The Italian Almanac
Fabrizio De Andre'
Tenco was born in Cassine (province of Alessandria), the son of Teresa Zoccola and Giuseppe Tenco. He never knew his father, who died in unclear circumstances. Tenco spent his childhood in Cassine and Ricaldone until 1948, when he moved to Liguria, first to Nervi and then to Genoa, where his mother had a wine shop. During high school, Tenco founded the Jerry Roll Morton Boys Jazz band, in which Tenco played the clarinet and another singer, later to become famous, Bruno Lauzi, the banjo. Gino Paoli, also a future famous Italian singer-songwriter, was a member of the later Tenco band, I Diavoli del Rock ("The Rock Devils").
Tenco made his debut in the world of Italian professional music with the band I cavalieri ("The Knights"), which included Giampiero Reverberi and Enzo Jannacci amongst others. During this period he used the pseudonym Gigi Mai. In 1961 Tenco released his first single, under his real name, entitled Quando ("When"). Tenco's first LP was released in 1962, Ballate e canzoni. One of the songs, "Cara maestra" ("Dear Teacher"), was censored by the then thriving Italian media censorship. The censors struck again in the following year, against his songs "Io sì" ("I Do") and "Una brava ragazza" ("A Nice Girl").
In 1966, suffering through a period of compulsory military service, he released Un giorno dopo l'altro ("A Day After Another") for RCA. In Rome during the same year, he met and befriended the Italo-French singer Dalida. The two were eventually to become lovers. In 1967 he took part in the Italian Song Festival in San Remo. It was rumoured that he participated against his will. The song he presented was Ciao Amore Ciao ("Hello Love, Hello"), which he had to sing together with Dalida. Tenco allegedly committed suicide on January 27, after learning that his song had been eliminated from the final competition. Tenco was found in his hotel room with a bullet wound in his left temple and a note announcing that his gesture was against the jury and public's choices during the competition. Only days earlier Tenco's wedding to Dalida had been announced. It was she who discovered his body.
Tenco was buried in Ricaldone. In 1974 the Tenco Award was instituted, and has been held every year since in San Remo. Many of the most renowned Italian singer-songwriters from the 1970s declared explicitly the influence of Tenco on their work. Francesco De Gregori's album Bufalo Bill of 1976 contained a song, "Festival," about Tenco's suicide; it points out the hypocrisy with which the music establishment tried to minimize the dramatic event, in order to let the show go on.