4 March 2017

Lucio Dalla - musician

Cantautore inspired by the great Caruso

Lucio Dalla was inspired by stay in Sorrento
Lucio Dalla was inspired by stay in Sorrento
The singer/songwriter Lucio Dalla was born on this day in 1943 in Bologna.

Dalla is most famous for composing the song, Caruso, in 1986 after staying in the suite the great tenor used to occupy overlooking the sea at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento.

Dalla started playing the clarinet when he was young and joined the Rheno Dixieland Band in Bologna along with the future film director, Pupi Avati.

Avati was later to say that his film Ma quando arrivano le ragazze? was inspired by his friendship with Dalla.

In the 1960s the band won first prize in the traditional jazz band category at a festival in Antibes. After hearing Dalla’s voice, his fellow cantautore - the Italian word for singer/songwriter - Gino Paoli suggested he try for a solo career as a soul singer, but his first single was a failure.

Dalla had a hit with 4 Marzo 1943, originally entitled Gesu Bambino, but the title was changed to the singer’s birth date so as not to cause offence.

In the 1970s Dalla started a collaboration with the Bolognese poet Roberto Roversi, who wrote the lyrics for three of his albums.

Watch Pavarotti and Lucio Dalla on stage at Modena in 1992

When the association ended, Dalla decided to write the lyrics for his songs himself and his subsequent Banana Republic album was a success in 1979.

The song, Caruso, released in 1986, was his most famous composition. It has been covered by many other artists since, including Luciano Pavarotti and Julio Iglesias.

Dalla played various instruments,  including saxaphone, as well as singing
Dalla played various instruments,
including saxaphone, as well as singing
In the book Caruso the Song - Lucio Dalla e Sorrento, Raffaele Lauro, a writer from Sorrento, recalls that Dalla booked the very suite at the Excelsior Vittoria that Caruso had occupied during the final weeks of his life in 1921. While staying there Dalla composed the song, inspired by his love for Sorrento, his respect for the great tenor and his fondness for classic Neapolitan songs. The Fiorentino family, who owned the Excelsior Vittoria, were later to dedicate a suite to Dalla.

The version of Caruso sung by Pavarotti sold more than nine million copies and Dalla was invited to sing Caruso in a duet with Pavarotti in a 'Pavarotti and Friends' concert in Modena in 1992.

Andrea Bocelli included his version of the song on his first international album, Romanza, which sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.

Dalla was made a Commander and subsequently a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bologna.

The singer songwriter died three days before his 69th birthday in 2012, after suffering a heart attack in a hotel in Montreux in Switzerland, where he had been performing the night before.

About 50,000 people attended his funeral in Bologna and his hit song, Caruso, entered the Italian singles chart after his death, peaking at number two for two consecutive weeks.

The single was also certified platinum by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry.

The bronze sculpture on Lucio Dalla near his home in Bologna
The bronze sculpture on Lucio Dalla near his home in Bologna
Travel tip:

Dalla was awarded an honorary degree by the University in his home town of Bologna, which had been the first in the world when it was established in 1088. The University attracted popes and kings, as well as students of the calibre of Dante, Copernicus and Boccaccio. You can visit the university’s former anatomy theatre in the oldest surviving building, the Archiginnasio, in Piazza Galvani, which is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 1pm, admission free. A short distance from the Archiginnasio, in Piazza dei Celestini, a bronze sculpture of Dalla sitting on a bench was unveiled in 2016 close to the house where he lived.

Hotels in Bologna from Booking.com

The Excelsior Vittoria is one of  Sorrento's oldest and most  famous hotels and was a favourite of Caruso
The Excelsior Vittoria is one of  Sorrento's oldest and most
famous hotels and was a favourite of Caruso
Travel tip:

The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria is a familiar landmark for visitors who approach Sorrento by sea. The three 19th century buildings that comprise the hotel sit high on the cliff above the port of Marina Piccola, where boats arrive from Naples and the islands. The Excelsior Vittoria is probably Sorrento’s most famous hotel and it has now achieved global recognition as part of the Leading Hotels of the World group. From the imposing wrought-iron entrance gates in Piazza Tasso, a long driveway lined with orange trees leads to the entrance and reception area. At the back of the hotel, the terrace has panoramic views over the bay of Naples and of Vesuvius across the water. Tenor Enrico Caruso was famously photographed in front of those views during his final stay in 1921. The Excelsior Vittoria had been opened as a hotel by the Fiorentino family in 1834 and is still, to this day, run by their descendants.

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