Lucio Dalla, eclectic singer from Italy; at 68

Luca Bruno/Associated Press
Lucio Dalla performed last month during the 62d edition of the Sanremo Song Festival in Sanremo, Italy.

ROME - His musical roots were in jazz, but his songs ranged from folk to pop to classical to opera, creating a soundtrack beloved by generations of Italians.

Lucio Dalla, one of Italy’s most prolific singer-songwriters, died Thursday in Switzerland during a European concert tour.

Mr. Dalla, 68, apparently died of a heart attack in a Montreux hotel after eating breakfast, said to his agency, Ph.D srl Music Management, which is based in Mr. Dalla’s native city of Bologna.


Mr. Dalla had given a concert Wednesday evening and “was in fine form,’’ said Pascal Pellegrino, director of Montreux’s “culture season.’’ Pellegrino said the performance was warmly applauded and Mr. Dalla stayed on to chat with fans.

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Mr. Dalla wrote all of his own lyrics in a career that spanned decades. He was also a noted musician, playing the clarinet, saxophone, and piano.

Mr. Dalla’s haunting melody “Caruso’’ sold 9 million copies worldwide and was sung by the late Luciano Pavarotti with Mr. Dalla at a 1992 concert in Modena.

He toured abroad frequently, including in the United States, sometimes with another famed Italian folk songwriter, Francesco De Gregori.

Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, was among those who quickly paid tribute Thursday.


Mr. Dalla was “a strong and original voice who contributed to renew and promote Italian song in the world,’’ the president said in a condolence message to Mr. Dalla’s family. “He was an artist beloved by so many Italians.’’

Promoted by another Italian singer and songwriter, Gino Paoli, Mr. Dalla started performing in the 1960s. In 1977, Mr. Dalla’s first album with songs written by himself, “How Deep is the Sea,’’ came out. He produced new albums nearly every year over the next few years, including the popular “Banana Republic.’’

Another popular song was his 1990 “Beware of the Wolf’’ on the album “Cambio,’’ which sold nearly 1.4 million copies, according to Mr. Dalla’s website.

His version of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf’’ was performed in Rome’s Santa Cecilia auditorium in 1997, and he wrote an opera, “Tosca. Amore disperato,’’ inspired by Puccini’s “Tosca.’’

Dalla also composed songs for some of Italy’s most famous film directors, including Mario Monicelli, Michelangelo Antonioni, Carlo Verdone, and Michele Placido.