The death of Italian singing legend Lucio Dalla last week has reminded a mourning public of even more sadness: It’s still not okay to be both famous and openly gay in Italy.
Dalla’s emotional songs were part of the fabric of Italian music for more than three and half decades. His death last Thursday was met with an outpouring of national grief, and he was given a lavish funeral in the cathedral of Bologna, his hometown. 50,000 people came out to pay their respects in person, and the event was carried live on national television.
Just one oversight: No one mentioned that Dalla was gay.
True, the 68-year-old Dalla had never come out publicly as gay during his lifetime, though it was an open secret. And his companion, Marco Alemanno, was allowed to give a moving eulogy to the man most knew as his longtime lover — albeit while pegged as merely a “close associate” by the most of the Italian media.
“The funeral of Lucio Dalla is one of the strongest examples of what it means to be gay in Italy,” remarked Italian TV commentator Lucia Annunziata. “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.”
Italian gay rights advocate Franco Grillini noted the conspicuous absence of Dalla’s own music at his funeral.
“[The Catholic Church's] choice was maybe due to fear of references to the freedom to love in many of his songs,” said Grillini.
Watch Dalla perform one of his most famous compositions, “Caruso”: