Lucio Dalla, OMRI
(4 March 1943 – 1 March 2012) was a popular Italian singer-songwriter, musician and actor. He also played clarinet and keyboards.Dalla was the composer of "Caruso" (1986), a song dedicated to Italian tenor Enrico Caruso which has been covered by numerous international artists such as Luciano Pavarotti and Julio Iglesias. The version sung by Pavarotti sold over 9 million copies, and another version was a track on Andrea Bocelli's first international album, Romanza
, which sold over 20 million copies worldwide. This piece is also on Josh Groban's album Closer
, which sold over 5 million copies in the United States. The song is a tribute to the emblematic opera tenor Enrico Caruso. Maynard Ferguson also covered the song on his album "Brass Attitude", after having previously paid tribute to Caruso with his rendition of "Vesti la giubba" (titled as "Pagliacci") on the album Primal Scream
Dalla was born in Bologna, Italy. He began to play the clarinet at an early age, in a jazz band in Bologna, and became a member of a local jazz band called Rheno Dixieland Band, together with future film director Pupi Avati. Avati said that he decided to leave the band after feeling overwhelmed by Dalla's talent. He also acknowledged that his film, Ma quando arrivano le ragazze?
(2005), was inspired by his friendship with Dalla. In the 1960s the band participated in the first Jazz Festival at Antibes, France.The Rheno Dixieland Band won the first prize in the traditional jazz band category and was noticed by a Roman band called Second Roman New Orleans Jazz Band, with whom Dalla recorded his first record in 1961 and had the first contacts with RCA records, his future music publisher.Singer-songwriter Gino Paoli hearing Dalla's vocal qualities, suggested that he attempt a soloist career as a soul singer. However, Dalla's debut at the Cantagiro music festival in 1965 was not successful probably due to both his physical appearance as well as his music, which was considered too experimental for the time. His first single, a rendition in Italian of the American traditional standard Careless Love
was a failure, as it was his first album, 1999
, that was released the following year. His next album, Terra di Gaibola
(from the name of a suburb of Bologna), was released in 1970 and contained some early Dalla classics. His first hit was "4 Marzo 1943", which achieved some success due to the Sanremo Festival. The original title of the song was supposed to be "Gesù bambino", however in those years there was still stiff censorial control over the content of songs, and the title was changed to Dalla's birth date. "Piazza grande", which Dalla would sing at another Sanremo Festival, was also a success.
With Roberto Roversi
Dalla's recording debut as a soloist took place in 1964, with the release of the 45 rpm-single "Lei (non è per me)" (B-side: "Ma questa sera").In the 1970s, Dalla started a collaboration with the Bolognese poet Roberto Roversi. Roversi wrote the lyrics to Dalla's next three albums Il giorno aveva cinque teste
(The Day Had Five Heads
) (1973), Anidride solforosa
) (1975) and Automobili
) (1976).Although these albums did not sell in large numbers, they were noted by critics for the unusual mix of Roversi's lyrics with Dalla's improvisations, along with the latter's sometimes experimental twists and composition abilities. The duo had already broken up by the time the concept album Automobili
was released. Roversi, who had been against the album's release, chose the pseudonym "Norisso" when it was time to register the songs. The album, however, included one of Dalla's most popular songs, "Nuvolari", named after the famous 1930s Italian racer.
Affected by the end of the collaboration, Dalla decided to write the lyrics of his next albums himself. The first album of this new phase was Com'è profondo il mare
(1977), in which Dalla was accompanied by members of futurepop band Stadio. The title track was the hit "Quale allegria" ("What joy").In 1979, his popularity was confirmed by the success of the Banana Republic
album and eponymous tour together with his band, singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori, and his friend Rosalino Cellamare.The 1990 hit single Attenti al Lupo
gave Dalla wider success in Europe. He was invited to duet on Pavarotti and friends
, singing his hit "Caruso" with Pavarotti.In 2010, Dalla came back to work with Francesco De Gregori during the "Work in Progress" tour and album.Lucio Dalla's main influences were to be found in jazz, but his songs ranged from folk ("Attenti al lupo") and pop ("Lunedi") to classical and opera ("Caruso").