In 1969 the book The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal changed his life forever. Today, with ten million copies sold, the 89-year-old English zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris is experiencing something of a revival thanks to Francesco Gabbani.
The Italian representative at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest 2017 took inspiration from Morris’ work, which will hit English libraries with its latest update soon. He quotes the title of Morris’ book in the lyrics of “Occidentali’s Karma”.
That’s not the only reference, of course. Francesco’s dancing gorilla is a clear and fanciful reference to the theories described by Morris, who makes use of the term “the naked ape” to refer to the human species, considered the most evolved version of monkeys, in this case devoid of the heavy coat of hair.
Praise for Francesco Gabbani‘s song comes from well outside the Italian borders. In fact, it also comes from Oxford, where Desmond Morris currently lives.
“I’ve listened to his song,” he said. “It’s wonderful! Then I’ve seen the videoclip with Japanese costumes. Occidentali’s Karma is beautiful, catchy. Next May I will be in front of the tv cheering for him at the Eurovision”.
This is what we call an endorsement!
“A British journalist asked me if he had offended me,” he recounts. “What an honor instead! I’ve been studying for years the sign language in the world, and seeing what Gabbani does on stage and in the official video of the song is extraordinary since he combines and blends different cultures and quotes.”
The English scientist makes high-level comparisons: “I’ve read the lyrics and I’ve been fascinated by their beauty, culture and richness of citations. Never heard anything like this, perhaps only in Bob Dylan and John Lennon…the precision and sophistication of the lyrics is something I know because I met Lennon and we often talked about this art”.
Morris then explains what brings Gabbani near to the songwriter who co-founded The Beatles: “Lennon always recommended to avoid weasel words, empty or ambiguous ones, the clichés. Occidentali’s Karma embodies this axiom. John was a man with strengths and weaknesses and not so cultured, but he had cleverness and a natural talent with which he reached the poetic heights of Dylan Thomas“.
What about a meeting between the student and the master?
“Unfortunately, after a life around the world, I cannot travel anymore,” Morris explains. “It’s something that saddens me deeply, but I have to look after my wife Ramona who is not feeling well. You know, we got married in 1952 … maybe if Gabbani comes to England, who knows.”
In the meantime, the zoologist sent the singer a signed copy of the Italian version of his best-seller The Naked Ape, which has lept back into the book charts in Italy on IBS and Amazon in recent days.
The Italian lyricist — a great admirer of Morris’ studies — recently told Il Corriere della Sera, in reference to “Occidentali’s Karma”, that “we, as humans, believe we defeated Nature. But actually we are still in caves because our instincts remain the same.”
Morris applauds this definition.
“I absolutely agree. But, even if we share emotions and passions with them, there’s something that distinguishes us from the animals: creativity. Something that only humans have.”
“For this reason I’m optimistic looking at the future: we have so many problems, first of all the overpopulation of the world. But with our creativity, and technology, we will succeed. The karma of the West, and the world around, is not so bad, trust me.”
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