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Music / Franco De Vita

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"You depart today, tomorrow I will"

"One cannot be a normal person and a musician at once, that's not interesting at all"
Franco De Vita

Franco De Vita (full name: Franco Atilio De Vita De Vito), born in Caracas in January 1954, is a Venezuelan singer and songwriter. Over the decades, he became one of the most popular Latin American musicians, being also well-known within the Spanish-speaking community of the United States, and won numerous awards (including two Latin Grammy awards).

His love for music began in The '60s, when he watched a popular Italian musical show for kids. When he returned to Venezuela at age 13, he received from one of his siblings a guitar sold in Italy, and began practicing with it. At age 18, he moved to New York, from which he kept track of the cultural developments on art, music and theatre. His first formal foray into music occured with a band known as Corpus, which helped him create performances for friends during baptisms, 15th-birthday parties and weddings. However, it was a difficult start overall, as many of the genres touched upon were alien to him; he once recalled in an interview that he had to sing salsa even though he was more used to rock (him being originally influenced by Italian music didn't help), and he had to comply with the what the customers (the people who organized the parties and ceremonies) wished. And then much of his band's equipment was robbed when their truck was plundered. Corpus dissolved shortly afterwards.

When he returned to Venezuela, with his passion for music shut down, he studied tourism in the university, but left the career shortly before graduating. With two of his former bandmates plus two new guitarists, he gave another shot to music and formed Ícaro in 1982. They published an album flavored with pop-rock songs, all of which were written by Franco. Despite the success of the album, the band dissolved in 1983, which motivated Franco to try a solo career. In 1984, under the contract of a local music label (Sonográfica, seeded in Caracas), he released his first solo album, simply called Franco De Vita. It became a huge success, selling over 550000 copies and achieving Gold and Platinum certifies; songs like Un buen perdedor, No hay cielo and Somos tres were among the public's favorites.

Since then, he would release new albums while incorporating other genres to go along with his pop/rock hybrid style. For example, Fantasía (released in 1986) made a strong focus on string and metal instrumentation, which was reflected in the album's most iconic songs (such as the eponymous "Fantasía" or "Sólo importas tú"); the album would be even more succesful than its predecessor, and led Franco to act in a movie that mirrored the struggles he had to face during his life and career. Later, with Al norte del sur (1988, co-produced between Sonográfica and US network CBS), Franco wrote and sang tracks that combined string and wind instrumentation to fuse rock with folklore and jazz; such examples included "Te amo" and "Louis", the latter being a very poignant reflection of Franco's own experience as a musician. The third album sold even better than its two predecessors. His final album with Sonográfica was Extranjero (1990), which stood out from its predecessors due to its mature handling of themes related to immigration and the deconstruction of the American Dream archetype.

From 1992 onwards, Franco De Vita signed a long-term contract with Sony Music to produce new albums. Their first production together was a live concert in March 1992, in which he not only sang several of his best tracks but also premiered two brand-new ones, one of them being the beloved "Entre tu vida y la mía". This concert resulted in a live album (En vivo marzo 16) which became his biggest commercial success yet (and for its time, it also had the most extensive song list, with 16 tracks), with over one and a half million units sold. Since then, he would produce more albums, with varying degrees of commercial success (though none of them were flops); and over the years he earned prestige for not only creating powerful love songs but also tracks that teem with mature, controversial themes such as homeless children, homophobia, domestic violence, divorce, war, natural disasters, sexual frustration, dishonesty, miscommunication between partners, long-distance love and (in his last album in 2016) Venezuela's crisis. Even the love-oriented songs tend to touch upon difficult topics like unrequited love, lack of courage to confess feelings, and depression due to heartbreaks. And in all cases, Franco knew what he was doing, because the consensus among fans and music critics is that he handled those topics right.

As a side note, he created a compilation album with Universal Music Group in 2002 after a brief departure from Sony Music, but returned to the latter label the following year; and as soon as he did so he began working on his next album (Stop).

Being a songwriter, Franco also composed songs for other musicians, such as Ricky Martin ("Vuelve", "A medio vivir", "Tal vez"), Ana Belén ("Un extraño en mi bañera", later included in one of Franco's own albums), and Luis Fonsi ("No te cambio por ninguna"), only to name a few. He also made an extensive number of collaborations and duets with other Latin American singers.

