Roby Facchinetti on Why His Italian Coronavirus Anthem Struck a Chord: 'Music Can Give Us So Much'

Roby Facchinetti
Courtesy Photo

Roby Facchinetti

The video for "Rinascerò, Rinascerai" (literally, "I will be reborn, you will be reborn") is nearing 9 million views on YouTube.

MILAN -- Roby Facchinetti is the singer and co-author of "Rinascerò, Rinascerai" (literally, "I will be reborn, you will be reborn"), which became a YouTube sensation within hours of its release on Friday. The song and its accompanying video are a tribute to Facchinetti’s beautiful hometown in Northern Italy, Bergamo, which is one of the country’s -- and the world’s -- worst-hit communities of the coronavirus pandemic.

The city's Papa Giovanni XXIII (Pope John XXIII) Hospital is on the front line, and Facchinetti and his co-songwriter, Stefano D’Orazio -- as well as their publishers and label (Babilonia, distributed by Sony Music), not to mention Italian collecting society SIAE -- have decided to donate all the song's proceeds to the hospital. Facchinetti and D’Orazio have known each other since 1966, when they joined the Italian pop group I Pooh (The Pooh, named after Winnie the Pooh), which recorded numerous hits prior to officially breaking up 50 years later.

When Facchinetti spoke to Billboard from his home in Bergamo on Wednesday, "Rinascerò, Rinascerai" was fast approaching 9 million views on YouTube, which you can watch below.

"We never imagined anything like this," Facchinetti tells Billboard. "We planned to write a song that would offer hope and help people take their minds off the crisis, if only for a few minutes, but we never thought it would produce these amazing numbers. Not only that, we’ve received messages from hospital patients who are listening to it and they are moved to tears, telling us that this is the medicine they needed."

Below, read our conversation about how the song and video came to be and why music is important during times of crisis.

How did the song come about?

It began when I saw the footage on the news of army trucks taking away coffins. This was just 50 meters from where I live here in the center of Bergamo, and so it was even tougher to watch. Two days earlier, two of my relatives had died. It was very painful, and so I sat down at my piano. This is because my whole life has been in music and it has always been the best medicine in the most difficult moments. I simply wanted to play the piano in order to take my mind off things, and the melody and harmony just came. I immediately rang Stefano D’Orazio. I told him about the tune and that I had these two words in mind -- "Rinascerò, Rinascerai" -- and I asked him, "Could you write the lyrics?" And in just a few hours, he sent them to me, and they were perfect, pure poetry. And we immediately got to work. Of course, nobody could leave their home, and so we organized the recording, the post-production, the chorus with a young choir from Bergamo, all of whose members recorded themselves individually at home. The choir creates a sort of stadium chant effect at the end of the song.

And then there was the video. 

Yes, it features the staff at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, where my wife Giovanna is a volunteer. The doctors and nurses all appear holding a sheet with the words "Rinascerò, Rinascerai," and this was mixed in with images of Bergamo. Some of the players and coaches at Bergamo’s major league soccer club, Atalanta, also took part. The video makes the song even more emotional.

Presumably, the video has gone beyond Italy.

Yes, we have been really struck by that fact, that it’s been seen all over the world. It has become associated with the coronavirus. It has become an injection of faith, belief, a desire for rebirth. I can’t think of any other explanation. There have even been translations in German, in the case of Germany and Austria; Dutch in the Netherlands; English in Australia. This is really gratifying. When I was part of the group I Pooh, we sold more than 80 million records over the course of our career and every new album went to the top of the charts, but this is far more rewarding. It will be part of our story and that of my family. I hope we’ll go to heaven! We think God needs to take a look at what’s happening on Earth right now, as do all the saints in heaven. Because it’s so devastating and it’s been going on for so long. It really hurts. Every day, every hour, there’s more bad news.

My city, in particular, has been badly hit. Every family here has lost at least a member or a friend. Many priests and nuns have died, as there are a lot of convents here, not to mention rest homes. All the elderly people have the virus. And a third of the doctors in the province of Bergamo have caught it and some of them have died. Each doctor had a thousand patients, and so these people no longer have a point of reference. This is far worse than a war because during the war, air-raid sirens would go off when the bomber planes were approaching and everybody took shelter and lives were saved. Now it’s worse. There are even children in hospital who have the virus. In the Bergamo area, there are 1,800 people in their 30s who have it. It’s like being in a never-ending nightmare. Fortunately, there are signs that the infection rate could be slowing down.

Let’s hope so. At the same time, people seem to be communicating more.

Yes, they are, and this is a wonderful thing. People need to talk and confide in one another and be “hugged.” They need to comfort each other and give each other strength. I see this in my family. This is one of the positive aspects. We now have more time on our hands. There’s less of a rush when we do things and so we can attach more importance to them. I hope that this is giving us the opportunity to improve and that, after this terrible experience, we will emerge as stronger, better people. I hope that our leaders will try and improve things and that we will all reconsider the many mistakes we have made. I hope that we can try and create a better world, or at least pass on a better world to our children and grandchildren, a fairer world, where we can breathe more and where nature will have more space. Forty years ago, when I was a member of The Pooh, we contacted the World Wildlife Fund, when people were beginning to talk about the problem of the Amazon rainforest and its role as the world’s lungs. Developers were starting to burn swaths of it. But 40 years have passed and the situation has gotten worse, not better. Maybe the coronavirus is a point of no return, or it’s a wake-up call.

I’d like to conclude by asking about the role of music in lifting people’s spirits in times like this.

I’m obviously not the first person to say this, but it’s therapeutic. Music can give us so much. It’s the best medicine because it makes you dream, it offers emotions, it takes your mind off these terrible events. Music has always had an important role in society, but that’s even more evident now. We need music, art and poetry.