The subject of this post of “Underground” is the Argentine album “Piero,” released in 1969 by the Argentine singer Piero (full name: Piero de Benedictis). To the English speaking world, he is a relative unknown. But to Latin America, this album is very significant.
This is Piero’s debut album, and with it comes his famous collaboration with lyricist, poet and journalist Jose Tcherkaski. It is a breakthrough album due to its profound song lyrics, melodies that can be very useful to sample, and Piero’s vocals that deliver with soft but powerful emotion. The album, as a whole, is considered a classic and rightly so.
The first track of Side 1, “Vengo” (I come), is a ballad about coming from a humble neighborhood. It could be interpreted as an anthem for the poor, but I could be wrong about the meaning. For me, “Vengo” is about remembering your humble roots no matter what or where you came from.
Next is “De vez en cuando viene bien dormir” (Once in a while it’s good to sleep) . A lively beat song, this track is simply stating that when life beats you down, sleep it off. However, one must try hard to combat life’s trials so they can live. As the first verse explains:
“Si uno solo sabe dormir
Solo le queda soñar o morir
Aunque la verdad es que cuesta reír
Pero en fin
Haciendo un esfuerzo
Se puede vivir.”
(If one only knows how to sleep
All they have left is to dream or die
Although the truth is that it costs to laugh
By making an effort
You can live)- Piero
“Como Somos” (How we are) is the third track that won Piero and Jose the first prize at the Festival Buenos Aires de la Cancion in 1969. This sonata profoundly describes how people are and remind us of our sad mortality as the next generation of people always search for their lost ones. This makes one think as to how insignificant we all are in reality but try to make up for it with what we leave behind to our next of kin.
“Caminando por Caracas” (Walking through Caracas) is a ballad-beat about having fun and enjoying Caracas, Venezuela.
“Fumemos un cigarrillo” (Let’s smoke a cigarette) is another ballad-beat. However, it’s a song about trying to stop a breakup from happening between two lovers in a quarrel. They talk it through, they cry it through, and they remember it through but always go back to square one via the cigarettes. I heard a car drive by that sampled the beat of “Fumemos un cigarrillo” that was performed by a local artist whose name I have no idea. A lovely song to sample.
“Mi viejo” (My old man) put Piero and Jose on the map so huge that to this day no other Latin artist can ever replicate the significance of honoring one’s father. However, “Mi viejo” gives the listener a huge dose of reality as the somber melody with somber lyrics makes one realize that once your father is dead, that’s it. Also, it reminds younger people that someday they will head down that road of slowing down, hoping that their offspring will honor their legacy just as the previous generation. This song is quite literally THE Father’s Day song you can listen to with your father or at your father’s funeral. SO profound this song, here is a link to how Piero and Jose worked on “Mi viejo”and how this song has a legacy unbeaten to this day. This mini documentary is only in Spanish, but you’ll get the feeling of how other artists appreciate this song.
Side 2 begins with “Juan Boliche.” A ballad about social issues and poverty, “Juan Boliche” tells the tale of Juan Boliche, a man suffering poverty issues while working for scraps. Juan Boliche is an allusion of when one is stuck in nearly extreme poverty. One verse describes the reality of undeveloped countries that makes sense today as it did back in 1969:
“Y tengo la vida vieja
A veces lamenta Juan
Trabaje hasta jubilarme
Pero nunca sobro pan”
(And I have an old life
Juan sometimes laments
Worked until retirement
But never enough for bread)- Piero
“Digame, digame” (Tell me, tell me) is a beat about how one changes so that their older counterpart can change too and yet the older person doesn’t. So the young person wants a response as to why the older person isn’t changing with the times. This makes one wonder if people have been doing this throughout time.
“Tomamos un cafe” (Let’s have a coffee) is a sad love ballad with a similar theme to “Fumemos un cigarrillo” but now we’re having a cup of coffee instead. It sounds as if two lovers are nearing the very end of their relationship and are hanging on one coffee cup at a time. No words between the two except for small sips and eye movement. This type of love story is nothing new, but it feels different at the same time. Will they break up? We’ll never know.
The next track is another ballad, called “Tengo la piel cansada de la tarde” (I have tired skin in the afternoon). Another love song here, only that the singer narrates that he is looking for his lover who has probably left him. Longing for his lost love, the narrator tirelessly searches in vain. Nice rhythm to maybe dance to.
The final track of the album is called ‘”La Gringa.” I don’t know if this song is about either Piero or Jose’s mother, but the composition is a wonderful conclusion to a great album. One must realize the hardships a mother goes through, even though the family would forget the matriarch’s actions at various times. Even more so when that matriarch is not in the living world anymore. I probably don’t know what “La gringa” is all about, but it has something to do with never forsaking one’s mother.
So there it is, Piero’s first album “Piero.” The songs, to me, are still relevant today. The album is remembered because of “Mi viejo,” but try to listen to the whole thing. It will leave you wanting more.