Saturday 25 March 1972


Born: June 28th, 1927, Hamburg (Germany)
Died: February 7th, 2013, Hamburg (Germany)
Nationality: German

In due course, the short impression below will be replaced with a more extensive career overview


Hamburg-based songwriter and producer Klaus Munro (sometimes credited as Nick Munro or Nico Fossola) composed songs which were recorded by artists such as Caterina Valente, Julio Iglesias, Roger Whittaker, and Demis Roussos. From the late 1960s onwards, he worked with Vicky Leandros, composing songs for her and producing her albums. Munro also tried to open the West German market up for folk artists from the Netherlands, including Wilma and Corry & De Rekels.


Munro worked with Mario Panas and French lyricist Yves Dessca to write ‘Après toi’, with which Vicky Leandros won the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg. It was Vicky’s second Eurovision attempt after her 1967 participation with ‘L’amour est bleu’, also for Luxembourg. Although Munro had not written the orchestration to ‘Après toi’ (those credits go to Arno ‘Addy’ Flor), he conducted the Eurovision orchestra in Edinburgh. He remains one of the conductors to have participated in the contest on one occasion only and having been part of the winning team at the same time.


Country – Luxembourg
Song title – "Après toi"
Rendition – Vicky Leandros
Lyrics – Yves Dessca / Klaus Munro
Composition – Klaus Munro / Mario Panas
Studio arrangement – Addy Flor
Live orchestration – Addy Flor
Conductor – Klaus Munro
Score – 1st place (128 votes)


The following article is an overview of the career of Belgian pianist and bandleader Henri Segers. The main source of information are interviews with Segers' colleagues Jack Say and Frans Van Dyck, conducted by Bas Tukker in 2010. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Henri Segers' Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2010

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Henri Segers
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: May 20th, 1921, Brussels (Belgium)
Died: July 2nd, 1983, Tervuren (Belgium)
Nationality: Belgian


Jazz pianist Henri Segers, who was the musical director of the orchestra of the French-speaking broadcaster in Belgium, conducted 5 Belgian entries between 1960 and 1972, accompanying Fud Leclerc (twice), Robert Cogoi, Claude Lombard, and Serge & Christine Ghisoland. His most successful participation was with Fud Leclerc’s ‘Mon amour pour toi’ (composed by Jack Say), which finished in 6th place.


Henri Segers was taught the first principles of playing the piano by his father, who owned a shop in which he sold second-hand musical instruments. Recognised as a childhood prodigy, young Henri performed in front of an audience for the first time when he was seven years old. After some years of elementary courses at the Forest Music School (Brussels), he studied classical piano at the Royal Conservatoire of Brussels from age 12 onwards. In 1938, he graduated with a first prize awarded to him by his professors. Although Segers seemed destined for a career in classical music, his first love was always jazz. Until the German invasion of Belgium in 1940, he played the piano in various jazz orchestras.

During World War II, Segers kept on working in Brussels, being the pianist in the professional entertainment orchestras of Fud Candrix (1908-1974), Gus Deloof (1909-1976), and Jean Omer (1912-1994). Especially Jean Omer was recognized as an influential jazz musician in Belgium in those days. In 1938, the Nivelles-born clarinettist had bought the worn-down cabaret café Pingouin, which was near the Porte de Namur in Southern Brussels, and renamed it Le Boeuf sur le Toit. Omer performed there with his swing orchestra, of which even Coleman Hawkins was a member for some time. It was not long before Omer’s club became the ‘place to be’ in Brussels. Even though swing music was banned by the Germans, the orchestra continued performing successfully. With Omer, Henri Segers regularly worked in the studio to record the orchestra’s most popular pieces, including ‘The blue room’ (arranged by none other than Benny Carter) in 1940. 

Picture postcard of Henri Segers (c. 1942)

Under German occupation, both Jean Omer and Fud Candrix regularly travelled to Germany with their orchestras, most notably to perform in Berlin’s Delphi Palast. Apart from his work with Belgian maestros, Henri Segers – like so many other Belgian musicians – also played with the German radio swing orchestra of Willi Stech.

In 1944, Henri Segers left Jean Omer’s orchestra. He worked in the recording studio as a piano accompanist, teaming up with the likes of Gus Viseur, when this famous French jazz accordionist recorded some of his work in Brussels in January 1946. That same year, Segers founded a jazz band of his own in Brussels, naming it L’Heure Bleue. With it, he was part of the ‘invasion’ of the Netherlands by Belgian orchestras. While Eddie De Latte worked in the Scheveningen Casino and Fud Candrix in the Palais de la Danse, also in Scheveningen, Segers’ swing band performed in a dance club in nearby The Hague. In 1948, his orchestra played in the Valkenburg Casino, still in the Netherlands. Using the name Henri Segers & His Belgian Stars, Segers regularly appeared at the famed Bilzen Jazz Festival. In the early 1950s, his orchestra became the house band of Jean Omer’s Boeuf sur le Toit in Brussels, where he kept on performing for several years.

Meanwhile, in 1953, a national TV service was formed (NIR/INR), introducing television in Belgium. From the very start, Segers’ combo was a regular feature in entertainment programmes. Three years later, producer Ernest Blondeel commissioned Segers to form a grand orchestra for television broadcasts. The story of how this came about sounds improbable, but is well remembered by many musicians, including trombonist Frans Van Dyck.

Henri Segers’ ensemble performing at Le Boeuf sur le Toit, early 1950s, from left to right: Gus Saguet (saxophone), Constant Letellier (clarinet), Armand Vandewalle (percussion), Frans Van Dyck (trombone), Albert Caels (trumpet), unknown double-bass player, Terry Lester (singer), Hubert Soberon (trumpet), Henri Segers (piano), and Jean Moreau (saxophone)

“It actually started with a joke," Van Dyck recalls. "Jean Warland – an excellent double-bass player – was always thinking of ways to poke fun at others. He rang Henri Segers and, introducing himself as an assistant to Blondeel, he declared, "You are expected tomorrow at 10 o’clock in Mr Blondeel’s office. He wants you to form a television orchestra." There was no truth in this at all, but of course Segers turned up at Blondeel’s office at NIR. It must have been an awkward situation for both men. After his astonishment had subsided, however, Blondeel said, "Well, coming to think of it, we do need an orchestra. So, perhaps we can do business after all!" And that is how Segers was given the commission to form the INR Big Band. Everything thanks to Jean Warland’s joke of course!”

The musicians who played in Segers’ TV band from the beginning, were Frans Van Dyck (trombone, 1923-2018), Albert Caels (trumpet), Jo Van Wetter (guitar), Constant Letellier (clarinet/saxophone), Roger Vanhaverbeke (double-bass, 1930-2011), and Jo De Muynck (percussion). Van Dyck and Van Haverbeke were only two of the many Flemish professionals having played in Segers’ orchestra. Other musicians, who played in the TV band over the years, include Marcel De Bruyn, Bob Pauwels, Johnny Renard, Herman Sandy, Jules Vandyck, Albert Brinkhuizen, Nick Frerard, Albert Godfrinne, Benny Couroyer, Freddy L’Host, Philippe Decae, Gaston Nuyts, and François L’Eglise. Until Francis Bay’s Flemish radio orchestra was formed in 1956, Segers’ big band did not only work for French-speaking television programmes, but for Flemish radio and television as well.

Between 1956 and 1965, Segers and his orchestra worked on countless television shows, the most successful one being the weekly music programme ‘Music Parade’, in which stars from Belgium and abroad sang their hit tunes accompanied by Segers’ band. Guests for the show included Charles Aznavour, Sascha Distel, and Gilbert Bécaud. Segers and his combo appeared in over one thousand TV productions for INR and RTB, including many editions of popular entertainment shows such as Tiroir aux souvenirs, Alphabétiquement vôtre, Mélodie souvenir, L’écran dansant, L’escarpolette, Show de Bruxelles, and Dans ma rue

Henri Segers (bottom, left) with the cast of Music Parade, including Fud Leclerc, Armand Vandewalle, Albert Caels, Eric Fransen, Frans Van Dyck, Terry Lester, Vicky Downe, Ferry Barendse, Bob Jacqmain, Lily Vincent, Jetty Lee, and Jean Walter

Many of the orchestrations for these programmes were written by Segers’ musicians, mostly Frans Van Dyck, Francy Boland, and Etienne Verschueren. Especially alto-saxophonist Verschueren (1928-1995), who had joined the orchestra in 1959, played an important role in the ensemble. He regularly appeared as the band’s conductor when Segers was unavailable. All arrangements for Tiroir aux souvenirs, however, were penned by Jack Say.

