Piero de Benedictis
When he was three years old, De Benedictis' family moved from Gallipoli, Apulia, Italy to Argentina. He grew up in suburban Buenos Aires, and, for a time, during his youth, he attended a Catholic seminary.
Initially De Benedictis sang songs in Italian, including the single, "Alla Cara, Cara Nonna", but after teaming up with lyricist Jose Tcherkaski, he won the Third Festival Buenos Aires de la Canción in 1969 with the Spanish song "Como Somos", performed by Fedra and Maximiliano. He quickly became very popular in Argentina, and elsewhere in Latin America. His first two albums, the eponymous "Piero", and "Pedro Nadie", contained any number of hits: "Mi Viejo", Juan Boliche", "Vengo", "Tengo la Piel Cansada de la Tarde", "De Ves en Cuando Viene Bien Dormir", "Pedro Nadie" (which won the 1970 Rio de Janeiro Festival), "Llegando, Llegaste", and "Y Todo Los Dias."
With his third album, "Coplas de Mi Pais" (1972), Piero presented a set of intermittently political songs, including "Los Americanos", a good-natured sendup of North Americans written by Alberto Cortez, and the powerful "Coplas de Mi Pais", which testifies to years of impoverishment and political repression in Argentina. And with this third album, Piero initiated a trend towards releasing live versions of new songs, performed before a very audible audience (coughing, laughter, and thunderous applause)--in many cases, never recording complimentary studio versions. Here, too, Piero's sense of humor emerges, his natural yet precise delivery, his comedian's sense of timing, and way with an audience. A comic chorus, and elaborate satirical musical settings, augment the humor, including musical references, in "Los Americanos," to the song America, by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, from the musical, West Side Story; to "Theme of Exodus," by Ernest Gold, from the motion picture, Exodus; and to Anchors Aweigh, the unofficial "theme song" of the United States Navy.
In July 1973, Piero participated in a concert of politically progressive musicians, which became the independently released LP "Cancionero de la Liberacion", an LP that, during the subsequent Argentinian dictatorship, was considered subversive and forbidden. By his fourth album, "Para el Pueblo Lo Que es del Pueblo", Piero was full-blown political, identified with the leftist "Young" Peronists, who, along with "Old" rightwing Peronists, campaigned for and then celebrated the return of the long-exiled Juan Perón to Argentina in 1973. Released shortly after the coup in Chile that occasioned the deaths of President Salvador Allende and protest singer Víctor Jara, among countless less famous victims, the album is dedicated to Jara, and on it, Piero sings Jara's "Te Recuerdo Amanda", in addition to Piero/Jose's "Para el Pueblo lo Que Es Del Pueblo" (which actually appeared initially on "Cancionero de la Liberacion"), and "Que Se Vayan Ellos", an impassioned demand for the exit of the military from domestic politics.
His fifth album is a delightful set of children's songs, "Sinfonia Inconclusa en la Mar", all but one written by Alejandro Mayol; his sixth album is a set of traditional folk songs, "Folklore a Mi Manera." By this time, Perón was dead, his wife had been overthrown, and another military dictatorship was installed (In fact Piero's children's and folk records were released when more political releases weren't possible, given the prevailing political atmosphere).
Piero spent five years in exile—first, and very briefly in Panama, followed by Italy, where he recorded his seventh album, "Y Mi Gente Donde Va", a set of songs written in Italian by Oscar Prudente and Ivano Fossati, for which Piero/Jose crafted Spanish lyrics, which utilized the same musical tracks as the 1975 Italian album (and title song), "Il Mondo Di Frutta Candita", performed by Gianni Morandi. (Piero/Jose's Spanish-language adaptation, "Un Mundo de Fruta Encendida", would prove to be one of Piero's most enduring performances, along with the set's lovely "Fabulas De Mar.") This Italian-produced record, initially released only in Spain, would be Piero's only LP during his years in exile. Piero finally settled in Spain, in a village outside Madrid, where he remained until 1981.
He, along with many other Argentineans, returned to Argentina in 1981, whereupon he released a two disc LP of his "homecoming" live performance, "Calor Humano." The set included songs from the Italian LP, along with numerous new songs, several of which were given studio treatment on his next release, "Canto de La Ternura"—including the classic songs "Soy Pan Soy Paz Soy Mas", initial evidence of Piero's emerging spiritual (and distinctly pacifist) side, and "Miedo Nino", a wonderful evocation of boyhood, which metaphorically conflates a child's yearning for self-determination with Argentina's struggles towards political freedom. "Calor Humano" also introduced one of Piero's most spiritual and signature songs, "Manso y Tranquilo", one verse of which perfectly embodies his unique variety of spirituality:
"Buscando, qué hacer para llegar a dios, nos dicen, sigan el sol. Ese sol...que vive en el corazón, es el representante exclusivo de Dios."
("Seeking, what to do to reach God, we are told, follow the sun. This sun...that lives in the heart, is the exclusive representative of God.")
Upon his return to Argentina, he also released an LP of re-interpretations of many of his best-known songs from his first three LPs, fittingly entitled "Recuerdos."
Towards the end of 1982, Piero performed at the 4th B.A. Rock (Buenos Aires Rock), which occurred shortly after Argentina's devastating defeat at the hands of Great Britain in the Falkland War (or, as per Argentina, the Guerra de las Malvinas), a defeat that contributed greatly to the demise of the dictatorship. This huge festival was something of a "Woodstock" for Argentina's counter-cultural youth, and was documented on a double-LP, and in a feature film by director Héctor Olivera, "Buenos Aires Rocks." There, Piero famously distributed 40,000 white carnations to members of the audience, purchased with his festival earnings.
