An enormous birthday party was held in Piazza Maggiore this past Monday, March 4th: it was a tribute concert for the late singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla on his 70th birthday about one year after his death. Lucio was born and raised in Bologna, and was loved across Italy and well known throughout the world. He was the first famous Bolognese we heard about upon moving here.
The free concert, which featured Italian artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Luca Carboni, Samuele Bersani, and Zucchero Fornaciari as well as the entire Bologna soccer team, drew thousands and thousands of people to Bologna’s city center on Monday night. The piazza was filled to capacity when we arrived; the energy and love in the air was palpable. People of all ages, from young to old, overflowed into every street surrounding the piazza. Some people worked their way as close to the show as possible, and despite not being able to see the artists, they swayed back and forth to the music while watching photos and video of Lucio flash across the facade of Palazzo d’Accursio. Others hung back and spread out, simply enjoying being in the company of friends.
It was a memorable event for a man who is clearly an unforgettable figure in Bologna’s history. Check out photos/video of the concert here. (There are many more videos on YouTube too.)
In honor of Lucio’s birthday, below are eight things we’ve learned about his life and legacy from our friends in Bologna. We look forward to learning more about him and savoring the melodies he’s left behind.
1. Lucio lived just steps from Piazza Maggiore in an apartment at via D’Azeglio 15. A silhouette figure of Lucio playing the saxophone now hangs outside the building. This past Winter, a guided tour of the apartment was given to over 3,000 tickets holders to raise funds for the recovery efforts for last May’s earthquakes.
2. Lucio remained down-to-earth after he became a celebrity and was very much part of the Bologna community; he was often spotted strolling around town or sitting in Piazza Maggiore with his dog.
3. Lucio’s name is featured on one of the three stars that make up Bologna’s Walk of Fame. The star was installed on via degli Orefici in September 2012. The other stars belong to Chet Baker and Miles Davis and are located on via Caprarie. (pics here and here).
4. One of Lucio’s first hits was “4 Marzo 1943”, which he performed at Italy’s SanRemo competition in 1971. The song was originally titled “Gesù bambino”, however since this title was controversial in those days, it was changed to Lucio’s birth date. Some of the lyrics in the song were censored as well.
5. One of his best-known songs is “Caruso,” which has been recorded by several singers including Julio Iglesias, Luciano Pavarotti and Josh Groban.
6. Another Dalla hit was “Piazza Grande” about Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore. In it, he sings “E se non ci sarà più gente come me, voglio morire in Piazza Grande, tra i gatti che non han padrone come me, attorno a me“, which means “And if there will be no more people like me, I want to die in Piazza Grande, among the cats that don’t have a father like me, all around me.” When Lucio was very young, his father left and he was raised by his mother. After Lucio’s death, fans hung lyrics such as this one outside his apartment door.
7. In later years, Dalla was very involved in helping to launch the careers of young, new artists.
8. Lucio passed away after having a heart attack on March 1, 2012 at the age of 68. In the days before his funeral, a temporary mortuary was set up in Palazzo d’Accursio off of Piazza Maggiore. A huge banner of Lucio hung in the piazza which read “Ciao, Lucio”. More than 50,000 people came to bid him farewell, lining up for hours to pass by his coffin. The streets around the piazza were shut down by police to accomodate the crowd. His funeral was held in the Basilica di San Petronio on his 69th birthday, March 4, 2012.
Ciao, Lucio! Grazie per la musica!