Henri Segers and his orchestra played at the 1958 World Fair (EXPO) in Brussels. Two years later, when Belgian King Baudouin married Spanish doña Fabiola, the orchestras of Segers and Francis Bay both performed during the wedding celebrations. On several occasions, Segers was invited by broadcasters in Holland to make an appearance with his band in TV shows. 1963 became a glorious year for Segers. First, he was awarded with the Bronze Rose of Montreux for his orchestra’s interpretation of ‘La Suite en 16’, a piece composed and arranged by Etienne Verschueren with a star role for the internationally acclaimed vibraphone virtuoso Sadi (Sadi Lallemand, 1927-2009). Moreover, in the fall of that same year, he and his men were invited to come over to the Bavaria Studios in Munich, West Germany, for three weeks to record a television show centred around the piece ‘Fantaisie pour Ballet et Orchestre’.

First and foremost, Henri Segers was a pianist and orchestra leader. He never penned any arrangements, while most of his compositions did not stand the test of time. Segers’ own work can be categorised as genuine dance music, mostly cha-cha-cha and bossa nova tunes. His composition ‘Bistrot’ was recorded by French pianist Onésime Grosbois. With his orchestra, Henri Segers made several recordings for Philips with foreign material, including a LP called ‘Les airs de Paris et d’Italie’ (1962).

Segers and his big band in a TV show, early 1960s

Although his big band mainly performed on RTB television, Segers worked for Belgian radio on many occasions, accompanying singers such as Ferry Barendse, Terry Lester, and Jetty Lee with a smaller combo with Constant Letellier (saxophone), Frans Van Dyck (double-bass), Armand Vandewalle (percussion), and Segers himself on the piano. In 1963, Etienne Verschueren abandoned Segers’ orchestra to join Flemish broadcaster BRT as staff arranger; two years later, he was commissioned to form the BRT Jazz Orchestra, which he conducted until 1985. In that same year, 1965, Segers’ television orchestra was dissolved due to the health problems the conductor was facing at that time.

In 1965-66, Segers worked as an arranger for Jean Kluger’s record company World Music. In 1967, he formed an 11-man-orchestra, which was frequently called upon to appear in gala nights and feasts. One year later, in 1968, Segers was again employed by RTB – this time as a producer. His main success in this second spell at the national broadcaster was Chansons à la carte, another music show which ran for an impressive 15 years. Meanwhile, a new TV orchestra had been formed by Jack Say, who included twelve of the musicians of Segers’ former band and added a string section to suit the demands of contemporary pop and entertainment music. 

Again faced by marring problems with his health, Segers was forced to leave the RTB towards the end of the 1970s. His last years seem to have been particularly gloomy, with his wife and his only son dying before him. Segers himself succumbed to cirrhosis in 1983.

In his later years as a producer with RTB(F)


Henri Segers took part in the Eurovision Song Contest as a conductor on 5 occasions between 1960 and 1972. There could have been more participations, but, for unknown reasons, he did not accompany the two Belgian candidates to the first contest in Lugano (1956), although he had been the conductor of the pre-selection in Brussels; for the international final, Segers was replaced by Léo Souris. Two years later, in 1958, the French-speaking Belgian broadcaster chose not to send a conductor along to the festival in Hilversum, where Fud Leclerc sang ‘Ma petite chatte’ accompanied by Dutch resident conductor Dolf van der Linden.

Segers first taste of the Eurovision Song Contest came in 1960; for the third time, Fud Leclerc had won the right to represent Belgium in the international final, this time with ‘Mon amour pour toi’, a most poetic love song by Robert Montal and Jack Say. It did reasonably well in the voting with a fifth place amongst thirteen entries. Nevertheless, composer and arranger Jack Say has mixed feelings about the 1960 contest and Segers’ involvement in it.

“I travelled to the international contest to witness the dress rehearsal as well as the broadcast itself," Say comments. "During the rehearsal, Fud gave an excellent performance. However, fate struck during the live show. Henri Segers made a mistake, indicating a tempo to the orchestra which was too slow. Because of that, Fud was ‘stuck’, making attempts to adapt his singing to the tempo. Meanwhile, Segers tried to speed the orchestra up, but in vain; Henri had always been more of a pianist than a conductor and he lacked the technique to set things right. Afterwards, he readily admitted that he had indicated the first bar in a wrong tempo. No, we were not angry at him; the atmosphere was very cordial. Fortunately, the final results were not that bad for us. In hindsight, the music I wrote to the song, harmonically, was somewhat too complicated to succeed internationally anyway.”

Segers with, from left to right, director Bob Jacqmain, and singers Mony Marc and Fud Leclerc (c. 1960)

In 1962, Segers and Fud Leclerc again teamed up to defend the Belgian colours, this time in Luxembourg, but Leclerc’s fourth and last participation in the contest with ‘Ton nom’ failed to pick up any points and tied for last place with Austria, The Netherlands, and Spain. Perhaps this disappointing result was the reason RTB chose to select its 1964 Eurovision representative internally: thus, Robert Cogoi won the right to represent Belgium in the international festival in Copenhagen without a pre-selection. His beautiful ballad ‘Près de ma rivière’ was arranged – like so many Belgian entries in the early years of the festival – by Willy Albimoor, one of Belgium’s most prolific pianist and arrangers of those days, this time working under his pseudonym Bill Ador. With the Danish Radio Orchestra conducted by Henri Segers, Robert Cogoi finished 10th in a field of 16 competitors.

Since Segers’ TV orchestra had been dissolved in 1965 and he himself did not work at RTB at that time, the 1966 Belgian Eurovision pre-selection was accompanied by the band of trumpet-player Janot Morales (1919-1981), who later became a member of Etienne Verschueren’s BRT Jazz Orchestra. A singer from Brussels, Tonia, won this selection with the song ‘Un peu de poivre, un peu de sel’. There was no Belgian conductor to accompany her in the international final in Luxembourg, meaning that the orchestra during her performance was led by local host conductor Jean Roderes.

In 1968, Segers returned to the RTB as a producer. He was commissioned to form an ad-hoc orchestra to accompany that year’s Eurovision heats in Brussels. Amongst the participating artists were Nicole Josy and Tonia, while well-known composers David Bee and Paul Quintens had each submitted a song. The selection was won, however, by Claude Lombard and her sophisticated ballad ‘Quand tu reviendras’, composed by Jo Van Wetter, the guitarist of Segers’ former TV orchestra, while the arrangement was again penned by Willy Albimoor. Henri Segers conducted Norrie Paramor’s orchestra in London’s Royal Albert Hall for Lombard’s performance in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest final, in which Belgium finished in a respectable 7th place. For Claude Lombard's performance, the guitar part was taken care of by the piece's composer Jo Van Wetter, who took place in the orchestra rather than on the artist's stage.

Fud Leclerc flanked by songwriters Eric Channe (left) and Tany Golan after winning the Belgian national Eurovision final in 1962 with 'Ton nom'

Meanwhile, a new orchestra had been formed at the RTB, conducted by Jack Say. In 1970, Say was the musical director of the Belgian pre-selection for the contest as well as of the Belgian delegation at the international final in Amsterdam. Two years later, Say's orchestra did not play a part in the Belgian Eurovision heats, with all entries being conducted by Flemish arranger Willy Albimoor. Winners were Serge & Christine Ghisoland with ‘A la folie ou pas du tout’. When, however, the duo performed at the Eurovision final in Edinburgh, it was not Say, but Henri Segers to lead the orchestra for them. Why did the choice fall on Segers instead of Albimoor or Jack Say?

“I could not go because, at that time, I had to be in Brussels for a live broadcast of the Caméra d’Argent music show, which I accompanied with my orchestra," Say comments. "Moreover, I was not really keen on accompanying the Ghisolands, since my working relationship with them was not very good. Quite the opposite, I found them extremely unpleasant. I am sure that the Ghisolands would have felt the same about me and would certainly not have insisted on my coming with them to Scotland. Henri still worked at RTBF in 1972 and he was chosen to replace me. And why not…? After all, although he worked as a producer at that time and had not made any conducting appearances on TV for several years, he still was a very able musician!” 

In Edinburgh, Serge & Christine Ghisoland failed to make an impression on the jurors, finishing second last.


