a hillside village on the northern outskirts of Reggio Calabria, which I believe he visited almost every year incognito.
I had the incredible honor and pleasure of meeting Tony Bennet in 2010, when he came to Calabria incognito and if I remember correctly, the news had no prominence in the local or national press. Tony Bennet arrived in Calabria with two support troupes, one English and one Roman and, of course, accompanied also by his personal staff, music producers, directors, in short people who work in the music world at the highest levels in the USA and in the world. We were the ones who provided him with the logistical service on site, I was one of his Private Guides.
I remember that when I received the email requesting the service, I was warned that it was a very important person, but they did not tell me and I did not imagine to what extent.
Frankly, Tony Bennet, the last of the Crooners, ultra famous in the USA and in the world, as well as an authentic idol and icon of international showbiz and of all Italian-Americans, was not equally known and famous in Italy and, surely, I say it with great embarrassment, I did not know him when, upon his arrival I had the honor of shaking his hand at Lamezia Terme International airport.
His troupes made various shots in the Reggio area and filmed him singing unplugged! I was present at one of these shots, when, just at the entrance of Podargoni, he started singing ‘O Sole Mio unplugged and without any technical support, only his voice. I don’t know much about music, frankly, but it was an intensely emotional moment full of pathos, at least for me, you could really feel his boundless and limitless love for his native land, a love that all his successes and his incredible fame in the USA and in the world had never been able to make him forget.
On the private minibus I was sitting next to him, to act as his interpreter and to illustrate in-depth aspects of our common Italian culture, even though he already knew a lot! I remember he wanted me to clarify some aspects of the Italian language, you could really feel on your skin his heartfelt need to deepen the most hidden aspects of the language and Italian culture, of his never forgotten homeland, aspects that Tony Bennet, despite visiting Italy regularly, but having always lived in the USA , could not know deeply , especially perhaps the most typical and ancestral aspects.
I remember he asked me about Dante Alighieri, the Divine Comedy and other authors and works , with an almost childish curiosity, as if they were the only things that really interested him to know and he asked me almost timidly , as if he was worried about bothering me, incredibly , but with a kindness , humility and cordiality absolutely unique, he made me feel that we were talking from Calabrese to Calabrese , from Italian to Italian, it was really exciting for me, one of those experiences that you will never forget, Tony Bennet, one of us! Goodbye, Sir Tony Bennet! Pasquale