Discography (solo career):

  • Franco De Vita (1984)
  • Fantasía (1986)
  • Al norte del sur (1988)
  • Extranjero (1990)
  • En vivo marzo 16 (1992)note 
  • Voces a mi alrededor (1993)
  • Fuera de este mundo (1996)
  • Nada es igual (1999)
  • Stop (2004; rereleased with extra content as Stop + Algo Más in 2005)
  • Mil y una historias en vivo (2006)note 
  • Simplemente la verdad (2008)
  • En primera fila (2011)note 
  • Vuelve en primera fila (2013)note 
  • Libre (2016)

His music provides examples of:

  • Amicable Exes: The theme of "Un Buen Pededor" (A Graceful Loser). In the song, Franco is aware that his ex-girlfriend found someone else in her intimate life, but he's okay with it. He wishes her the best of luck, and should she need the advice of a good friend, he'll always be there to talk with her about it.
  • Break Up Song: The theme of "Si la ves" (If You See Her). Franco is singing to a friend; he is telling them that, should they see by any chance Franco's ex-girlfriend, they should tell her on his behalf that he overcame his sadness over their breakup, that he has since found a new significant other, and that he has moved on from thinking of her. At the end of the chorus, Franco changes his mind and tells his friend instead that, should they see his ex-girlfriend, they should just make her believe that they haven't even seen Franco himself in a long while (likely to prevent the girl from trying to reignite an Old Flame or sabotage Franco's new relationship).
  • Bumbling Dad: The theme of "No Basta" (It's Not Enough), and despicted very realistically. In it, Franco calls out a father who trivializes the problems his child consults to him, including the concept of sex or being bullied in school. Said father does try to make his child happy by buying toys and the like, but never gives himself time to actually be with the child and share time together.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: The theme of "Preso de mi propio sentimiento" (Slave Of My Own Feelings). Franco is unable to tell his Love Interest about his feelings, and as a result his mind and heart are being tormented over the prospect that said feelings may never be outed.
  • Darkest Hour: The theme of "¿Dónde está el amor?" (Where Is Love?). In this song, the world has been corrupted by prejudices, resentment, selfishness and insecurity; compassion ceased to exist, and there's nothing good to believe in anymore. Franco frequently asks where love has gone, and prays so his voice can allow him to keep denouncing the injustices, and so his heart keeps beating for him to live for long enough to see love once again.
  • Domestic Abuse: The theme of "Un extraño en mi bañera" (A Stranger In My Bathtub). In it, Franco roleplays as a woman who is being physically abused by her husband. The woman tells how she's unable to recognize her husband when he's in his darkest mood, yet she's unable to denounce him due to fears of being ridiculed. Near the end of the song, Franco breaks character to make a non-sung commentary on the outcome: The husband ends up killing the woman and, due to the incompetence of the justice, he gets acquitted due to the lack of witnesses; everyone who hears about this news claim that people must prevent a repeat of this in the future, but even that hollow resolve won't revert what already happened.
  • Foreign Language Title: The album Stop. All songs are in Spanish, though the word Stop is mentioned frequently in the song "Vamos al grano" (Let's Get To The Point). Interestingly, the updated version Stop + Algo Más does have an English cover of one of the original's songs.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: The song "Otoño" (Autumn) is the only song in Franco De Vita's career that is entirely instrumental. The style of the music is also very reminiscent of classic-era music.
  • Gay Aesop: "Rosa o clavel" (Rose Or Carnation), which tells about two people from the same sex who love each other and live happily together. As Franco sings, he tells his listeners that what they're witnessing (the gay couple) shouldn't be a big deal for anyone.
  • Genre Roulette: The album Simplemente la verdad (Simply The Truth) provides several songs that are played in a particular musical genre each; examples include "Cántame" (Sing For Me) which is strongly inspired in Joropo music, "Callo" (I'm Silent) which combines salsa with a tropical flavor, "Diez años y un día" (Ten Years And One Day) which is rock-based, and so on.
  • Gratuitous English: Though not too frequently, there are songs with English words or phrases (like "Here we go!" in the last verse of the song "Te Recordaré"). Franco himself does speak English fluently, however, having lived part of his teenage life in the United States. He also made an English cover of one of his songs.
  • The Great Flood: The theme of "Lluvia" (Rain). It tells about a city that is being ravaged by an intense downpour, causing not only an irreversible material loss but also many deaths; at one point, a kid who is struggling to survive tries to check if the ceiling of his house is still in its place.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: The theme of several early songs, such as "Extranjero", "Louis" and "Latino". Respectively:
    • "Extranjero" (Foreigner) tells about a Venezuelan worker who has to leave his homeland to make a living in another country while also securing a good future to his children (who stay in Venezuela). But during his life outside, he learns the hard way that the rights, the protection and the sovereignty he had before aren't present while he's a foreigner.
    • "Louis" tells about a man who traveled to another country to build up a music career... but first he has to make a living and find stability, so he works as a cabbie. Even then, he continues dreaming that he'll become a singer one day, performing in concerts and entertaining the public. As the years pass, he grows older and never manages to even start his career, so all the time he spent outside his home country was just to survive.
