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Andrea Bocelli – Vivo por Ella

Andrea Bocelli – Vivo por Ella

Vivo per lei is the name of a 1995 song recorded by Italian artist Andrea Bocelli as duet with Giorgia for his album Bocelli. The song was also released as a duet with other female artists, including Marta Sánchez in Spain and Spanish America, Hélène Ségara in francophone countries, Judy Weiss in German-speaking countries, and Sandy Leah Lima in Brazilian Portuguese.

The version with Marta Sánchez topped the Spanish singles chart in 1996 under the title Vivo por ella and is available on her album One Step Closer. The version with Ségara was released in December 1997 and became a hit in Belgium (Wallonia) and France where it reached number one on the charts. It was the fifth single from Ségara’s first studio album, Cœur de verre. The version with Judy Weiss was also number one in Switzerland in 1997.

The song in Italian was originally written by the group O.R.O. (Manzani – Mengalli – Zelli) in 1995 for their album Vivo per…. The song won the “Disco per l’estate” edition of that year. During the same year, the lyrics of the song were rewritten, still in Italian, by Gatto Panceri and the song was relaunched as a duet between Andrea Bocelli and Giorgia. The new lyrics were characterized by the fact that lei (“her”) in the title referred to music whereas in the original song lei referred to a girl.

Thus the new version of Vivo per lei became a tribute to music using the pronoun in the title: lei in Italian, ella in Spanish, elle in French, ela in Portuguese, and sie in German, as a metaphor. While the French and German versions have Bocelli singing in Italian, and Ségara and Weiss providing the French and German lyrics respectively, in the Spanish recorded version both Bocelli and Sánchez sing in Spanish, and in the Portuguese version, Bocelli sings in Spanish and Sandy in Portuguese. On live performances of the song, Bocelli may sing exclusively in Italian. The song’s piano melody resembles an Elton John composition.

Panceri and Bocelli’s version of the song clearly evokes the blind tenor’s attachment to music as the pillar and love of his life: “I live for her”.

The English-speaking listener is challenged to uncover whom the person referred to by lei (“her”) is. Italian, and other Romance Languages routinely assign gender to all their nouns, whereas English, perhaps with the exception of the use of she or her to refer to ships or bad weather, never uses the gender pronouns to replace nouns that refer to inanimate objects. On first glance it appears the song refers to a woman, perhaps a lover, as the first verse is sung by Bocelli. The female voice in the second verse suggests that the person is somebody who is respected and loved by both men and women. The lyrics progress to say that “she” is always the protagonist and if there is another life, the singers would give their lives for her again. Eventually, Bocelli sings, vivo per lei, la musica, “I live for her, the music”, revealing that the true meaning of the song is about music and how musicians devote their lives to music.

The beauty of the Romance language versions is that they retain their ambiguity due to the possibility that the feminine pronoun may refer to a woman or a girl, or any inanimate object or word that has the feminine gender. The love of a woman thus becomes a true metaphor for Bocelli’s love of music.

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