Social, economic and spiritual concerns evolve in Piero's music with subsequent releases in the 1980s--"Un Hombre Comun", which contains the song "La Induacion Numero No Se Cuanto", about a campesino beleaguered by flooding; "Que Generosa Sos Mi Tierra", which includes "Guajira de la Unidad", a powerful assertion of Pan-Americanism, along with the stirring title tune; and "El Regalao", which contains "Milonga de lo Peor", along with the title tune, and the simultaneously spiritual and political "Con Amor...Ojala", towards the end of which the singer enumerates a list of "hopes", among them that there cease to be children who have to sleep on the streets. "El Regalao" contains too "Paramientrastanto," a humorous song that Piero sings with the Chilean folk singer Isabel Parra. His subsequent "Las Galaxias Nos Miran" includes "America es Asi, Loca y Terrible", and "El Soldado Aubert", about a casualty of the Malvinas/Falklands War, and shares several songs in common with the simultaneously released Colombian LP "Gaviota", which also contains several re-recordings of earlier songs.
1987 saw the release of "20 Años", a greatest hits album that contained the new release, "Mis Hermanos Los de Abajo", "los de abajo" signifying "those on the bottom", or, in other words "los pobres." In 1988 he released in Colombia a 3-LP compilation drawing from Piero/Jose's vast songbook, "Coleccion de Oro", divided into three themed discs: "Testimonio", "Amor" and "Esperanza." One new song, "Para Ti Colombia", is included in this set, which testifies to Piero's fondness for what would become his "second home" during much of the 1990s, Colombia.
In 1989 he released the LP "A Pesar de Los Pesares", containing the haunting title song, and another children's record, "Un Cachuso Rantifuso", an "operetta" in collaboration with Juan Carlos Baglietto and Piero's longtime comrade and colleague Marilina Ross, the film actress turned Peronista turned singer. A second 3-LP compilation, "Coleccion de Oro 2," was also released in 1989, again in Colombia, and contains one otherwise uncollected song, "Paloma de Papel."
In the 1990s, Piero dedicated himself to social works, primarily. During this decade, he was awarded Colombian citizenship by Colombian president Ernesto Samper. Piero now has three nationalities: Italian, Argentine and Colombian.
He actively campaigned for Evo Morales in Bolivia, who won the Bolivian presidency, and they maintain the friendship. He served for years as the Subsecretary of Culture of Buenos Aires Province. In the 1980s, while on tour, he met guru Indra Devi, who he persuaded to move to Buenos Aires, where she initiated numerous yoga centers, and helped inspire Piero to found his Fundación Buenas Ondas (Good Vibrations Foundation), which has long been dedicated to bettering the lives of poor youths who might be described as "street kids."
In 1997, "Piero y Pablo" was released, a 2-CD live album of a 1993 concert in Bogota where Piero shared the stage with the Cuban singer Pablo Milanés. In 2001, the CD "30 Años de Canciones Blindadas" contained several new songs, including the Piero/Jose composition, "El Jardin de Los Sueños," along with new versions of several songs, including "Coplas de Mi Pais," sung with fellow Argentinian Mercedes Sosa. "Para Vos y Yo: Mi Viejo" was released in 2002, and contains several new live versions of classic songs. Several recent Piero songs can be heard on his website, pieroonline.com, including "Bolivia es Cómo un Barco que Sale al Mar" (which references Bolivia's lost coastline, and access to the Pacific), "Avisos Clasificados", "Amazonia", "Solo Un Gorrión", and "América." The CD re-issue of his children's LP from 1973, "Sinfonia Inconclusa en la Mar", was nominated for a 2011 Latin Grammy Award for Best Children's Album.
- "PIERO" (A.K.A. "MI VIEJO") - 1969
- "PEDRO NADIE" - 1970
- "COPLAS DE MI PAÍS" - 1972
- "CANCIONERO DE LA LIBERACION" - 1973
- "PARA EL PUEBLO LO QUE ES DEL PUEBLO" - 1973
- "SINFONÍA INCONCLUSA EN LA MAR" - 1973
- "FOLKLORE A MI MANERA" - 1974
- "Y MI GENTE DONDE VA" - 1976
- "CALOR HUMANO" - 1981
- "RECUERDOS" - 1981
- "CANTO DE LA TERNURA" - 1982
- "VERSIONES ORIGINALES" - 1982
- "B.A. ROCK" - 1983
- "UN HOMBRE COMÚN" - 1983
- "QUE GENEROSA SOS MI TIERRA" - 1984
- "PRIMERAS GRABACIONES" - 1984
- "EL REGALAO" - 1985
- "LAS GALAXIAS NOS MIRAN" - 1986
- "GAVIOTA" - 1986
- "20 AÑOS" - 1987
- "COLECCION DE ORO" - 1988
- "A PESAR DE LOS PESARES" - 1989
- "COLECCION DE ORO 2" - 1989
- "UN CACHUSO RANTIFUSO" - 1989
- "TE QUIERO CONTAR" - 1993
- "INDRA DEVI Y PIERO" - 1993
- "PIERO Y PABLO" - 1997
- "30 AÑOS DE CANCIONES BLINDADAS" - 2001
- "PARA VOS Y YO MI VIEJO" - 2002