To say that we are all preparing to breathe a collective sigh of relief at the end of 2020 is probably an understatement! So as 2021 is about to dawn, full with promises of vaccines to end the pandemic, a release from the lockdown that has kept us away from our loved ones (and I include in these my local’s landlord), and a return to whatever each of us means by normality, I can’t help humming (when Philip or Demi aren’t listening: I’m only allowed to sing the Paw Patrol theme tune in the house) one of the Italian songs I grew up with (it was recorded in 1979, when I was about three): Lucio Dalla’s “L’ Anno Che Verrà” (which loosely translates as ‘The Year To Come’).
Written in the form of a letter to a distant friend, the singer recounts all the miseries he and others had to endure in the year that is ending (people not going out in the evenings, some even barricading themselves in their homes; no one speaking apart from those with nothing to say) and the transformation that the new year shall bring, as announced by news bulletins: Christmas three times a year, every Christ descending from their cross, birds making a return, food and light all year round, even sexual liberation is promised!
The song builds as it describes each of the new year’s promises, to reach its crescendo as Dalla finally admits to the futility such expectations, even if at the same time he acknowledges their necessity in order “to be able to laugh about it, to keep hoping”.
The new year will be over in a year’s time, he tells us: but at least this time he is ready for it, that’s what is really new.
Perhaps I’ve listened to it too many times in the last 41 years, but I don’t believe that 2021 will magically bring about any change either (or even deliver me of my lockdown belly). The only changes will be those we ourselves cause – each one of us individually and coming together in groups: in our homes, our communities, our places of work (physical or metaphorical), our running clubs…
Will they be for the best? For the worst?
Ask me in a year’s time.
As for the song, here it is played live in the year it was first recorded:
And here 32 years later:
…In both instances with the equally brilliant Francesco De Gregori.