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Lucio Dalla has been a prime ingredient in Italy's singer/songwriter scene for the last 40 years. On the first of March Dalla died on tour in Switzerland. When the news got to Italy, millions of Italians skipped a heartbeat.

Dalla's famous interpretation of Ron's Attenti al lupo

Lucio Dalla's voice is probably my first Italian memory. A tape of his Viaggi Organizzati record was running in my mother's car all through the 80ies. I can't remember whether it was stuck in there due to a mechanical defect or whether my mother just chose to keep it there. Whatever the reason, neither I nor any of my three brothers ever complained. Astounding, if you consider the music taste of four Swiss teenagers in the mid 80ies. Our gene pool covered everything from Alan Parsons Project and Abba (no, that wasn't me) to jazz legend Bill Evans, Hüsker Dü and Duran Duran. Yes, Simon Le Bon is where I come in. After Rio came out - Duran Duran's second album - my brothers told our mom that it was about time that I got my own room. Generous souls. I still wonder what I could have gotten out of them if I had taken to Spandau Ballet instead?

In any case the crammed-in hours in the family car provided the only common musical ground for the four of us. A fact that must speak for  Lucio Dalla's incredible versatility.

Dalla was born in Bologna in 1943. A jazz loving neighbour gave him a clarinet when he was a teenager. He joined a Dixieland band in the 50ies and did a few rounds with another jazz formation before going solo with singing and songwriting (the legend says Italian singer Gino Paoli told him to do so). Dalla's career took off in the 70ies and stayed high through the following decades. He joined forces with many of Italy's most beloved musicians. His repeated tours with Francesco De Gregori gave Italian live music some of its best moments. Apart of achieving one of Italy's biggest careers in pop music, Dalla also discovered some of the country's most talented singer/songwriters like Luca Carboni and Samuele Bersani.  

Lucio Dalla died from a heart attack the day after his last concert in Montreux, Switzerland. Death caught him in a hotel room, just like Caruso, the Italian tenor and hero of the song that more than any other brought Dalla international fame. Interpreted by singers like Celine Dion, Andrea Botticelli and Luciano Pavarotti (whose version of it sold more than 9 million copies) I'd always stick to Dalla's first take on the song. And this even though judging from the Caruso video, Lucio Dalla would have sided with my brothers in regard to my teenage infatuation with Duran Duran.



Songs worth downloading for your Italian playlist: Cosa Sarà, Anna e Marco, Tutta la Vita, Washington, Viaggi Organizzati, L'anno che Verrà, Caruso, Attenti al lupo, Balla Balla Ballerino, Futura... 
In case you forgot your iPod on the plane, use your rented car radio to stay tuned. You'll hear be hearing more of Dalla's music this year than ever before.

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