It is with great sadness to announce that Francesco Di Giacomo (the beloved tenor singer of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso) passed away today from the result of a car accident. Details are sketchy about what caused the accident but it may be health related. Here is the posting on the internet and the English translation:
"È morto il 21 febbraio 2014 a Zagarolo, in provincia di Roma, per un incidente stradale avvenuto in via Valle del Formale. Nel tardo pomeriggio Di Giacomo era alla guida della sua auto di cui pare abbia perso il controllo schiantandosi, poi, contro un'altra autovettura che proveniva in senso contrario. Di Giacomo è deceduto durante il trasporto all’ospedale di Palestrina. La sera stessa è stato annunciato l'accadimento e ricordato da Fabio Fazio durante la diretta televisiva del Festival di Sanremo seguito dal cordoglio del pubblico."
"Francesco Di Giacomo died today February 21, 2014 in Zagarolo, a province of Rome, from a road traffic accident in Valle del Formale. In the late afternoon Di Giacomo was driving his car which seems to have lost control and crashed into oncoming traffic. Di Giacomo died during transport to Palestrina hospital. He was 66 years old. This evening, the news was announced by Fabio Fazio during the live broadcast of the Sanremo Festival followed by public mourning."
A few personal comments amd memories regarding Francesco...
As most of you know, Francesco was the closest thing that prog had to Pavarotti. He fronted the greatest Italian 70's prog band and his amazing voice and stage presence was second to none. I still remember as a youngster (circa 1981 when I was 15 and just learning about progressive music) walking through the record aisles of an L.A. K-Mart trying to find a third album in the 3 for .99 cents record deal they were having (ah, those were the days!) when I came across the self-titled 1975 compilation release. Looking at it and chuckling over the cover of a fat guy throwing up a shoe and then turning it over to see the same fat guy on a scale I thought, well...I might as well buy it (as a joke). I then noticed the instrumentation and thought, holy crap, this thing might actually be good. I still remember taking it home and being blown away over the music, vocals and level of musicianship. I owned every Banco record soon after.
In 2000 we invited Banco to our Progfest 2000 festival. We didn't know that we were supposed to pay for their food while they were here (they never mentioned it in advance) and I remember the sweat dripping down my forehead as I begrudgingly handed over my credit card to Francesco. Spock's Beard was performing that evening at the Troubadour in Hollywood and I drove the band out there to see them. About halfway through they decided to go nearby to get something to eat. About an hour later I went to check up on them and found them next door at an Italian restaurant (of all places!). The band and crew was sitting around a 12 foot table amid piles of salad, pasta, bottles of wine and everything else they could possibly order. I'm almost in tears at the site and I think I'm still paying off that darn meal to this day.
They had a great performance and we had an after-festival party at my house the next evening. I have a picture somewhere of Francesco asleep on my couch. It was kind of a surreal moment as here it was 20 years later and Francesco's in my living room. Back in the early days, these guys might as well of lived on the moon as you figured you would never see them in concert and certainly never meet them. Of course those were the days before the invention of the internet (thanks Al Gore!) and the prog music festivals which changed everything (for the meager prog community). The next day I drove him to the airport and we talked about music and art the entire way.
I was fortunate enough to see Banco perform at NEARfest in 2001. To this day, it stands out as my all-time favorite concert. It was one of those magical concerts you rarely see. Those of you who were there know what I mean.