Jack Say worked as an arranger and composer for the French-speaking broadcaster in Belgium from the early 1950s onwards, “Henri Segers was a friend and we got along extremely well. He was an excellent musician; everyone knew he had won first prize when graduating from the conservatory in Brussels. My contact with him was always good. Together, we composed some small jazz works, perhaps three or four only. Henri was by no means a prolific composer and he never arranged anything for his TV orchestra. What he was best at – better than anyone else – was playing the piano. Henri was a 100% jazz musician; and sadly, towards the end of the 1960s, this kind of music was not really in demand anymore for television broadcasts.” (2010)

Frans Van Dyck worked as a musician and arranger with Segers’ orchestra between 1953 and 1957, and then again from 1958 to 1965, “I knew of Segers’ abilities as a musician long before we actually met. During the war years, he played in orchestras which I frequently listened to on the radio; he was one of the first modernist jazz pianists and, generally speaking, one of the best piano players of his time. When I became a member of his orchestra, it was not long before we became good friends. My wife and I regularly visited Henri and his family in Tervuren. We worked together on countless arrangements: he usually gave me a rough sketch of what he had in mind and he asked me to elaborate it. To be honest, he never took the time to write arrangements himself. Being the special guy that he was, he often said to me, "Now you go and write this arrangement for me, while I am going to have some pints of beer. Make sure you finish it by tomorrow morning!" For me, this meant staying up all night, writing and writing. But Henri was always satisfied with whatever I came up with. Together, we wrote hundreds of dance orchestra compositions, which we published at the Motard company in Kessel-Lo. Henri was instrumental in forwarding my career. He advised me to become a member of the Belgian Association of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (SABAM). He really was a friendly guy who was always very much concerned about his musicians and their careers. Francis Bay and Etienne Verschueren were better conductors than he was, but as a pianist nobody could beat him.” (2010)

Segers (on the right) with Frans Van Dyck and Frans' wife Francien


Country – Belgium
Song title – “Mon amour pour toi”
Rendition – Fud Leclerc
Lyrics – Robert Montal (Robert Frickx)
Composition – Jack Say
Studio arrangement – Jack Say
(studio orchestra conducted by Jack Say)
Live orchestration – Jack Say
Conductor – Henri Segers
Score – 6th place (9 votes)

Country – Belgium
Song title – “Ton nom”
Rendition – Fud Leclerc
Lyrics – Tany Golan (Nyota Hoogland)
Composition – Eric Channe (Raymond Robberecht)
Studio arrangement – none
Live orchestration – Red Holiday (Oscar Toussaint) / Marc Stelvio (Joseph Deboeck)
Conductor – Henri Segers
Score – 13th place (0 votes)

Country – Belgium
Song title – “Près de ma rivière”
Rendition – Robert Cogoi
Lyrics – Robert Cogoi
Composition – Robert Cogoi
Studio arrangement – Bill Ador (Willy Albimoor) / Glen Powell (Félix Faecq)
(studio orchestra conducted by Bill Ador)
Live orchestration – Willy Albimoor
Conductor – Henri Segers
Score – 10th place (2 votes)

Country – Belgium
Song title – “Quand tu reviendras”
Rendition – Claude Lombard
Lyrics – Ronald Dero
Composition – Jo Van Wetter
Studio arrangement – Willy Albimoor / Glen Powell (Félix Faecq)
(studio orchestra conducted by Willy Albimoor)
Live orchestration – Willy Albimoor
Conductor – Henri Segers
Score – 7th place (8 votes)

Country – Belgium
Song title – “A la folie ou pas du tout”
Rendition – Serge & Christine Ghisoland
Lyrics – Daniel Nelis / Emile Soulan
Composition – Daniel Nelis / Bob Milan / Emile Soulan
Studio arrangement – Willy Albimoor
(studio orchestra conducted by Willy Albimoor)
Live orchestration – Willy Albimoor
Conductor – Henri Segers
Score – 17th place (55 votes)

  • An interesting survey of jazz in Belgium - Jempi Salmyn & Sim Simons, “The Finest in Belgian Jazz”, ed. De Werf: Bruges 2002
  • Many thanks to Jack Say and Frans Van Dyck for sharing their memories of working with Henri Segers. Frans Van Dyck’s archive proved most valuable as well
  • A tribute booklet honouring trombone player Frans Van Dyck, who played in several Belgian jazz orchestras, including Henri Segers’ TV ensemble - Nathalie Villanueva & Monique Van Dyck, “Floere Franske”, Asse 2006 (published by the municipal council of Asse)
  • Photos courtesy of Frans Van Dyck and Ferry van der Zant


Born: August 29th, 1920, Clamart, Greater Paris (France)
Died: May 21st, 2005, Suresnes, Greater Paris (France)
Nationality: French

In due course, the short impression below will be replaced with a more extensive career overview


Raymond Bernard was mainly known for writing scores to French films in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Le sicilien (1958), Une ballade dans le canon (1958), L’ennemi dans l’ombre (1960), and TV-series Les enquêtes du Commissaire Maigret (1967). Moreover, he was Serge Reggiani's musical director for many years.

For the Eurovision Song Contest, Raymond Bernard composed three entries, the first of which was the 1963 Luxembourg entry ‘A force de prier’, which was performed by none other than Greek songstress Nana Mouskouri. In this case, Bernard had not been responsible for either the arrangement or conducting the Eurovision orchestra, which was left to British host conductor Eric Robinson. Two years later, in 1965, he both composed and conducted the Monegasque entry ‘Va dire à l’amour’, sung by Marjorie Noël. In 1972, he returned to the Eurovision Song Contest for the last time, again for Monaco, composing and conducting the entry ‘Comme on s’aime’, which was performed by Anne-Marie Godart and Peter MacLane. Of both Monegasque songs, Bernard had supervised the creation of the orchestrations, although the 1972 score was penned by Jean-Claude Pelletier (1972).

Country – Luxembourg
Song title – "A force de prier"
Rendition – Nana Mouskouri
Lyrics – Pierre Delanoë
Composition – Raymond Bernard
Studio arrangement – Robert Chauvigny 
(studio orchestra conducted by Jacques Denjean)
Live orchestration – Robert Chauvigny
Conductor – Eric Robinson
Score – 8th place (13 votes)

Country – Monaco
Song title – "Va dire à l'amour"
Rendition – Marjorie Noël
Lyrics – Jacques Mareuil
Composition – Raymond Bernard
Studio arrangement – Raymond Bernard
(studio orchestra conducted by Raymond Bernard)
Live orchestration – Raymond Bernard
Conductor – Raymond Bernard
Score – 9th place (7 votes)

Country – Monaco
Song title – Comme on s'aime
Rendition – Anne-Marie Godart & Peter MacLane
Lyrics – Jean Dréjac
Composition – Raymond Bernard
Studio arrangement – Jean-Claude Pelletier 
(studio orchestra conducted by Raymond Bernard)
Live orchestration – Jean-Claude Pelletier
Conductor – Raymond Bernard
Score – 16th place (65 votes)


The following article is an overview of the career of Italian vibraphonist, songwriter, film composer, conductor, and producer Gianfranco Reverberi. The main source of information is an interview with Mr Reverberi, conducted by Bas Tukker, February 2021. The article is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Mr Reverberi's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2021

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Gianfranco Reverberi
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: December 12th, 1934, Genoa (Italy)
Died: January 8th, 2024, Rome (Italy)
Nationality: Italian


Italian vibraphonist, songwriter, film composer, conductor, and producer Gianfranco Reverberi took part in the Eurovision Song Contest on one occasion, in 1972, when he conducted his country’s entry, ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’. It was performed by Reverberi's protégé Nicola Di Bari. At the international festival final in Edinburgh, the song placed sixth in a field of eighteen competing entries.


Born to a working class family in Genoa, Gianfranco Reverberi grew up in a city ravaged by the war. His father, who ran a mechanical workshop, was a passionate, yet mediocrely talented amateur musician. 

“Whenever we moved houses, an old, upright piano was dragged along,” Reverberi recalls. “My father had never learnt to play it properly, but, each night, when coming home from work, he sat down at the piano and played a piece, mostly one of the American standards, which he adored. Only after that would he come over to the dinner table to have his meal. His technique was rather singular – he curled the three middle fingers of his right hand and tried to play the melody, but in fact he didn’t really have a clue how to do it… and with his other hand, he just moved about a bit over the left part of the piano as if he was playing the drums, in an attempt to add some rhythm to the melody. After his meal, he would lay down on the sofa while listening to some record – and he liked it even better when my younger brother Giampiero or I would play something on the piano for him.”

