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Vecchio Frac, Domenico Modugno

One of the first songs by Modugno (1955), that he played with a guitar accompaniment which he also used to create the rhythm (clapping his hand on the strings and the guitar case).
The lyrics tell the story of a man that takes his own life at dawn, dressed in white tie suit. As Modugno himself said many times, the song was inspired by Prince Raimondo Lanza di Trabia, a lover of sports cars and soccer, nicknamed the "great dandy", or the "last Sicilian prince", who at the age of 39, on 30th November 1954, committed suicide by jumping from the window of Hotel Eden, via Ludovisi, Rome.

vecchio frack, Domenico ModugnoLanguage corner: in Italian a frac is "white tie", while a smoking is a black tie suit.

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È giunta mezzanotte
si spengono i rumori
si spegne anche l'insegna
di quell'ultimo caffè
Now midnight has come
the noises are turned off
also the sign is turned off
of that last cafe
 
le strade son deserte
deserte e silenziose
un'ultima carrozza cigolando se ne va
the streets are deserted
deserted and silent
the last carriage creaking goes away
 
Il fiume scorre lento
frusciando sotto i ponti
la luna splende in cielo
The river is flowing slowly
rustling under the bridge
the moon is shining in the sky
 
dorme tutta la città
Solo va un uomo in frac
the whole city is asleep
Alone is going a man in a white tie
 
Ha il cilindro per cappello
due diamanti per gemelli
un bastone di cristallo
la gardenia nell'occhiello
A bow-hat as head cover
two diamonds as cufflinks
a crystal walking stick
a gardenia in the buttonhole
 
e sul candido gilè
un papillon,
un papillon, di seta blu
and on a white vest
a bow tie,
a bow tie in blue silk
 
Lui cammina lentamente
con incedere elegante
ha l'aspetto trasognato
malinconico ed assente
He's walking slowly
with an elegant gait
a dreamy look
melancholy and absent
 
non si sa da dove vien
né dove va
chi mai sarà
quell'uomo in frac
who knows where he comes from
where he's going
who might be
that man in a white tie
 
Bon nuit, bon nuit, bon nuit, bon nuit
Buona notte
va dicendo ad ogni cosa
Bon nuit, bon nuit, bon nuit, bon nuit
Good night
he is saying to everything
 
ai fanali illuminati
ad un gatto innamorato
che randagio se ne va
to shining street lamps
to a cat in love
that is leaving, stray
 
È giunta ormai l'aurora
si spengono i fanali
si sveglia a poco a poco
tutta quanta la città
Dawn has come now
the lights are going down
is waking up little by little
the whole city
 
la luna si è incantata
sorpresa e impallidita
pian piano scolorandosi
nel cielo sparirà
the moon seems enchanted
surprised and pale
fading in color slowly
it will disappear in the sky
 
Sbadiglia una finestra
sul fiume silenzioso
a window is yawning
on the silent river
 
e nella luce bianca
galleggiando se ne van
un cilindro, un fiore e un frac.
and in the white light
floating go away
a bowhat, a flower and a white tie.
 
Galleggiando dolcemente
lasciandosi cullare
se ne scende lentamente
sotto i ponti verso il mare
Floating gently
letting himself be lulled
he goes down slowly
under the bridges to the sea
 
verso il mare se ne va
chi mai sarà
chi mai sarà
quell'uomo in frac.
towards the sea he's going
who might he be
who might he be
the man in a white tie
 
Adieu, adieu, adieu, adieu, addio
ai ricordi del passato
ad un sogno mai sognato
ad un attimo d'amore
che mai più ritornerà.
Adieu, adieu, adieu, adieu, farewell
to the memories of the past
to a dream never dreamed
to a moment of love
that will never more return.