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Romano Mussolini Romano Mussolini

Talented jazz musician and the last surviving child of Italy's fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. Though never actively involved in politics, he made an important contribution to a process that is subtly altering Italians' view of their recent past and transforming his father's image from that of an irascible despot into a benevolent, if occasionally misguided, patriarch.

Ironically, had the fascist regime survived, Romano would have had the greatest difficulty pursuing his chosen career. Jazz, with its roots in black culture, was censured - and censored - by his father's government. American musicians were given Italian names so they could be shoehorned into the country's nationalist outlook. Louis Armstrong, for instance, first became known to Italians as Luigi Fortebraccio.

He learned to play piano and accordion while recovering from a childhood illness. He first heard jazz music through some albums that his older brothers had bought, and he grew to love the American art form. By the early 1950s he had developed a style similar to George Shearing’s eloquent approach to the piano, although he later assimilated some of André Previn’s classically inspired sophistication.

In 1956 Mussolini performed at the first San Remo International Jazz Festival, where he garnered much acclaim and offers to tour. He declined all comers, preferring to stay at home with his family and, perhaps, fearing retribution for his father’s actions. He ended up destitute in Rome, working as a carpenter between sporadic musical jobs, many done under an assumed name in the Naples region.

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