Many Italians are aware that “il caffè della Peppina non si beve la mattina, né col latte, né col tè” (You cannot drink Peppina’s coffee in the morning, with milk or with tea) : this is because, as the lyrics of the famous song go, “la Peppina fa il caffè con pepe e sale” (she makes the coffee with pepper and salt) and various other unlikely combinations of ingredients.
This song, which was the winner of the Zecchino d’Oro competition in 1971 is one of the many Italian and International melodies, that talk about coffee in their lyrics.
This drink that, as we saw some time ago, has always been present on both big and small screens , via the cinema, is also often the protagonist in music. So let’s take a look at some of the artists that have sung sweet or bitter songs about coffee.
Coffee in music: from classical music to rock
Johann Sebastian Bach in 1734 wrote the Cantata del Caffè, a profane and humorous work, in which everything revolves around the protagonist’s habit of drinking coffee.
Her father is not too happy about the fact that his daughter is an avid consumer of the drink, so he threatens her in various ways – saying, for example, that he will not spend any more money on buying beautiful clothes for her – but she does not give up: she refuses to ever give up her coffee!
In the second part of the opera, her father decides not to let her get married until she promises to give up drinking coffee, then he goes looking for a suitor for her.
The young girl, though, finds a way to get round this imposition and decides to ensure herself a happy future by making her future spouse promise that once they are married, she can continue to drink all the coffee she wants.
Coffee in Italian songs
Moving on a few centuries and several hundred kilometers, we come to Naples, where Giuseppe Capaldo and Vittorio Fassone wrote and put to music ‘A tazza ‘e cafè, a successful song sung by numerous artists, such as Roberto Murolo.
The comparison between the protagonist, Brigida, and the cup of coffee, united by the sweetness (in the form of sugar on the bottom of the cup), but bitter on the surface, is now well-known.
Together with the singer-songwriter Fabrizio de André, Murolo was the other voice of Don Raffae’, a piece in which a Brigadier of the prison police and a criminal boss who is in prison share a coffee break and praise the coffee for its goodness.
Even at the Festival della Canzone Italiana (Italian Song Festival) coffee is more than welcome: in fact in 1969, Riccardo del Turco took part in this competition in San Remo with the song Cosa hai messo nel caffè (“[…] Ma cosa hai messo nel caffè che ho bevuto su da te?
C’è qualche cosa di diverso adesso in me […]),(What did you put in the coffee, that I drank at your house, now there’s something different in me..) recently re-worked by the artist Malika Ayane.
And we must not forget Fred Bongusto, in a piece from just a couple of years before, Spaghetti a Detroit (1967): “Spaghetti, pollo, insalatina e una tazzina di caffè, a malapena riesco a mandar giù […]”, (Spaghetti, chicken, salad and a cup of coffee, that I can hardly swallow), sung on the B side of an old 45 record, to a pleasant swing rhythm.
Of the Italian songs that mention one of the best loved drinks in the world, there is also Anna by Lucio Battisti (“la mattina c’è chi mi prepara il caffè”) (there’s someone who prepares coffee for me in the morning) .
Fiorella Mannoia, on the other hand, in 1981, was killing time by “bevendo caffè nero bollente” (Caffè nero bollente) (boiling black coffee), and a few years later, there was the song 7000 caffè (7000 coffees) by Alex Britti, which in the song, he drank to stay awake while driving; even the great Pino Daniele also talks about “‘na tazzulella ‘e cafè”, which becomes a metaphor for the “sweetener” given to the people by the government so that they don’t worry themselves about what is really important.
Coffee in International music
The voice of Ella Fitzgerald who sings “I walk the floor and watch the door, and in between I drink black coffee” (Black Coffee, 1949) is truly unforgettable and is the starting point for talking about all the International artists that have sung about coffee in their songs.
Frank Sinatra sang Coffee Song in 1961; Otis Redding in 1966 sang about a decidedly well-known pairing, even if not so healthy, which even appeared at the cinema in Cigarettes and Coffee (1966); Bob Dylan recharged his batteries while on the road with One more cup of coffee (1976).
Coffee also made its impression on Brit Pop songs such as Coffee and TV by Blur in 1999 and a track by the group Garbage, Cup of coffee, in 2001; the Cranberries even dedicated a whole album title to the drink, Wake up and smell the coffee, again in 2001.
What are your favorite songs that mention coffee?
Tell us about them in the comments.