French singer Georges Moustaki dies

2013-05-23 15:30
Paris – French singer and composer Georges Moustaki, whose romantic ballads including the 1958 hit Milord won him global fame, died on Thursday at the age of 79, his entourage said.

Born on 3 May 1934 to an immigrant European Jewish couple who had settled in Egypt, Moustaki - whose real name was Giuseppe Mustacchi - penned some 300 songs, marked by their poetic and haunting quality.

"He died early in the morning at 6:00 a.m. after a long illness. He passed away peacefully," a friend said.

Moustaki's flowing beard, soft eyes and curly locks gave him a Messiah-like appearance, and his Milord sung by Edith Piaf became a worldwide sensation.

The song recounted the feelings of a lowly "girl of the port" who falls in love with an elegantly attired Englishman she has crossed several times in the street but who has never noticed her. It was one of the biggest selling songs in Germany and figured on top of the charts elsewhere.

US singer Bobby Darin also did a version with slightly altered lyrics.

'I want to write and paint'

Moustaki changed his name in honour of his idol, French singer Georges Brassens, after he moved to Paris in 1951, where he lived in the posh Ile-Saint-Louis district, one of two natural islands on the river Seine.

His repertoire included songs in French, Italian, English, Greek, Portuguese, Arabic and Spanish.

Leading French stars sang his compositions including Yves Montand, Barbara, Dalida, Juliette Greco and Pia Colomba, and his career was crowned with successes.

Moustaki quit the scene in 2011 following what he said were "irreversible" respiratory problems that rendered him "definitively incapable of singing".

He left Paris for the sunny southern city of Nice.

In his last interview to Nice Matin newspaper in February, he said: "I regret not being able to sing in my bathroom. But singing in public, no. I've done it all... I've witnessed magical moments."

"I want to write and paint. Spend my time on things I like doing, as I have always done," he said.

'He was a troubadour'

Tributes poured in instantly.

"Georges Moustaki has left us: there's a great sadness. He was an artist committed to humanist values," Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said on Twitter.

"He was a troubadour, a great writer and poet. He left us sublime songs," said French singer and actress Line Renaud.

Moustaki's other hits included Le Meteque (1969), Sarah, Ma liberte, Ma solitude, Votre fille a vingt ans and La Dame Brune.