    • "Latino" (Hispanic) tells about a Venezuelan man who, tired of living in an underdeveloped country rife with corruption and misery, travels to New York. His life goes From Bad to Worse, as he not only faces difficulties due to Language Barrier (he doesn't speak English), but also deliberate Misplaced Nationalism (he isn't seen as "American" because the demonym is only reserved there for people born in "America" the country, not the continent) and social prejudices. He married a woman in order to apply for a residence visa, but then she divorced him and the police arrested him. Even having a green card didn't save him from deportation.
  • Instrumentals: All of Franco's songs have lyrics (him being a songwriter makes it a given) except for "Otoño" (Autumn), which is the last track of the album Voces a mi alrededor. The entire composition is a wistful melody reminiscent of New Age songs.
  • Intercourse with You: The theme of "Sexo" (Sex) and "Ay Dios" (Oh God), portrayed in opposite ways. The former is about Franco telling his partner about wanting to have sex with her, though she tells him that he's only thinking about sex; in the latter, they are having a long moment of intimacy.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: The theme of "Golpeando en el mismo lugar" (Punching In The Same Spot) and "Te recordaré" (I'll Remember You), portrayed in opposite ways. Both songs tell about two lovers who must part ways, but the former is a defeatist take where Franco clearly laments the parting, and is bound to suffer over the lack of close interaction with his partner; in the latter, while he's still sad over the parting, he's far more optimistic in that the two will reunite someday, and in the meantime he'll always cherish the moments they've spent together and think of her in every opportunity.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: Simplemente la verdad closes with Diez años y un día (8:15).
  • A Mistake Is Born: The theme of "Somos Tres" ([Now] We Are Three). A young man is told by his girlfriend that she got pregnant after their latest affair. The man, far from being horrified, tells her that he'll always love her, and that he'll gladly welcome their child once he or she is born; he even proposes to marry the woman so the two can raise the child together.
  • Oddball in the Series:
    • Among the studio albums, Fuera de este mundo (Out Of This World) is unique in that Franco employed a very acoustic flavor for his songs, which gives them an otherwordly feel (hence the sidereal aesthetics of the album's lyric booklet and the album's name, which is also the name of one of the songs). The album was also recorded in London, with the help of session guitarist Phil Palmer; many of the other albums were recorded in either Spain or the United States, and assisted by non-European musicians.
    • Among compilation albums, Segundas partes también son buenas (Second Installments Are Good Too). It was the only album Franco produced with Universal Music instead of Sony.
  • Parental Abandonment: The theme of "Los hijos de la oscuridad" (The Children Of Darkness). The song tells about children who were abandoned by their parents at a very early age, forcing them to live in the streets and eating remnants of frood from the garbage bins to sustain themselves.
  • Queer Flowers: The song "Rosa O Clavel" (Rose Or Carnation) symbolizes the romance between two witnessed gay men with the eponymous flowers, and are mentioned in this fashion during the song's chorus.
  • Re-Cut: Stop + Algo Más, an updated version of the 2004 album Stop. In addition to featuring the original's nine songs, it also adds four remixes where Franco is performing a duet with another musician (for example, "Ay Dios" with Olga Tañón), plus an English version of another song from the original album.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The lyrics of "Quién lo iba a saber" (Who Would Have Known). The external connotation appears to be that it's a typical love song about Franco looking for a partner in so many places, only to find her in the most unexpected of them all. However, many people who listened to this song feel that it's more accurately themed around Franco looking for God. It's agreed that the two potential themes are entirely indistinguishable for the song's lyrics.
  • Sex Equals Love: Called out in the song "Vamos al grano" (Let's Get To The Point). In it, Franco insists to his partner that their intercourse should be strictly casual, not tied in any way to romance or affection. He stresses that it's best that they don't even remember each other's names afterwards.
  • Silly Love Songs: Many of them, but they've been acclaimed for their insightful message of devotion to the target partner. Notable examples include "Te amo" (I Love You), "Entre tu vida y la mía" (Between Your Life And Mine), "Fuera de este mundo" (Out Of This World), "Ay Dios" (Oh God).
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: The theme of "Como cada domingo" (Like Every Sunday). Franco roleplays as a man who divorced his wife, and the custody fell largely onto her. The song is aimed at his son, advising him to be careful when crossing the street and always obeying his mother as well as his teacher. In the chorus, he promises him to visit him every Sunday (hence the song's name) so they go to a park and play together.
  • You Need to Get Laid: The theme of "Traigo una pena" (I'm In A Rut). Franco roleplays as a sexually frustrated man who needs to satiate his needs after a long-term abstention, but his wife is not in the mood for that. So he looks for... external sources. He asks several of his friends (who are actually played by other musicians, making this song a collab) for advice, but none of them are able to help him. He then resorts to asks the wife's best friend to sleep with him, but she feels that doing so would be a betrayal for her BFF. The song ends with the poor man being (metaphorically, not literally) screwed.