Right after the war, Gianfranco was allowed by his parents to take piano lessons with a private teacher, Mrs Mezzo-Ricci. “I was ten years old. At that time, it was something I did just for pleasure. I wasn’t thinking of going to conservatoire, like my younger brother did; I just wanted to have a good time. Progressively, however, more and more time and energy was put into music, mostly because I wasn’t a motivated pupil at regular school. I played the accordion, and found I was rather good at it! At the age of thirteen, I gave my first public performance at the Andrea Doria Cinema Theatre, just around the corner from where we were living. I was introduced to the audience as a bimbo prodigio, a boy genius, but in reality, my ability was still rather limited. One year later, I began playing the accordion in local amateur orchestras. Initially, the going was tough. Never having played ballroom music before, I wasn’t familiar with any of the pieces. Shamelessly, I suggested to have the orchestra play the melody line performed first by the trumpets, then by the strings, upon which I would fall in with my accordion in the third round, finishing the piece together with the full band. This allowed me to listen first, learn the melody at the second turn, and finally play it myself for the third go. Fortunately for me, my idea was accepted by the others.”

The 'bimbo prodigio' playing the accordion on stage at the Andrea Doria Cinema Theatre with fellow prodigy Ninetto Migliorini at the organ; for their performance, the boys were backed up by guitarist Arnaldo Bucco (1948)

Not long after this, fascinated by American jazz music, young Gianfranco exchanged his accordion for a vibraphone. “I studied the piano for some six years, and I played the accordion, but, as a teenager, I became very interested in the jazz which had been imported into Genoa by the Americans after the war. When I say jazz, I really mean swing music. I loved nothing better than listening to jazz records… and my idols were Lionel Hampton and especially Milt Jackson, both vibraphonists. I decided the vibraphone was what I wanted. On stage, the vibraphone player is always up front, even in front of the drummer – so this was the best opportunity to be the showman. This isn’t a trivial matter for an exhibitionist like me, you know! The problem was that nobody had a clue where to buy a vibraphone. One day, my father and I were in Milan, passing by a shop window and there it was… a vibraphone, identical to the one Milton Jackson played. I fell in love with it on the spot! I begged my father to buy it, but he wouldn’t budge… and on the way back I was being an impossible adolescent, scolding him for not taking it home. What I didn’t know was that he had already decided to buy it for me, but I didn't find out until Christmas. To me, that Christmas gift truly was a life-changing event.”

In 1951, Gianfranco joined the band of pianist Renzo Barrighini, who wanted to play jazz music in the style of the celebrated George Shearing Quintet, which included vibraphonist Margie Hyams. 

“So Renzo was looking for a vibraphone player – and of course he found me, because I was the only person in Genoa with a vibraphone. In fact, I think there were only two vibraphonists in Italy at the time; Franco Chiari, who worked at the RAI, and I. With Renzo and the others, I set about rehearsing a set of pieces by George Shearing. Now, nobody in Italy had ever heard of George Shearing at the time. One day, at a concert at the Circolo della Stampa where Lucio Capobianco and his Dixieland Band were performing, we had been booked to play while Capobianco’s trumpeters were resting their lips – during their fifteen-minute break. This was our debut. We climbed onto the stage… and, perhaps because our quiet, subtle George Shearing tunes provided such a stark contrast to the vivacious Dixieland music, the audience were entranced. They got as close to the stage as they could to pick up each nuance of the music. You know what? Capobianco and his men never came back on stage that Sunday afternoon. The audience wanted us to continue. Shearing’s music was just so beautiful, so deeply felt, that success was somehow inevitable!”

Gianfranco Reverberi’s family home, an apartment at the Corso Torino, was also the focal point for a group of youngsters who would all go on to have a career in music, mostly as singer-songwriters; Bruno Lauzi, Luigi Tenco, Gino Paoli, Fabrizio De André, and others. 

Playing the vibraphone in Nello Segurini’s orchestra, backing up singer Katyna Ranieri, in Genoa (1953)

“I quickly learnt who my real friends were; those who had no qualms about helping me bringing my vibraphone upstairs – we lived in an apartment on the seventh floor without an elevator! None of them had parents who owned a piano, apart from us. We all loved music and partying. Often, one of them telephoned me, saying, “Gianfranco, we’re having a party tonight. Will you be there?” “Yes, how many are we?” “Thirty-two.” “And where is the party taking place then?” “At your place.” My parents loved being at the heart of this jolly mess, but I rather doubt if our neighbours enjoyed it quite as much, especially that one night when Luigi Tenco bet he could play a higher note on the clarinet than Bruno Martinelli on the trumpet. Luigi’s clarinet was a ramshackle construction held together by elastic, Bruno had made himself a guitar from the seat of an old chair; as long as we could make music, we were the happiest creatures in the universe. At some point, we formed a band and started performing at student parties, enjoying some discrete success.”

While fooling around with his friends from Genoa’s Foce district, young Gianfranco slowly became much sought-after as a vibraphonist across Italy, playing at the inauguration of the Mostra d’Oltremare Exhibition Centre in Naples for the 1952 summer season – his first professional engagement – while joining the Nello Segurini Orchestra for a Eurovision broadcast in Genoa the following year and accompanying singer Mario Albanesi as a pianist in Capri in 1954. That same year, he was called up for the obligatory eighteen months of military service.

“By the time I went into the army, I had made the decision that I was going to be a musician, whatever it would take. It took some time before I really started thinking about my future. My younger brother Giampiero was much more purposeful. When he was thirteen years of age, he solemnly told us at the dinner table that he was going to quit regular school to go to the music academy. His tone was so resolute that my parents never even dared to object."

"When I had finally made up my mind that I wanted to be a musician too, I was in a way too old to go to the conservatoire. I became a better musician simply by playing; but having had six years of piano and music theory lessons with my teacher in Genoa, I wouldn’t call myself an autodidact. Later on, I did acquaint myself further with theory by studying on my own account. All the same, my father and mother were less than enthusiastic when I told them I wanted to become a music professional. They doubted if I could make it. My ambition was to be a composer. My first piece, ‘Shuffle’, which I wrote with another friend from Genoa, Giorgio Calabrese, was released by a publishing company in Turin when I was little older than fifteen – and although it wasn’t a success in any way, I felt it proved that I deserved my parents’ trust.”

In one of Milan's 'jazz caves' (mid-1950s)

While serving the second half of his military service in Milan, Reverberi had the opportunity to play the vibraphone in some of the city’s ‘jazz caves’ – and, with Giorgio Gaber, Luigi Tenco and three others, he was the accompanying band of an emerging local rock ‘n’ roll singer; none other than Adriano Celentano. As Reverberi recalls, Celentano was a natural performer from the outset.

“One time, I remember we were performing in a local dance hall. Before us, another group had been on stage – and when we came on, the audience were still chatting, laughing, and drinking distractedly. We were supposed to start playing, but sensing the indifference of the crowd, Adriano told us, “Ragazzi, let’s play a song in B-flat, which then continues in fa." We protested, “But Adriano, we rehearsed our set of songs all week… why should we improvise something new on the spot?”, but he brushed our arguments aside; “No, I’m fed up with those other tunes.” Meanwhile, the audience was getting noisy, booing us, slowly becoming infuriated, until finally all eyes were on us and all parties sufficiently annoyed. Adriano said, “Now!”, and we burst into the first song of our set, a wild version of ‘Jailhouse Rock’. At that moment, the nervousness felt by everybody in the hall made way for enthusiasm. Adriano had achieved his goal – in fact, not only had he succeeded in catching the audience’s attention, but he had also turned the tension to his advantage.”

Right after his discharge from the army in 1956, Gianfranco Reverberi received an invitation to join an orchestra playing on the cross-continental cruise ship Olympia. The ship took him from Genoa to New York, followed by two months in the Caribbean, then on to South America, and back into the Mediterranean, where he visited Egypt and Greece. 

“When I left Genoa, I didn’t even have a permit to leave the country. While I was waiting by the gangway to go aboard, my father came rushing into the harbour with a passport he had obtained for me. On the way out to the United States, I made friends with a young guy from America who showed me around New York. Sitting in the Birdland jazz club was thoroughly fascinating. I was 30 centimetres away from Oscar Peterson playing the piano while he smoked his cigar simultaneously. We also visited the Bar Metropole, where I was invited to join in a jam session with the orchestra. Back on the cruise liner, I visited Cuba and many other islands in the Caribbean. Aboard, there were three bands; one from Greece, as the boat was part of Onassis’ fleet, an American orchestra, and lastly us from Italy. Once given the opportunity, I took my vibraphone and went over to the Americans. The Italian band leader never saw me back! I just loved stealing the show using not two or four, but six, percussion mallets. It was a way of showing off – a force stronger than myself!”

