Biography of Alfredo Bandelli, a working class militant and songwriter whose songs anonymously became the anthems of the 1968-1977 movements.
Alfredo Bandelli was born in 1945 in war-torn Pisa, to a proletarian and communist family. His father had been a partisan, and taught Alfredo partisan songs from a young age. A member of the Italian Communist Party's youth front, in 1967 he joined Potere Operaio and eventually Lotta Continua. Working as a hawker at the central station in Pisa, he was eventually forced to migrate to work in Germany and Switzerland. Once back in Italy, he was hired in 1974 at the Piaggio factory of Pontedera, from which he was fired in 1979 for showing with an alarm clock around his neck, in protest against the absurd controls over bathroom breaks. He then became an auxiliary nurse at the Cisanello Hospital of Pisa.
Bandelli wrote lyrics and songs of protest with the few chords he knew, signing every song with "Lyrics and music of the proletariat". He claimed to have given voice to other people like him, and refused to gain any profit from it. His songs quickly became veritable soundtracks of the first upheavals of 1968 and 1969. Songs such as La ballata della Fiat (The Ballad of FIAT), Partono gli emigranti (The Migrants Leave), La violenza/La caccia alle streghe (Violence/The Witch-hunt) and Delle vostre galere un giorno (One Day Your Jails), which were gathered in his only album, Fabrica galera piazza (Factory Jail Square).
Da quando son partito militare (Since I Left as a Soldier) was an antimilitarist song which became particularly popular in the movement of the Proletari in divisa (proletarians in uniform) of the early 1970s.
His songs circulated anonymously, but their subjects were mostly tied to his personal life experiences, military service, political militance, prison and migration to Germany. Bandelli at that time barely knew the chords for his music, which was interpreted and circulated by others, especially Pino Masi. Thanks to Masi La violenza (La caccia alle streghe) became a true anthem, along with Contessa by Paolo Pietrangeli, of the mass struggles of '68.
Bandelli said of himself:
I don't know where I got the language I use, I'm too ignorant to know. What I know is that the only music I like is popular music [musica popolare, people's music], ever since I was a child and my father would sing partisan songs to me: it was the only form of entertainment. Until I was 16 I had neither radio nor television, and I attended primary school almost exclusively in a boarding school for the poor. I remember when my father gathered cigarette butts and rags from the street and I would spend long days with him: he would tell me amazing things that happened when he was a partisan, he would tell me of a different world where the poor were heroes who hunted down and shot fascists and capitalists. Well, I hung to those memories like they were a lifeline. This was my cultural matrix.
In 1982 he founded - with Enrico Capuano and Franco Fosca - SACS, a militant organisation which sought to diffuse music outside the structure of the market.
Alfredo Bandelli died in Pisa in 1994 to an incurable disease. His daughter Evelin Bandelli also became a popular singer-songwriter in the milieu outside the market.