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Romano Mussolini, pianist, son of dictator

ROME -- Romano Mussolini, a son of World War II dictator Benito Mussolini and his last living offspring, died yesterday. He was 78.

The jazz musician and painter had been hospitalized more than two weeks ago for kidney and gall bladder problems, according to the Web site of his daughter's political party.

The daughter, Alessandra Mussolini, leads a small right-wing political movement.

Romano Mussolini, one of the dictator's three sons and two daughters, was 17 when he last saw his father in April 1945, 11 days before the dictator was killed.

Jazz music was censored in Italy during the fascist regime, but the ban didn't reach the sheltered lives of Benito Mussolini's family. Romano developed a love for jazz and became one of Italy's early connoisseurs, writing reviews in magazines and teaching himself to play the piano.

Benito Mussolini didn't share his son's passion for jazz and preferred classical music. In recent interviews, Mr. Mussolini recalled with fondness the times when he played classical pieces with his father, who was an amateur violinist.

After the war, Mr. Mussolini shied away from his father's tainted legacy and earned a living playing under assumed names with a band in the Naples area. In the 1960s, he became one of Italy's foremost jazz musicians, using his own name in the Romano Mussolini All Stars band.

His 1963 record ''Jazz Allo Studio 7" was acclaimed by critics, and international tours brought him into contact with Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Lionel Hampton.

He was ''a personality that has contributed, in far away and difficult years, to spread and popularize in Italy the extraordinary artistic strength of jazz," said Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni.

Mr. Mussolini refrained from discussing his father's legacy until 2004, when he published a book titled, ''My Father Il Duce," depicting him as a caring father who loved music and cried at the wedding of his first-born daughter.

In addition to his daughter, Alessandra, Mr. Mussolini leaves his wife, Carla Maria Puccini, and two other daughters, Elisabetta, and Rachele. Alessandra and Elisabetta are the daughters of his first wife, Anna Maria Scicolone, the sister of actress Sophia Loren.

A funeral service was scheduled for today in a Rome church.

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