Naples Musician Who Mixed Blues, Jazz, Love For City, Dies

Italian singer, songwriter and guitarist Pino Daniele, whose fusion of blues, jazz, rock and traditional Neapolitan music was heavily inspired by both the beauty and ugliness of his native Naples, has died. He was 59.

Carlo Saitto, an official at Sant’Eugenio hospital in Rome, told Italian state TV that Daniele died Sunday night after arriving with grave cardiac and respiratory problems. Daniele had a history of heart trouble.

Photo: Antonio Calanni/AP, file
Performing during the “Festival di Sanremo” Italian song contest, in San Remo, Italy.

Daniele was so identified with Naples that its mayor ordered flags flown at half-staff. Yet his style was also in constant evolution, as he experimented endlessly with blues and jazz.

His voice – sexy, bordering on hoarse, alternately soaring or soft – was a distinctive vehicle for songs that often mixed the Neapolitan dialect with Italian and even English. One signature song, riffing on the dialect word for Naples, was “Napule E’” – a loving tribute to the city’s fascinating contradictions. Its opening lyrics, in Neapolitan, speak of the city’s thousand colors and thousand fears.

In his 1980 hit album Nero a meta’ (Half-black), Daniele blended American blues sounds with popular Neapolitan songs. Folding jazz into his work, he performed with stars including Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea. Like his chaotic, port city hometown, Daniele absorbed countless influences.

He composed the lyrics and music, including the hit “Quando” (When), for three movies of the late Neapolitan actor-director-comic, Massimo Troisi.

Born on March 19, 1955, Giuseppe “Pino” Daniele grew up in a city celebrated for song. His own first song was entitled “Terra Mia” (My Land).

The nation’s president and fellow Neapolitan, Giorgio Napolitano, paid tribute to Daniele in a condolence message, saying he made “an original contribution to the musical traditional of his city.”