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May 3: Georges Moustaki

May 2, 2016

Grand_Gala_du_Disque_Populaire_1974_-_Georges_Moustaki_254-9467cropSinger-songwriter Georges Moustaki, who wrote some 300 songs for France’s most popular singers, including Édith Piaf and Yves Montand, was born in Alexandria, Egypt on this date in 1934. His parents were Greek Jews from Corfu who spoke many languages and owned the Cité du livre, an outstanding bookstore in Alexandria. He became a Paris nightclub performer in his late teens and became a songwriter for Piaf in the late 1950s. She was nineteen years his senior, and their love affair became a scandal-sheet obsession. As a performer, Moustaki sang in French, Italian, English, Greek, Portuguese, Arabic, and Spanish. In 1969, he wrote “Le Métèque” (a pejorative word for a Mediterranean immigrant), in which he described himself as a “wandering Jew” and a “Greek shepherd.” After other singers and the record companies rejected it, Moustaki recorded it himself and produced a hit that was the number one song in France for six weeks. “A small, subliminal settling of scores,” he observed, “became the hymn of anti-racism and the right to be different, the cry of revolt of all minorities.” Moustaki toured the world as a performer. He died of emphysema in 2013 at the age of 79 and was buried in Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery just yards from the grave of Edith Piaf. To see him performing, look below.

“To his admirers, his persona suggested a borderless utopia of freedom, brotherhood, and harmony... with a gentle, wistful sense of romance mixed in.” —Billboard