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Italy mourns singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla

Singer struck by heart attack in Switzerland on tour

01 March, 17:40
Italy mourns singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla (ANSA) - Rome, March 1 - There are songs that cut across time, culture and language. If they are not one-hit-wonders, they become a beacon that draws listeners closer to the musician and their music. One of the most important, as well as most popular Italian pop-music figures, Lucio Dalla, did just that with his 1986 song Caruso devoted to the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso. Though his career didn't begin, nor did it end with this powerfully moving composition, it branded him in "a marvelous, but inescapable way," he said once in an interview. It sold over nine million copies across the globe and was covered by the likes of Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli.

Dalla, who would have turned 69 on March 4th, died after suffering a heart attack in Switzerland Thursday, leaving Italians and fans world over in disbelief, shock and mourning.

He recorded 32 albums throughout his career that spanned over four decades.

As a boy, there was never much doubt about his career path.

At 14 he started playing and composing with ease on both the clarinet and piano. He made his debut recording in 1964.

He followed up his first album, which went largely unnoticed upon its release in 1966, with a string of singles and appearances at song festivals like Sanremo, where he performed "Paff...Bum!" alongside the Yardbirds. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he recorded a string of successful albums and tirelessly toured places like South America and Europe, boosting his popularity. Not the typical pop star of the day, his short, stocky figure along with his affable personality set him apart from his contemporaries, as did his creative and sometimes bizarre lyrics.

Seemingly unabashed by controversy, he churned out songs that pushed the envelope musically and lyrically like "Desperate Erotic Stomp". Immune to criticism, he kept doing things his way. It was that tenaciousness and willingness to take risks that solidified him as an untouchable and somewhat mischievous icon of Italian pop culture.

His musical roots and inspiration were as much geographical as technical. Though he was born in landlocked Bologna in north-central Italy, his family spent months out of the year at the sea. As he grew up, he continued to have one foot in his hometown and one on the coast near the waters that shaped many of his songs. Dalla's lifelong infatuation with American big-band jazz music and soul singers was a key element that surfaced regularly throughout his career. Though he was always pinned as left-leaning or even Communist, after completing a trilogy of albums in the early 1970s with Bolognese Marxist poet Roberto Roversi, he bemused the public with his refusal to fit into any one box. His long-lasting partnership with songwriter Ron raised questions as to his sexual leanings, but he never revealed his private life or commented one way or another about his relationships.

Dalla linked arms with legendary fellow singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori in the late 1970s and their work together comprises many of the golden moments in recent Italian music.

Like his sexual leanings, Dalla was also reserved when speaking about religion. His definition remains immortalized in an interview with a Catholic web publication one year before his death in which he said, "Nobody can stop man from aspiring to the divine. God is everywhere, in the face of men, in the smile of a child, even in a song well done". His passing leaves behind a legacy of songs exactly that...well done.

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