Thursday, 23 May 2013

Goodbye, Georges, we’ll miss you.

I had every intention of writing about other things but then I read the news that the singer Georges Moustaki has just died in Nice. 

When I was a student in France at the end of the 1960s, my Moustaki record was one of the few that I had to play on my portable record player. His songs about liberty and solitude  rang true, naturally, to the rather romantic young person I was then and cheered me up if I felt lost and abandoned in the middle of nowhere in a small place in the Ardèche in southern France. 

Originally called Giuseppe, he changed his name to Georges as a tribute to his hero Georges Brassens, about whom he also wrote songs. He was born in Alexandria but went to Paris in 1951 and started his career singing in clubs in the French capital. I always think of him as a French singer. However, he sang in a whole range of other languages: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, English and Arabic. He wrote about 300 songs and it was he who wrote the song “Milord” for Edith Piaf. 

And now the man who sang about the death of the young postman who delivered his love-letters is also dead. 

He may have declared his philosophy to be “nous avons toute la vie pour nous amuser, nous avons toute la mort pour nous reposer” (basically: enjoy yourself now as you’re a long time dead) but in fact he was a life-long advocate of left-wing causes. 

He ended his singing career in 2009, later telling newspaper La Croix that he was suffering from an irreversible bronchial illness that made it impossible to carry on. 

Moustaki told French radio RTL in December that he wanted to be buried in Alexandria, Egypt, where he was born in 1934, and where "there is a cemetery that is the cemetery of free thinkers, and it is there that I want to rest for eternity." 

So there it is. No comments about the “bling” stolen at the Cannes film festival nor about the horrible things going on around the world. Just a farewell to Georges Moustaki, whose albums we still listen to all these years on.

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