His songs but also the popular Apulian ones that, with his interpretation, he managed to turn into real hits. The experience of the Folkstudio in the very early 1960s – he was one of the historical founders – records, cabaret and operas, six of them, including “Padre Pio Santo of Hope”, performed in the Vatican in the Paul VI Hall on the occasion of the canonization of the Saint. He looked at tradition, with the desire to protect it, spread it, not to make it forget, but he knew how to project his gaze forward, to the new, even to be built, Toni Santagata, real name Antonio Morese, born in Sant’Agata di Puglia, in 1935, and died yesterday, suddenly, at the age of 85, while he was in hospital in Rome.
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His wife Giovanna gave the news. The last video appearance of the singer-songwriter dates back to just over a month ago, last October 22, on RaiDue for “Today is another day”. Singer-songwriter, composer, stand-up comedian, radio and TV presenter, Santagata was a real star between the 1960s and 1980s. Having moved to Rome at the end of the 1950s, he had been able to conquer the scene, with an articulated vision of music and entertainment, which had found its first consecration in 1960, with the foundation of the Folkstudio, in a cellar in via Garibaldi, in Trastevere, quickly became a reference for songwriters. And not just Italian. Here, in 1962, in fact, Bob Dylan also performed. Then, in 1964, Santagata recorded the first album, recording “Quant’è bello lu primm’ammore” as the back of the single “Miezz’a la piazza”, but not depositing, by choice, the lyrics to Siae. The record is censored by Rai, but many others follow that debut album. And not only. In 1967, he participated in the Cantaeuropa, then the Barca d’oro festival triumphs in Naples. At the celebrations to commemorate Totò, organized at the Politeama of Naples, he is the only non-Neapolitan artist to perform. He writes an ad hoc song: “Dear Totò”, with a lively, cheerful rhythm, but not devoid of melancholy, which becomes a “monument” to the artist’s talent, but also to his bond with Naples, and, in a broader sense, to Country, which without Totò, sings Santagata, no longer laughs. In 1968 he is the only guest singer at the Taormina Film Festival.
Not just music. In 1970 he won the “Bullone d’oro” as best stand-up comedian, after having triumphed at the Derby Club in Milan, another cult venue, in over 200 replicas. From stage to television, between acronyms – writes that of “A come agriculture” – to more structured participations, up to the management. Thus, 1971 was the year of the program “Speciale 3 millions”, 1972 of Cantaeuropa, 1973 of CantagiroSpettacolo and of the Sanremo Festival with “Via Garibaldi”, which won the prize for the best text. Then, the success of Canzonissima, with the victory, in the unpublished Folk section, for “Lu maritiello”, in 1975. And again, A record for the summer in 1975, Cantagiro in 1978. When he goes on stage he inevitably conquers the scene , captivating a transversal audience, even by age. Rai chooses him as “Commander” for the children’s program Il dirigibile. And Rai will always entrust him with “Cabaret everywhere”.
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Then, for the radio, the broadcasts of Miramare, Radio taxi, Di riffa or di Raffa, Radio Punk. In between, more hits, including songs and shows, up to tours abroad. The eighties are those of the great concert in Piazza San Giovanni, in Rome, with over 500 thousand people, but also those of the “Ciao Italia” program with Sydney Rome. In 1994 he returned to the Sanremo Festival as a member of the Italian team with “An old Italian song”. Then, in fact, the works. Multifaceted talent, Santagata has never stopped dedicating himself to music and storytelling through notes. And not only that: he was also one of the founders of the National Actors. Among the many awards, one “far” from the stage. The song “Padre Pio I need you”, which closes the work “Padre Pio Santo of Hope”, has become the official prayer of the saint’s faithful: “Help me Padre Pio, I can’t pray alone, let me take off again , give me peace in my heart again O brother of hope, light the way, stay close to me at night, please, I need you ».
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