I Cavalieri, one of Italy’s first rock groups, from left to right: Enzo Jannacci, Nando De Luca, Gianfranco Reverberi, Pallino Tomelleri, and Luigi Tenco (c. 1959)

Back in Genoa, at the insistence of his father, Gianfranco worked as a representative for a manufacturer of dry-cleaners, an episode which lasted no longer than three unhappy months. Making his way back to Milan, he formed one of Italy’s first rock groups, I Cavalieri, which also included Enzo Jannacci and Luigi Tenco. Almost immediately, the band was discovered by a record producer – and before long they were immersed in session work for the Dischi Ricordi record company, mainly as a backing band for other artists. In 1959, I Cavalieri performed in nightclubs in Rome, while also being involved in recording the soundtrack to Mauro Bolognini’s film La notte brava – released internationally as Bad Girls Don’t Cry. One year prior, Reverberi had also realised his dream of becoming a successful songwriter, creating ‘Ciao ti dirò’ in collaboration with friend and lyricist Giorgio Calabrese.

“‘Ciao ti dirò’ was the first rock ‘n’ roll song written in the Italian language. The piece was literally ‘constructed’, as we were looking for words which would give it a ‘mock-American’ feel. The music we composed around it came about by screaming improvised sounds. We were looking to create something really wild. All of this was recorded with a Gelosino, one of the first tape recorders. Literally everybody, all of my friends – Gino Paoli, Bruno Lauzi, Luigi Tenco, Giorgio Gaber – sooner or later contributed to the song in some way. Luigi improvising an absurd rock ‘n’ roller, Gino singing "Cipolle cha cha cha," etcetera. Giorgio Gaber was the first to record it. With ‘Ciao ti dirò’, he stopped being a jazz man and made the jump to rock ‘n’ roll music. The song was his first hit. His version sold about 300,000 copies, and the cover by Adriano Celentano did even better with over one million singles.”

In 1958, aged just twenty-three, Gianfranco joined the publishing branch of Dischi Ricordi – but his interest was chiefly in recording rather than in publishing. “In reality, I was more often to be found in the recording studio than at my desk. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to be the deputy artistic director at the same record company. I did just about everything; I was a sound engineer, musical assistant, a session player, I brought together studio orchestras, wrote arrangements, and was on the lookout for new talent. As such, I invited many of my friends from Genoa to come over and record their work for Dischi Ricordi; Paoli, Tenco, Lauzi. They all tried their hand at rock ‘n’ roll before turning to their own singer-songwriter repertoire in later years. For that reason, I have sometimes been ‘accused’ of the arrival of this first generation of Italian singer-songwriters. The truth is much simpler, though; I’ve always loved being surrounded by friends, and, given the fact that I was alone in Milan, I let them come over one by one to chase away loneliness. Of course, I knew what I was doing. I didn’t invite one of Lambretta’s mechanics or the local baker’s son. I knew there was considerable talent to be found among my friends.”

“My years with Dischi Ricordi were the best experience in my life. In terms of recording technique and repertoire, we were pioneering, helped enthusiastically by the managing director, Nanni Ricordi himself, and his assistant Franco Crepax. Whenever I had an idea, I put it to Crepax, with whom I enjoyed a perfect working relationship. He always accepted whatever I came up with, and so did Nanni, who was willing to take financial risks for us to try out intelligent and interesting innovations. We put lots of love into our recording projects."

During a recording session at Dischi Ricordi’s Studios in Milan (c. 1960)

"I’ve always maintained that a record is so much more than just a cold, black disc – if it’s produced with the right amount of enthusiasm, professionalism, and passion, you can bring across warmth as well as emotion. Moreover, in Italy, we were emerging from a period of fatigue, boredom, closed doors, and we felt the need to change. Up to that point, music had followed well-trodden, predictable paths; and the young generation felt the urge to break the mould, realising they were living in a time in which the world as a whole was undergoing profound changes. Thanks to film music from America, we had become acquainted with swing, boogie-woogie, but here in Italy we were still stuck with ‘Vola colomba’ and ‘Binario triste e solitario’, songs which the younger generation couldn’t identify with.”

A new generation of musicians also required innovative arrangements, for which Reverberi often turned to his younger brother Giampiero, who was studying piano and composition at the music academy in Genoa. 

“He was devoting all his time and energy to classical music, and there I was, distracting him with these arranging commissions. Being the good younger brother that he was, he always followed me, however reluctantly. For a recording with Gino Paoli, we had to do four songs, preferably in one take, and the budget didn’t allow for more than three instruments to be used. Usually, one would have picked bass, drums, and guitar, but Giampiero left out the guitar as he preferred using a flute. My brother ended up playing all instruments himself simultaneously – it was as if he had four hands instead of two! For all his pains, he was rewarded with no more than 5,000 lire per song, including his travel expenses, food and hotel.”

“In the following years, I slowly started writing arrangements myself. As so often was the case – later on in my career with conducting, for example – Giampiero showed me the way, but it was also a case of learning by doing. Don’t forget that my role at Dischi Ricordi was that of an artistic director – and the company had a staff of arrangers as well. Their job was to write arrangements, so I didn’t interfere with them all that often. Occasionally, I wrote little things here and there, but, more often than not, I lacked the time and preferred leaving it to others, most notably of course to Giampiero. He became heavily immersed in writing songs and scores for the Genovese school of singer-songwriters in the 1960s.”

Reverberi (left) in the recording studio with Luigi Tenco (early 1960s)

Meanwhile, alongside his work at Dischi Ricordi, Gianfranco Reverberi enjoyed enduring success as a songwriter. In the early 1960s, his output was recorded by the likes of Gino Paoli, Luigi Tenco, I Due Corsari, and Sergio Endrigo. In 1960, the legendary singer Mina recorded his song ‘La notte’. In the course of the 1960s, working with lyricist Giorgio Calabrese, Reverberi also wrote a string of popular songs in the Genoese dialect, which were interpreted by Bruno Lauzi, Natalino Otto, and others.

In 1962, when Nanni Ricordi and Franco Crepax both left Dischi Ricordi, Reverberi followed his close friend Crepax to CGD, where he was artistic director for one year. He recorded an album for Duke Ellington, while also producing Piero Ciampi’s debut album ‘Piero Litaliano’ as well as Michele’s breakthrough hit ‘Se mi vuoi lasciare’ (1963). In spite of his considerable work rate, Reverberi was not happy at CGD. 

“Serving the company as artistic director, I felt it would have been lacking in good taste if I had continually brought my own songs to the attention of the artists I was working with, no matter if they were called Betty Curtis or Johnny Dorelli. Still, I thought of myself as a composer first and foremost. Meanwhile, Gino Paoli had moved to Rome where he was an independent producer at another company, RCA. He invited me to join him and become his working partner. Being an independent producer would allow me more freedom to engage in projects of my own choice, so as soon as Paoli offered me the opportunity, I decided to go for it and moved to Rome. In 1963, I signed a contract with RCA as an independent producer and composer.”

RCA were the licence holders for many international artists who released their material in Italy, allowing Reverberi to record his compositions with the likes of Alain Barrière, Sandie Shaw, and Neil Sedaka. On the other hand, he also started enjoying success with Italian singers abroad. In those years, he was the driving force behind Luigi Tenco, whose ‘Ho capito che ti amo’ sold over one million in Argentina (1965), and Michele, who enjoyed worldwide chart success with ‘Dite Laura che l’amo’ (1966), a cover version of an old American hit.

Accompanying Luigi Tenco on a promotional tour across Italy (early 1960s)

Following Michele on a worldwide tour, Reverberi conducted orchestras for him as far away as Mexico and Brazil. “That first tour with Michele in Brazil was memorable for more than one reason. While conducting a local orchestra for a live TV broadcast, the guitarist was playing something completely different to what he was supposed to. While I continued conducting, I walked to him and found out soon enough what was wrong. He had the score of a different song in front of him! With a rather inelegant gesture, I took the score from his music stand. He looked at me for a moment, and without checking if the music sheet underneath was the right one, he began rambling away on his guitar without further ado. The bar in which he started? Well, only he knew. At the end of the piece, I let out a hideous curse, making all bystanders go pale. Fortunately, as it turned out, the broadcast had already been interrupted for a commercial break. Later on, other musicians in the orchestra told me that many were using stimulants – and occasionally one of them inadvertently took a dose which was too high for his own good.”

In 1966, Reverberi took part in the San Remo Festival as a songwriter for the first time, penning ‘Paff… bum’ for Lucio Dalla. “It was an alluring prospect to go to San Remo. Lucio Dalla was produced by Gino Paoli and myself, and we really believed in him, but somehow he had still failed to make his breakthrough. We felt something special was needed to draw attention to him. Working with Sergio Bardotti, who was musical assistant at RCA, I created ‘Paff… bum’, a song which didn’t follow the usual pattern of a gentle beginning and a crescendo towards the end, but in which the fuse was lit right at the start. I wrote the music in one hour – and I greatly enjoyed the process… and what was even better; success followed! The day following Lucio’s performance on TV (the orchestra being conducted by Giampiero Reverberi – BT), his record was sought after across Italy. Unfortunately, RCA never believed in his potential and had only distributed several thousand copies, while Dischi Ricordi on the other hand, had engulfed record stores in every corner of the country with The Yardbirds’ version of the same song. As a songwriter, I was hugely satisfied, but as Lucio’s producer, I couldn’t help lamenting this missed opportunity.”

