Celebrated Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla died unexpectedly Thursday while on a concert tour throughout Europe. He was 68.

Dalla died of a heart attack after eating breakfast Thursday morning in a Montreux hotel in Switzerland, his agency Ph.D srl Music Management report. Prior to his death, The Associated Press reports Dalla performed normally in Montreux and was met with warm applause from the audience. Sadly, Dalla died three days before his 69th birthday.

[Dalla was] a strong and original voice who contributed to renew and promote Italian song in the world. He was an artist beloved by so many Italians, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano said a message to Dalla's family, the AP reports.

The prolific musician had roots in jazz, but was known to play music in all genres, ranging from folk to opera. He began his musical career playing clarinet in a local jazz band, Rheno Dixieland Band, in Bologna, Italy. The band won first prize in the 1960s Jazz Festival in Antibes, France.

Dalla departed on a solo career in the mid-60s, but was unsuccessful at the time as his music was seen as too experimental. He released his first album, 1999, in 1966 and a second in 1970. However, Dalla did not gain the attention of critics until he began collaborating with Bolognese poet Roberto Roversi. Together the pair released three albums, with Dalla composing the music and Roversi writing the lyrics.

In the late 1970s, Dalla skyrocketed to fame with his next albums and a music tour with Francesco De Gregori. Dalla returned to writing his own lyrics and his albums were well regarded by musically cultured groups in Italy. In 1979, Dalla departed on a widely popular Banana Republic tour with De Gregori, followed by the popular release of the hit single Attenti al Lupo in 1990, which made him famous throughout Europe.

Dalla is most famous for composing the haunting Caruso in 1986. The popular song has been covered by many international artists. A copy of the song sung by the late opera performer Luciano Pavarotti sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. Andrea Bocelli also covered the song on his album Romanza, which sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.  

(He) lived his whole life with the desire to amaze and the desire to be amazed, Italian singer Claudio Baglioni said, reports the AP.

A funeral service will be held for Dalla in his hometown of Bologna on Saturday and religious services will be held Sunday.