Italian giant who held Malta close to his heart
Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla died yesterday, four days before his 69th birthday, leaving behind a music legacy spanning almost half a century, which even the Maltese had the pleasure of tasting first hand.
Evergreen Dalla died of a heart attack in a hotel in Montreux, Switzerland, after eating breakfast. He was on a European concert tour, Italian media reported.
Born and bred in the Unesco City of Music, home to many an Italian musician, Dalla, however, was his best in the south, he had admitted in an interview for The Times from his apartment in the heart of Bologna. “The further down I go, the more it is my territory.”
It is, therefore, not surprising that he felt so at home in Malta. His first performance on the island dates back to around 1966 when, as a young, up-and-coming singer, he performed at the then Alhambra in Sliema.
But the artiste’s contact with Malta did not stop then. Dalla performed in 2008 at the Malta Fairs and Convention Centre in Ta’ Qali and last summer with tenor Joseph Calleja on the Granaries in Floriana.
He is said to have loved the island, paying frequent private visits since 2007.
“Malta is a dream that has lasted more than 40 years. One of the first things I ever did was the Festival di Malta. I was still unknown in Italy... I was fascinated by the island – maybe because it was one of my first jobs. Then, I returned last year and was conquered,” he had said in the interview.
“I believe I’ll be hanging out in Malta a lot. I keep my boat in Sicily and I’m thinking of leaving it in Malta for a year and staying on as much as possible.”
Concert organiser Amabile Zammit said his favourite haunts were Mdina, where he would stay in a boutique hotel, or as a guest of a Maltese friend.
For Anton Attard, from NNG Promotions, organisers of the Granaries concert, Dalla was “easygoing for the artiste he was, amenable and incredible to work with… even just to discuss content and music”.
In the July concert, he performed a couple of duets with Joseph Calleja, who told The Times that Italy has, yet again, lost another of its great icons.
“I was thrilled to sing with him in Malta and I can say, first hand, that his feeling was mutual and that he really loved our island. He will be missed.”
Ira Losco found Dalla “inspiring” when she met him, and was impressed by his “charisma, eccentricity and passion”.
Dalla was “not your typical commercial songwriter. He had an artistic outlook on everything – not that big superstar vibe, which he was after all,” she said.
Dalla will be remembered for the timeless, record-breaking Caruso (1986), which has sold over nine million copies worldwide in a variety of versions, covered by numerous international stars. But perhaps the most interesting version was the late Luciano Pavarotti’s.
“I am distraught,” Pavarotti’s widow Nicoletta Mantovani said. “He was a great friend of Luciano, a great artiste and a great man with enormous sensitivity.”
Born in Bologna on March 4, 1943, Dalla made his singing debut in 1964, and earned living-legend status over the decades, dabbling successfully in theatre, opera and movie productions, acting, soundtracks, books and stints on TV.
Past 60, he continued to reinvent himself, and only last month he participated in the Sanremo song festival.
The experimental aspect of his music was evident from the onset of his career and defined him until the end. He churned out jazz versions of his classics; and classical versions of his pop songs.
The diminutive man, who wore a wig and whose non-image was a brand in itself, witnessed the evolution of music over half a century, remaining on the scene by embracing change.
His secret to remaining valid throughout the years was simple: “I enjoy it! Curiosity is the basis of everything... I have fun, and then I have more fun because I see that I’m having fun!”
With such varied ventures under his belt, it was almost pointless asking Dalla if he had any regrets. “Maybe only that, despite the fact that I have done so much, I could possibly have done more,” he had said.