From 1967 onwards, Gianfranco Reverberi also became involved in the film music business, writing the soundtracks to several so-called Spaghetti Westerns, including Soldati e capelloni (1967), Preparati la bara (marketed abroad as Django, Prepare A Coffin, 1968), as well as movies in other genres, working with directors like Ettore Maria Fizzarotti, Mario Dallamano, and Domenico Paolella.

“When I moved from Milan to Rome, the opportunities to write film music were amply available. Rome is the focal point of the Italian movie world. I loved working on films… for a soundtrack, there is no need to look for the key to a chart success. As a result, more freedom and less pressure are involved. When writing for a film, you’re constantly looking to create atmospheres fitting the images. For many of those films, I worked with my brother. We always found it inspirational to team up with each other. Our partnership was all-encompassing, creating the atmospheres, melodies, and arrangements together. He wrote all orchestrations. Often, I had the initial ideas, upon which we sat down to create a polished end product. While working for RCA, it was nice to have film composing on the side as an additional activity. Certainly, these were busy years, but working on a soundtrack was always a joy.”

Towards the end of the 1960s, Reverberi’s film commissions were all the more welcome, as the artists he worked with as a producer – notably Lucio Dalla and a new protégé, Nicola Di Bari – somehow failed to catch the imagination of the record buying public. The sense of doom became all the more profound when one of Reverberi’s best friends, Luigi Tenco, committed suicide after his song ‘Ciao amore ciao’ was eliminated in the semi-final of the 1967 edition of the San Remo Festival.

“Luigi and I were incredibly close. Musically as well as personally speaking, we were always in perfect harmony. When what happened happened, I was devastated. This was a time when I ran into serious trouble… financial trouble. As a producer, I had spent enormous amounts of money on Dalla and Di Bari. My contract with RCA obliged me to pay all expenses for the artists I worked with from my own pocket. All the money I earned as a composer was poured into the bottomless pit. I had even borrowed serious money from RCA. How could I ever pay them back? Mr Celli, their Head of Sales, kept saying to me, “Why are you losing time on those two? They’re both so ugly. No girl would ever buy their records.” One night, I had a dream in which Luigi Tenco appeared to me. I told him I was in dire straits, but Luigi spoke soothing words to me. “Keep the faith, my friend,” he said. “You’ll see that everything will work out just fine.” In the following weeks, I was hoping for more encouraging messages from him, but there was nothing but silence. A month later, the San Remo Festival was due, where Nicola Di Bari sang ‘La prima cosa bella’ and I was going to conduct the orchestra for him.”

“Nicola was a guy with an excellent, very modern voice. The last time he had gone to San Remo, he was still produced by Ezio Leoni – and not a single copy of his song was sold. When he came to me, Nicola’s career as a singer was considered over and done with. I decided to start from scratch, changing just about everything; his clothes, his hairdo, his repertoire… a completely new image. When we took part in San Remo in 1970 with ‘La prima cosa bella’, the stakes were high; it was his last chance as a singer, and I badly needed to pay off the staggeringly high debts I had incurred with RCA. Backstage, the tension was palpable; in the three minutes before going on stage, Nicola and I each withdrew into the restroom three times! When I descended into the orchestra pit, I nearly stumbled. After having survived those first tense moments, the adrenalin took over and everything turned out well; better than we could have imagined. ‘La prima cosa bella’ finished second, and the record sold 1,750,000 copies. After the prize-winning ceremony, I gave the orchestra a tempo that was much too fast, but it didn’t really matter – the song was the best-selling record of the year in Italy. I managed to pay off all my debts before the year was out. Luigi had been right after all. He had lent a helping hand.”

From that moment on, Di Bari’s career took off in a huge way. In 1971, he won the San Remo Festival with ‘Il cuore è uno zingaro’ as well as the Canzonissima Festival with ‘Chitarra suona più piano’, while picking up first prize in San Remo for the second year running with ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’ in 1972 – and as the singer’s producer and conductor, Reverberi played a large part in the success. With Nicola Di Bari, who recorded all his (mostly self-written) songs in Spanish as well as in Italian, he travelled around the globe, touring Argentina and other parts of Latin America – and even Japan and Australia.

Nicola Di Bari during a performance (1972)

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Nicola Di Bari is one of the most important artists in my career. His bravura as a singer was unparalleled. Though he also recorded songs written by myself and other composers, he penned most of the tunes himself, while relying on others to write the lyrics. When we were in the studio to record a new song, he said, “Show me the film!” This was his way of asking me to tell him a story which he could think of while singing the words. He wanted to get into the right mood. It may sound naïve, but it always worked well for him – and I found he was extremely good at evoking emotions. For some three years, everything he touched turned to gold. In the second half of the 1970s, when his success was on the wane, he was ditched by RCA. He signed a deal with another company, Carosello, but the magic was gone. He continued to be much in demand in South America for some time following. After his contract with RCA Italy ran out, I produced three more LPs in Spanish with him for the Latin American market.”

In the 1970s, Gianfranco Reverberi was the producer of Italian progressive rock group La Nuova Idea, while also teaming up with Romolo Forlai, Massimo Catalano, and scoring a considerable chart success with Alexander’s single release ‘Stardust’ (1974). As a songwriter, he wrote pieces for Ricchi & Poveri and, again, Mina. As a film composer, he wrote nine more soundtracks between 1970 and 1980, commissioned by Renato Polselli, Michele Massimo Tarantini, and others. In general, though, the late 1970s were not a good time for Reverberi.

“Towards the end of the decade, disco music arrived on the scene. I thought it was a highly interesting new genre, beautiful and very musical. I’m always keen to study new developments – change is a concept which I’ve always embraced whole-heartedly. Unfortunately, with disco, what I expected or hoped would happen, never came about; music itself turned out to be the ultimate loser, gradually being repressed, as it was, by repetitive, hypnotizing monotony which only pleases those who frequent discotheques. To me, the year 1980 marked the beginning of an inevitable decline. I had to run for cover. For decades, there had been three new big hits entering the charts every week, but in the 1980s there were some ten per year... if you were lucky. In the beginning, we expected to weather the storm by simply sitting on our hands and waiting for better times, but that storm has never blown over. The quality of music output decreased dramatically. Discotheques continued to attract youngsters, but for different reasons – music was no longer the protagonist – and record companies were in turmoil, at a loss how to respond to developments. Record sales plummeted, and the music publishers who loved music as well as being good businessmen simply weren’t there any longer.”

Finally, in 1982, after nearly twenty years, Gianfranco Reverberi decided to quit RCA. “If I had stayed much longer, a debacle would have been unavoidable. As a good mouse (or rat, in the English expression – BT), I managed to abandon the sinking ship in time. From that time on, I have dedicated myself to other experiences; still musical experiences, of course. As a 47-year-old, I certainly didn’t retire, but I wanted to get away from the recording business. I just no longer recognised myself in that world. It was an inevitable choice for someone who, for decades, had been used to thinking in terms of record sales in millions; I had to change course, and radically so.”

Gianfranco Reverberi's first and only solo album, ‘Mare (Sea for Meditation)'

In the 1980s and early 1990s, often working in partnership with fellow composer and arranger Italo ‘Lilli’ Greco, Gianfranco Reverberi continued writing and producing soundtracks for films and background music for television. 

“Meanwhile, I had built myself a studio from which I have worked ever since. With Greco, I was commissioned to produce music for important film directors like Lina Wertmüller and Gigi Magni. Greco was a very sensitive musician and I was glad to have him by my side. All too often, I allowed myself to be taken over by my own enthusiasm, following the music and thereby disregarding the tastes of the directors. Besides, although I sometimes force myself to think of sad events, the character of my music is usually ‘sunny’. It once happened to me that I had invited a director to listen to the music I had written to accompany a grim scene in his film – and while we were both listening intensely, he exclaimed, “Yes, wonderful, but when I close my eyes, I’m not seeing the film – I see the sea!” For that reason, it was good to work with Greco, because his experience was always fundamental and his criticism of my work essential.”

