January 5, 2015 / 11:34 AM / 3 years ago

Italian singer-songwriter Pino Daniele dies of heart attack at 59

ROME (Reuters) - Pino Daniele, one of Italy's most popular singer-songwriters, who fused the musical traditions of his native Naples with jazz and blues, has died of a heart attack at age 59, his agent said on Monday.

Daniele was born and raised in the tough, crime-infested Sanita neighborhood of Naples and drew on that experience to tinge his love songs with themes of poverty and injustice.

From humble beginnings, the self-taught guitarist went on to play with greats such as Eric Clapton, Richie Havens, Pat Metheny and Chick Corea. His band was once the opening act for a historic concert in Milan by Bob Marley.

Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris ordered flags on city buildings to be flown at half-mast and declared a day of mourning for the man whose melancholic, nasal voice made him instantly recognizable to millions.

"I still have his music in my ears," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said. "He had an incredible voice ... his guitar playing was precious and he had a rare sensitivity that was tinged with passion and melancholy that will continue to tell the story of our country to the whole world."

Daniele, who often sang in a mix of Italian, Neapolitan dialect and English, studied accounting in high school but decided early on he wanted to be a musician.

He made his debut album "Terra Mia" (My Land) in 1977. In it, he spoke of the hope and despair of his city, home to the Camorra organized crime group.

Just four years later, his success was crowned when he drew some 200,000 fans to an outdoor concert in one of the southern city's biggest squares.

He composed soundtracks for a number of Italian films, particularly those by the late Neapolitan actor and director Massimo Troisi.

Daniele, who was greatly influenced by American jazz giants such as Louis Armstrong and George Benson, made nearly 25 studio albums, released a half dozen live discs recorded on his tours and produced songs for other Italian singers.

He is survived by his wife and five children.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Michael Roddy and Robin Pomeroy

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