Mr. J

Mr. J
Teresa Favi

40 years old, a whirlwind of ideas, thoughts, projects. Today, Lorenzo Cherubini


All night long counsel of his weary bed, vexed with a ceaseless care, Orlando sought; now here, now there, the restless fancy sped, now turned, now seized, but never held the thought.
He smiles from beneath his golden-brown hair, fixes his sweet eyes on me and says: “It’s Orlando, so distressed by a ceaseless coming and going of thoughts that he’s unable to focus on a single one. These lines remind me of myself and the many confused thoughts crossing my mind that I was able to put in order many years ago by using an amazing trick: rhythm. That is how I started working. Orlando reminds me also that my friend Bruno De Franceschi and I have been texting one another for five years over a project on the Orlando Furioso, he is writing the music and I send him the lyrics. And also the project that I, along with other people of my age, have conceived for Cortona”.
Lorenzo Cherubini, known as Jovanotti, a life of extraordinary things: the third child of four, born into a family from Cortona, he grew up in Rome where his father worked as an official of the Papal State. He started his career as a singer in 1988. He became a popular hip-hop singer in the land of if-you-do-not-have-a-beautiful-voice-you-will-never-make-it. Then came the days of world music and message songs and, in his forties, he released Safari, the Italian No.1 album of 2008. He lives in Cortona where, on September 6th 2008, in the Church of Santa Maria Nuova, he married Francesca, his lifetime girlfriend. When Lorenzo is not touring, he stays in Cortona with Francesca and their ten-year-old daughter Teresa. Cortona is also the town where Lorenzo decided to carry out his Orlando Lab project, in the Medicean fortress at the top of the town, a sort of home for creative people that will be inaugurated in 2010. The place is meant to be open to contemporary arts experimentation and equipped with an ultramodern recording studio.
Lorenzo, what is creativity in your opinion?
I would rather talk about invention. Leonardo da Vinci used to say “I’m an inventor”, not “I’m a creative person”. He used the term invention to refer to nearly everything, to the catapult as well as to his paintings which he considered inventions. Creativity implies the creation of something, but everything has been created already. What we can do is invent, by using the objects of the Creation, arranging them in sequence. Something we humans know how to do very well.
There is no creativity without..?
Poverty and hardship. If you’re not hungry, you can’t enjoy food. The black slaves brought to the United States were not allowed to play instruments and so they invented a dance that was music at the same time. It was called tip-tap. Bob Dylan is, in my opinion, the greatest pop-music artist of the 1900s. In the beginning he made music only with guitar and voice, nothing else. The energy lied all in the strength he expressed by using those two means. He had no computer, no special recording studios, nothing of what today we consider indispensable to cut a record. Nonetheless, Bob Dylan won the world over with his music, he changed an entire generation’s perception of the world.
Who is your favorite artist?
I was born in Rome, immersed up to my neck in art, magnificent art. However, the first artist that really impressed me was Keith Haring who did very simple things. He communicated through signs. He started painting graffiti in New York’s subway, then an art gallery owner realized how talented he was and said : “Hey, why don’t you make those signs on canvas, so we can sell them?” And he transformed an instinct into a business. In a good way though, because at a certain point he asked himself: “Why should I do a job during the day and then, secretly, do what I like, when I can use my strength to do something marketable?”. The market isn’t an enemy, it has been around for 5000 years: you make something and sell it. You can take his signs anywhere, from the Amazonian forest to the University of Berlin, they will always show the same force because it is an absolute force. Whether you show it to a three-year-old child or to an art critic, that force never changes.
You admire simplicity but you also appreciate technology.
My motto is “better now than before”. Technology is now, you can’t ignore it. For instance, Auto-tune is a program allowing pitch correction when you’re tone-deaf. Everybody uses it today, it’s really cool. If you’re recording a piece of music and you’ve found the right feeling but you hit a false note, you just correct the mistake and keep the feeling. It’s a trick but it also helps you learn from your mistakes.
It is possible to define the power of music?
In Brazil, in a time of great political oppression, music kept the people united for about fifteen years. Can you imagine, a country oppressed by a military dictatorship, by repressive governments, that was able to keep its culture and identity alive through music. The power of music? It’s incalculable.
What is your key word?
I’ve always been impressed by the fact that Moses, he who revealed the laws of God to mankind, stuttered. You know what that means? Anything is possible as long as you want it enough. With God’s blessing, of course.