After leaving RCA, Gianfranco Reverberi more or less withdrew from working in popular music, although he produced a handful of albums for old friends in the industry, such as Joe Sentieri (‘Sentieri’, 1983) and Carmen Villani (‘Anima’, 1984). In 1987, Reverberi released his first and only solo album, ‘Mare (Sea for Meditation)’, which contains a series of compositions of ambient music, mostly written by Reverberi himself. 

“I was commissioned to produce an album of atmospheric music by a small record company in Germany. Being from Genoa, I imagined a night of love on the beach; hence the subtitle of the album, ‘From Dusk To Dawn’. It was released internationally in several other European countries, including Great Britain.”

Reverberi with lyricist and lifelong friend Giorgio Calabrese (c. 2000)

In the course of the 1980s, Reverberi’s attention was increasingly drawn to a genre he had not worked on up to that point; musical theatre. 

“In those days, the revenues obtained from films in Italy were decreasing ever further. There was little point in continuing much longer when the financial rewards were next to nothing. I decided I wanted to stop waiting for commissions from others – I finally wanted to do something I really liked myself. When working on something which has been commissioned, you try to accomplish it in the best possible way – but I was looking for the emotion of producing a work which was entirely my own. I no longer wanted to please record bosses or film directors. I didn’t want to think of anybody else. At that point, I decided to dedicate myself to my first love, musical theatre. When I was an adolescent, in the years following the war, I used to take my friends Bruno Lauzi and Luigi Tenco along to the Cinema Aurora, where we watched musical films from America. Lauzi, who spoke good English, learnt the lyrics by heart – and when we got home, we would play the songs ourselves. Now, forty years later, I wanted to spend time and energy in creating musicals myself.”

Between 1984 and 2020, Gianfranco Reverberi created a staggering repertoire of five musicals, eight mini musicals, two operas, and one rock opera. Of these, only the ‘quasi opera’ Nick, dealing with the life and works of Italian violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini, was ever performed. 

“The work premiered in the Sala Maestrale in the Port of Genoa in November 2020 in the form of a concert, conducted by Michele Trenti. The audience was enthusiastic; at the end, they applauded the performance for over ten minutes! Unfortunately, this one concert was the end of the story for me and my old friend Giorgio Calabrese, who had written the words, because we never found a producer willing to invest in a staged version of the work.”

Gianfranco Reverberi as a guest of honour at the 2007 BMI Pop Awards in Beverly Hills Ca., flanked by The Bee Gees’ Andy & Barry Gibb and Del Bryant, President and CEO of Broadcast Music International

In 2006, Gianfranco Reverberi suddenly found himself at the top of music charts all over the world, when ‘Nel cimetero di Tucson’, a melody he had written for the 1968 Spaghetti Western Preparati la bara (Django, Prepare A Coffin), was discovered by American soul duo Gnarls Barkley and turned into ‘Crazy’. The single won a Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2007.

“That was a wonderful surprise; and an incredible stroke of luck, but you need a dose of good luck to get by in life! My brother Giampiero and I had written this soundtrack together at the end of the 1960s; and then, nearly forty years after, someone in Los Angeles called Brian Joseph Burton, who was half of the Gnarls Barkley duo, was browsing through soundtracks of old Western movies. He was a fan of the genre. He stumbled upon our score to Preparati la bara, fell in love with this one piece – and then the two of them wrote lyrics to it and added a modern beat, while keeping Giampiero’s original arrangement almost intact. The initial idea for this particular melody had been mine, but my brother and I shared the composing rights. ‘Crazy’ was a number one record virtually all over the world – it sold platinum in the United States and was the best-selling record over a period of five years in Britain. Suddenly, I was invited to come to Los Angeles and London for award ceremonies where I was received as a king because of that one melody written all those years ago. It was incredible!”

In 2017, Gianfranco Reverberi published his memoirs under the title ‘La testa nel secchio’, in which he looks back on a prolific career – with nearly 1,500 original compositions to his credit. Meanwhile, he continues working on his musical theatre projects. 

“I don’t care that I’ve never found a producer to bring them to the stage – to me, it’s enough composing them and listening to the demo recordings with my friends. Our main goal is to have a good time together during the creative process. If I don’t live to see them performed, my grandchildren will have the honour I suppose! After all those years, I’m still enthusiastic about music, classical, jazz, pop, it doesn’t really matter. I can’t imagine what a sad place the world would be without it. To me, music is a way of life. If I had the opportunity to lead my life again, I wouldn’t change a thing; even the bad things, because if you took them out, you risk losing the positive which resulted in the end.”

At his 80th birthday party, December 2014


For the first eleven editions (1956-66) of the Eurovision Song Contest – better known in Italy as Eurocanzone or Eurofestival – Italy’s national broadcaster RAI, one of the founding fathers of the festival, sent the winner of the San Remo Song Festival as its representative. Due to a change in Eurovision rules in 1967, which did not allow participating songs to be released commercially prior to a certain date – with the San Remo Festival taking place more than two months earlier than Eurovision that year – this practice was discontinued. Instead, in the following three years, one of the winning artists of ‘San Remo’ was allowed to enter Eurovision with a different song to the one which had won the award in Italy. In 1970, another method was introduced, as it was decided upon to enter the winning vocalist of the previous year’s edition of Canzonissima, another televised song festival broadcast by the RAI – also performing a different song on the Eurovision stage. This procedure continued until 1975.

In 1971, Canzonissima was won by singer-songwriter Nicola Di Bari with ‘Chitarra suona più piano’, automatically making him his country’s choice for Eurovision. Mere months later, however, Di Bari also won the San Remo Festival with ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’. As there was only a lapse of four weeks between San Remo and Eurovision in 1972, there were no issues with the song’s release date – and therefore, ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’ became Di Bari’s Eurovision entry. This song is the only San Remo winner representing Italy in Eurovision between 1966 and 1997.

The music to ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’, a gentle ballad about an adolescent girl losing her virginity (lyrics by poet Dalmazio Masini), was written by Nicola Di Bari with guitarist Piero Pintucci, who also wrote the studio arrangement to the song. At San Remo, however, Pintucci, in spite of conducting the entries of several other artists in the festival (including Domenico Modugno and Gianni Morandi), ceded his place on the conductor’s platform to Di Bari’s producer, Gianfranco Reverberi.

“Pintucci was on stage playing the guitar for our song,” Reverberi explains, “and he obviously couldn’t conduct and play simultaneously. He was one of two guitarists backing up Nicola, the other one being Silvano Chimenti, an excellent musician who did a lot of television work (he was also the guitarist in Bruno Canfora’s orchestra for the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest in Rome – BT). Still, even if he hadn’t been on stage, I would have conducted the song in San Remo. As Nicola’s producer, I had been his musical director in concerts around the world for some years now. We were inseparable. There was a bond of mutual trust, which had grown over the years. I had conducted Nicola’s two previous participations in San Remo as well. Moreover, I had slightly adapted Piero’s arrangement for the live version.”

Nicola Di Bari posing for press photographers with Nada after winning the 1971 edition of the San Remo Festival with ‘Il cuore è uno zingaro’

The victory at San Remo took Di Bari’s record company RCA by complete surprise, as Reverberi recalls. “Nicola had won so many laurels in the preceding years that it seemed unimaginable he would win again. We were second in San Remo in 1970 with ‘La prima cosa bella’, which became the best-selling record of that year, then won the festival in 1971 with ‘Il cuore è uno zingaro’, followed by Canzonissima; and then came this back-to-back victory in San Remo to top it off. It was incredible, four successes in a timeframe of just two years. Nobody – and least of all those at RCA – had been expecting all those triumphs. For the 1972 San Remo Festival, they spent next to nothing on us in terms of promotion, instead putting all their cards on a victory of Gianni Morandi. When the results were announced, with a huge public vote in favour of Nicola, all of RCA’s staff took part in a large dinner, not to honour us, but to cheer up Gianni. After the show, Nicola, his wife, my wife and I went down to a little pizzeria to quietly toast to our win. It was just the four of us.”

In the days and weeks leading up to the 1972 San Remo Festival, there had been quite some discussion about the rather daring lyrics of the song – and eventually for the festival, the most specific allusions to an under-age child engaging in sexual activity were edited out. Combined with the understated arrangement, it really was a stand-out entry. 

“Perhaps, it wasn’t a typical San Remo song,” reflects Reverberi, “but, as Nicola’s producer, I thought it would be perfectly suited to his style of singing and his image as a singer-songwriter. Nicola mostly sang his own compositions, but I always had the last word on which songs were to be included on his albums. When I felt his own creations weren’t good enough, I asked other authors – and, over the years, I also wrote a song or two for him myself. In those years, it seemed to matter little what Nicola put on his repertoire; everything he touched turned to gold. The guy had an incredible voice – very modern for those days. Before he had his first success in Italy with ‘La prima cosa bella’, he had already been hugely popular with audiences in South America, especially in Argentina. Nicola spoke perfect Spanish and recorded all of his songs in that language, which helped him winning the hearts of people there.”

