Salvatore Adamo

Salvatore Adamo

Belgian chansonnier
Date of Birth: 31.10.1943
Country: Belgium

  1. Biography of Salvatore Adamo
  2. The First Guitar
  3. Journey to Belgium
  4. Life in Belgium
  5. Education and Passion
  6. Life in Brussels
  7. Sensitivity and Activism

Biography of Salvatore Adamo

Salvatore Adamo, the Belgian singer-songwriter, is a man who managed to remain humble despite his fame (having sold over eighty million albums). He is the face of his songs - genuine, touching, and sincere. His life story intertwines with the history of immigration. When exhibitions, colloquiums, festivals, and ceremonies remind us of the Italo-Belgian agreement, the most beloved Italian in Belgium, known worldwide, speaks from the heart about his Italian roots and his Belgian support. The documents were collected by Marcel Leroy.

Salvatore Adamo

The First Guitar

Salvatore Adamo's first guitar hangs in the hall of his villa in Brussels. The wood of the instrument is scratched by the first chords that led the singer to fame. His grandfather sent him this guitar from Sicily for his fourteenth birthday. On the guitar, a small white flower is still visible.

Journey to Belgium

Adamo, born on October 31, 1943, in Comiso, near Ragusa, Sicily, landed at Mons station in June 1947. His father was waiting for his wife and son on the waterfront, who arrived to join him. Salvatore never forgot his origins. The guitar slowly reminds him of this among the statues that inhabit the large room, where Arthur and Mortimer, the family dogs, bark together. Holding an espresso cup, Adamo looks back on his childhood. His father left for Belgium in February 1947. Antonio, a miner, went down into the mine to make a living. "I was very young, barely three years old," recalls Adamo. "Like in Fellini's film 'Amarcord,' I see the big white ship again at night. It was a ferry in the Strait of Messina. To my childish eyes, it looked like a steamboat. My mother and I traveled third class, sitting on our knots, chewing bread and sausage. Belgium was gray and cold. The barrack camp in Gline, where we stayed for several dreadful months, was equally gray." Looking back, Adamo appreciates the efforts his parents made. "But," he says, "they had work, they were content. Antonio decided that Belgium was better than Argentina."

Life in Belgium

After Gline, the Adamo family moved to Zeleny Krest, Jemappes. His father descended into the coal mine 28, not far from the canal. "I never intended to complain. I had friends, both Italians and little Belgians. There were no differences. I found Italy in the Neapolitan songs of my father. In the evenings, pressing my ear against the radio, we listened to the Sanremo Festival or something else from Italy. My father had to endure resettlement to a foreign country. My mother cooked Italian dishes for us. Recently, in Italy, I remembered the forgotten taste thanks to the dish 'pasta fagiolle,' pasta in beans. I ate it in school during that time. I highly appreciated Belgian cuisine!" Reading the lines of "The Italian Streets," a kind book by Girolemo Santokono, Salvatore revisits the film of his youth. He understands well how his parents protected him from the difficulties of the journey but refuses to speak further out of delicacy. And suddenly, he solemnly says, "There were terrible things..."

Education and Passion

Always at the top of his class, Salvatore was seen as nothing more than an Italian friend at the College of St. Ferdinand in Jemappes, where he studied. His father wanted him to avoid the fate of a metallurgist at the "Forges de la Laminerie" in Jemappes. Therefore, his parents were skeptical of his growing passion for singing, although singing was so natural to everyone that they never thought it could become a profession. This passion, however, prevented the young man from completing his education at the St. Luke College in Tournai to become a major international artist instead of one of the many stars of the twist era. Adamo always wrote songs in French, the language of his culture. He doesn't speak Italian well enough to find words that resonate with our era. For two or three weeks in Milan, during the Neapolitan Song Festival, he immerses himself again in the melodies that marked his youth. "I hear my father's singing again." His favorite remains "Lacrimae Napolitane" ("Neapolitan Tear"). These songs speak of the sun, love, friendship, and roots. Both serious and joyful, they bring forth and share emotions. In 1997, after anniversary ceremonies, Adamo will release a record with those songs. He will dedicate them to that time, forever capturing it.

Life in Brussels

Influenced by Victor Hugo, Prevert, Brassens, and chansonettes, Adamo was enchanted by Italian films shown in "Le Palace," "L'Étoile," or "L'Eldorado." Remaining faithful to Borinage until the landscapes of his childhood became hazy, he settled in Brussels with his family - his wife Nicole Duran and their sons Antoine and Benjamin. It is where he conducts his business, not too far from Zaventem. "My mother continues to live in Jemappes until the end," says Salvatore. "When I go to Paris, I stop there to greet my dear parents." But he mourns seeing the dead factories, and unemployment torments his life.

Sensitivity and Activism

This sensitivity towards others is reflected in his songs. He actively participates in initiatives such as "Live Aid" or "USA for Africa," saying, "The money spent on moon flights could have fed African countries for several years. Before reaching for the stars, we must address our problems on Earth." Today, Adamo is an ambassador for UNICEF and writes lyrics about people living on the streets. He remains true to the way of life imparted to him by his father - a blend of humility and attention. Tony died on August 7, 1966, from a heart attack on a Sicilian beach, and his example guides his son.

"I try to do my work well and understand others. And this is what I wish for, speaking for twenty years about immigrants who suffer, just as Italians suffer now. As the son of an immigrant, I am proud to have taught successful people whose names end in 'o' or 'i'. If I remained Italian, it might be in the name of loyalty to my ancestors' country. I see it as a free love on one side and a marriage on the other. You don't need to sign papers to truly love."

When asked about commercialism overshadowing artistic values, he responds that such parallels have always existed. Singers like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan spread significant and serious ideas in their songs. During the yé-yé movement, there were artists like Brel and Brassens. Nowadays, Cabrel and Souchon replace the "dance music."

His message to young people is to "overcome this difficult phase by relying on dreams, desires, or anything that can brighten their lives." Salvatore Adamo is a man who managed to remain humble despite his fame (having sold over eighty million albums). He is the face of his songs - genuine, touching, and sincere.