Tens of thousands attend Italian singer's funeral

ROME- Tens of thousands of mourners attended the funeral on Sunday in Bologna of the widely loved Italian singer Lucio Dalla, who died of a heart attack at the age of 68 while on tour in Switzerland.
Dalla started out as a jazzman in the 1960s and went on to work with opera star Luciano Pavarotti, earning popularity with his modest demeanour and poetic lyrics about ordinary lives during decades of tumultuous change for Italy.

His hometown declared a day of mourning for the funeral, which coincides with Dalla's birthday, and people travelled from across Italy for the event saying that the singer-songwriter's music had touched their own lives.
More than 50,000 people filed past his coffin as Dalla lay in state at a palace in the central Italian city of Bologna on Saturday and Sunday, with some of his most famous blues and folk songs playing on a loop in the hall.
Mourners applauded as the coffin with a red rose and a cigarette on it was brought into the basilica of Saint Petronius, the main church in Bologna.
Among the mourners were leading Italian celebrities including former football star Roberto Baggio and Ferrari boss Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.
The funeral service was relayed via loudspeakers to the square outside.
A large banner with a photo of a smiling Dalla wearing his trademark round glasses was hung in the square. Dalla also became known during his career for his highly varied headwear -- from knit caps to Panama hats to berets.
Perhaps his most famous song was "Caruso" -- a homage to opera legend Enrico Caruso -- which he wrote for Pavarotti and which sold nine million copies.
One of his best known songs "March 4, 1943" was originally entitled "Baby Jesus" but was censored to be admitted in the Sanremo Festival in 1971.
The lyrics -- "Even now when I swear and drink wine/ For the thieves and whores, my name is Baby Jesus" -- had to be changed to: "Even now when I play cards and drink wine/ For the people of the port, my name is Baby Jesus."
Dalla was widely rumoured to be gay although he never came out publicly and the most moving tribute at the funeral was from his partner Marco Alemanno who read out one of his songs "The Swallows," an ode to freedom and love.
"I had the honour and privilege of growing with him," Alemanno said, his voice overcome with emotion. "And now, with you, I can tell him: 'Thank you.'"
Lucia Annunziata, a television commentator, said: "The funeral of Lucio Dalla is one of the strongest examples of what it means to be gay in Italy."
She added: "You go to church, they give you a funeral and they bury you according to Catholic tradition, as long as you don't say you're gay."
Franco Grillini, a lawmaker from the Italy of Values party and a gay rights advocate, said that he was shocked the Catholic Church had not allowed any of Dalla's songs to be played during the funeral despite many requests.
"Their choice was maybe due to fear of references to the freedom to love in many of his songs. Unlike others and in contrast to the hypocrisy of these days, we would like to express our condolences and closeness to his partner."

Monday, March 5th 2012

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