Once it was clear that ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’ was going to be the Italian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, to be held in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, Reverberi had to abridge the arrangement he had used in San Remo, which exceeded the time limit allowed in Eurovision – three minutes – by some thirty seconds. In Edinburgh, the short instrumental break in the San Remo version towards the end of the song, as well as the last two lines in the lyrics, had been cut off. 

Nicola Di Bari rehearsing his performance of ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’ at the 1972 San Remo Festival

“Oh, really?,” Reverberi reacts. “Honestly, I don’t have any recollection of that. All of this took place nearly fifty years ago, you know! Nicola and I travelled to Edinburgh with some officials of RAI Television, but there was nobody from RCA to accompany us. The Eurofestival wasn’t an event which drew much attention from Italian media or public. Our participation was a low key affair, but we knew the contest was extremely popular in just about all of the rest of Europe. It was interesting to have Nicola perform for such a large audience. There had been little discussion about the song. As far as I remember, no other title was ever considered. After we had won San Remo, we would perform ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’ in Eurovision too.”

“Nicola and I never felt any pressure about doing Eurovision. We had won so many trophies in Italy. As far as we were concerned, we already were the winners. We saw the Eurovision Song Contest as an opportunity to have fun and to see how far we would get. Really, we had nothing to lose. Personally, I was convinced we wouldn’t win it. Our song wasn’t written with Northern European musical taste in mind. I don’t say that it was too good for Eurovision – far from it, because I remember there were many good entries in Edinburgh – but the sound wasn’t international enough. Nicola had found his audience in Italy and Southern America. He had the vocal qualities required of an international artist, but I don’t think ‘I giorni dell’arcobaleno’ could have blown away an English-speaking audience the way it had done in San Remo. In the Eurovision Song Contest, different types of music were successful than those in San Remo. I don’t think Nicola could have come close to winning the Eurofestival with any of his other Italian hits of those years either.”

“The orchestra put at our disposal by the BBC was fantastic, in one word. I had always held English musicians in high esteem, and the rehearsals in Scotland confirmed my belief in that. These guys could play anything to perfection. I don’t speak English, but there was no need to make any adjustment. Of course, I wasn’t a natural-born conductor. At the San Remo Festival, I only conducted the entries performed by Nicola Di Bari. On all other occasions when I was involved as a producer or songwriter, someone else wrote the arrangement and conducted the orchestra; my younger brother Giampiero, in most cases. He had studied conducting at the music academy. Later on in his career, he conducted symphony orchestras, something I never aspired to.”

“In a way, Giampiero taught me the basics of conducting – the things you needed to know to get by in the recording studio, leading a group of session musicians. He never gave me any formal lessons, but I often watched him at work conducting an orchestra – as well as other studio arrangers. By the second half of the 1960s, when I toured the world with Michele, Nicola Di Bari, and Lucio Dalla, I had become quite experienced at conducting orchestras. Conducting light-entertainment music isn’t really that complicated, to be honest. It’s about knowing how to read and write music scores, about knowing the range and sound of each instrument; in other words, in musical terms, it’s mostly about having acquired a certain level of cultura.”

Gianfranco Reverberi counting in the orchestra for Nicoli Di Bari's winning San Remo performance in 1972

In the voting, the Italian song did reasonably well, finishing in sixth position in a field of eighteen participating entries. “It was a good result,” Reverberi comments. “To me, the experience had been a very interesting one. I had never before conducted an orchestra of English musicians. For Nicola, Eurovision could have been more than just interesting, if only he had been willing to learn English. The festival could have been the springboard to a worldwide breakthrough. The guy had everything needed to succeed at that, except for one element; he didn’t speak English and he was too lazy to learn the language. In the countries of Northern Europe, the Italian language is usually a barrier for artists trying to achieve success, with the possible exception of Germany. In England, songs in Italian simply don’t work. When you want to succeed in Europe or worldwide, being able to sing in the English language is a requirement.”

Although Di Bari and Reverberi had planned to fly back to Italy right after the Eurovision Song Contest, they eventually stayed in Great Britain for one more week. 

“While we were at the festival in Edinburgh, Nicola and I were approached by a very nice gentleman, an italo-inglese, a British citizen with Italian roots who was a big fan of Nicola’s music. As it turned out, he was the owner of a chain of hotels in Britain. With extreme kindness, he invited to take the two of us on a tour across Scotland and the northern half of England as his guests. On a trip which lasted some five or six days, he showed us around the country. One of the destinations was the forest of Robin Hood. In the evenings, we stayed in one of his hotels – each night in a different one – and, each night, Nicola gave a little concert for the other guests, performing several of his songs accompanied by me at the piano. Of course, the majority of the audiences for whom he sang were English and spoke no word of Italian, but with his voice and stage presence, Nicola had them eating out of his hand. Seeing that, I was all the more convinced that this guy had everything needed to make il giro del mondo… but then, I repeat myself, Nicola lacked the motivation to learn English, so it stopped there and then.”

After his participations in the San Remo Festival with Nicola Di Bari, the last one being in 1974, Gianfranco Reverberi never returned to the contest. “I could no longer be bothered to take part really. Roughly from the time the festival moved from San Remo’s Casino to the Ariston Theatre (in 1977 – BT), it stopped being a music festival. In my time, everyone participating in San Remo was virtually assured of having a hit, even the one who came last. From the second half of the 1970s on, record sales in Italy dropped dramatically – and music festivals, not only San Remo but others as well, existed on the grace of record companies submitting their artists and their songs to a competition. There’s no longer money to be made from the record industry in this country. As a result, most song festivals have disappeared. The San Remo Festival is still there, but nobody in Italy remembers any of the songs – even the winning songs – of the last twenty years. The music really only exists on the sideline. More importance seems to be attached to the way the girls hosting the show are dressed! The programme doesn’t stand out as it used to. If you ask me, it has become a run-of-the-mill Saturday night entertainment show. I for one have stopped watching. The only reason it still exists is because it fills up the cash till of the organisers.”

When asked if he feels the same about the Eurovision Song Contest, Reverberi, surprisingly perhaps, refutes. “Well, the Eurofestival is something different. You see, at San Remo, originality is lacking almost completely. Italian music seems to have been watered down to a point where the landscape consists of little more than rip-offs of songs from Britain or the United States – frankly the only two countries nowadays which occasionally produce worldwide chart successes. The Eurovision Song Contest has a more international outlook than San Remo. It’s interesting to follow what songwriters from others parts of the world come up with. Occasionally, the Eurovision stage produces an international hit. On the downside, it’s regrettable that the orchestra no longer has a place in Eurovision. An orchestra is very important in creating an atmosphere in which music can bring about emotions. Without an orchestra, the living element, or the human factor if you like, is missing. Still, I would prefer watching the Eurovision Song Contest any day over San Remo!”

Nicola Di Bari on stage at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall: Eurovision 1972


So far, we have not gathered comments of other artists about Gianfranco Reverberi.


Country – Italy
Song title – "I giorni dell’arcobaleno"
Rendition – Nicola Di Bari 
Lyrics – Dalmazio Masini
Composition – Nicola Di Bari / Piero Pintucci
Studio arrangement – Piero Pintucci
(studio orchestra conducted by Piero Pintucci)
Live orchestration – Piero Pintucci / Gianfranco Reverberi
Conductor – Gianfranco Reverberi
Score – 6th place (92 votes)

  • Bas Tukker did an interview with Gianfranco Reverberi for this website, February 2021
  • Gianfranco Reverberi wrote his memoirs; a very entertaining book entitled "La testa nel secchio", ed. Iacobelli: Rome 2017
  • Gianfranco Reverberi gave an interview in 2017 to Alfea TV, which can be accessed by following this YouTube link
  • Dario Salvatori, "Sanremo 50. La vicenda e i protagonist di mezzo secolo di festival della canzone", ed. RAI-ERI: Rome 2000
  • Eddy Anselmi, "Festival di Sanremo. Almanacco illustrato della Canzone Italiana", ed. Panini: Modena 2009
  • A playlist with music composed, arranged, conducted, and produced by Gianfranco Reverberi can be accessed by following this YouTube link
  • Photos courtesy of Gianfranco Reverberi and Ferry van der Zant
  • Thanks to Lily Beatrice Cooper and Edwin van Gorp for proofreading the manuscript