From rock to rap, the Maestro has been a seminal influence for generations of artists. We look into some of the most notable covers of his compositions.
When the adjective timeless is dropped to describe a cultural work as a pinch of herbs to savour an otherwise bland plate, one is always left to wonder the poignancy that said magniloquent word still retains. When it comes to Ennio Morricone, despite being no doubt on the validity of the term, we find ourselves in front of another dilemma. Does his music defeat time and space constraints or is it so evocative of certain films and iconographies that it actually results distinctively time-specific?
Perhaps, the Maestro’s world-building body of work calls for an exception, making both points valid.
As a matter of fact, while retaining a distinctive identity, his tracks have transcended the movies they were originally composed for, inspiring generations of artists hailing from a plethora of genres and backgrounds.
One of his classics, 'The Ecstasy of Gold' has been adopted by acts including Metallica and Kasabian to soundtrack their stage entrances, whereas other bands like Morricone Youth and Calibro 35 have made the oeuvre of Ennio Morricone a backbone of their musical identity.
Following the recent tribute by rapper Dargen D’Amico on the stage of Italy’s most historical and talked-about musical event, the annual Festival di Sanremo, we looked into some illustrious covers of the Maestro.
Mike Patton / Mr. Bungle
Mike Patton, with his band Mr. Bungle, has tributed Ennio Morricone on many occasions, including with ‘Metti una sera a cena’, composed by the Maestro in 1969 for the cult film by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi.
The rock band Muse during their 2019 concert at Rome Stadio Olimpico opened 'Knights of Cydonia' with the intro of Morricone's 'Man with a harmonica' from Sergio Leone's film 'Once Upon a Time in the West', performed on harmonica by bassist Chris Wolstenholme.
Among the contemporary artists that have drawn the most from the lesson of the Maestro are Calibro 35. The Italian cinematic-inspired quartet have dedicated masterful tributes to Ennio on many occasions, like the 2018 Ennio Morricone Songbook performance at Church of Sound, London.
'La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso', a song composed by Morricone for Elio Petri's legendary 1971 film, was chosen by Calibro 35 to anticipate the first instalment of their two-volume project 'Scacco al Maestro', entirely dedicated to the repertoire of Morricone.
In 1986 American composer and saxophonist John Zorn dedicated a whole album, “The Big Gundown”, to his love for the Maestro, revisiting with mind-blowing uniqueness many of his gems, including the classic “The Battle of Algiers”.
The 2000 reissue of the album sees further covers from the CAM Sugar catalogue, including 'Macchie Solari', from the same-titled cult horror film and 'The Sicilian Clan'.
The love for 'The Sicilian Clan' is also shared by Khurangbin. The American band have spoken out their love for Morricone and his influence of their twangy, cinematic instrumental compositions from the very beginning of their career. This cover was included on one of their first recordings, the 2015 four-track EP History of Flight.
During the latest edition of the Festival di Sanremo, Italian rapper and songwriter Dargen D’Amico offered his tribute to the art of Ennio Morricone, revisiting with political undertones and with the aid of BabelNova Orchestra the Maestro’s “The Crisis” from “The Legend of 1900”.
Opening image: Ennio Morricone. Photo by Luciano Viti