When you are an expat and somebody from your country dies, there is a special loss, that equals no other. Even in a time of Twitter and online papers, you mostly grieve alone: no wall to wall coverage, no tributes, and even if I were - as they are suggesting - to open my windows this coming Sunday, 4 March 2012, when Lucio Dalla would have been 69 and will be buried, and let his music out, there would be no immediate recognition, no common celebration.
When somebody you grew up with, who shaped moments of your life, dies, you not only lose a bit of your past: you lose another of your roots. Other musicians, and singers, and poets, and strangely hairy short bald men who never quite seem to grow up will take his place in the story of my country, but I won't be there to know it.
I am becoming, bit by bit, like those old Italians who live in New York or Buenos Aires or London, who don't quite speak the language any more, and if they do speak a language that isn't spoken any more in Italy, and the country they come from is not the same that is living its continuing, real life. Their roots are in a vanished nation, a country that only exists, faintly, in their memories.
He was a very likeable man, cheerful even when he wasn't happy, and besides some memorable songs, he seems to have left behind a slew of protégées, and people younger or his age that he helped, dragged back into the business, gave time and energy to, or just was a generous, good-hearted friend to. Unlike many of his friends, he was a serious, undemonstrative believer: so you can if you will say a prayer for him.
Italy being the country that it is, despite the fact that he never married, that he was known to have many loving male friends, only one journalist dared mention his private sentimental life: and was duly told off because you don't out somebody who very clearly chose not to out himself. Which is good and true, although, as one of my friends commented, homophobia would end tomorrow in Italy if all Italian gays told their mom the truth. Sadder it is that some people were outraged at the slanderous rumours disseminated about the great man so close to his death.
The new year that is to come is still some time off in Italy.