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With the death of Fabrizio De André from cancer on January 11, 1999, Italy lost one of its most modern singer/songwriters. Inspired by the songwriting of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, De André's songs encompassed Genoese folk songs, French protest/social commentary, beatnik "stream of consciousness" poetry, and the soundtracks of Italian film Westerns. A native of the Genoese province of Liguria, De André was born into a wealthy family. His father's criticism of the fascists who controlled Italy caused he and his family to go into hiding in Asti during World War II. The experience left a lasting mark. Although he returned to Genoa following the end of the war in 1945, he continued to be drawn to political and social issues. Entering university as a pre-law student, De André found music a more effective mode for expressing his views. Having studied violin as a youngster, he found his natural musical voice after acquiring his first guitar at the age of 16. American jazz guitarist Jim Hall served as an early influence. Launching his professional career as a member of pianist Mario DeSantis' jazz band, De André increasingly veered toward more pop-minded genres. Forming a country & western band, Crazy Cowboy & Sheriff Ore, he began writing his own songs about suicide, prostitution, and drugs. His debut single, " Nuvole Barocche," was released in 1958. Scoring his first hit, "Marinella," in 1965, De André released his first album of new material, Tutto Fabrizio De Andre, the following year. He remained seclusive, however, refusing to appear on television and not performing his first concert until March 18, 1975. He continued to maintain a low profile for the rest of his life, rarely appearing in concert. De André attracted international attention when he was kidnapped, along with his compatriot Dori Ghezzi, in August 1979 and imprisoned for four months by Sardinian criminals.