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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK
Obituary: Sacha Distel
Sacha Distel
Sacha Distel was not just one of France's best-loved singers: In the eyes of many he was the perfect Frenchman.

His good looks, easy charm and ability to attract high-profile lovers were at least as responsible for his early fame as his crooning.

Distel may have become a celebrity by dating Brigitte Bardot - but he was more than just a pretty face and a suave voice.

He was also a fine musician and a top-notch guitar-player.

Sacha Distel was born in Paris to a Russian emigre father in 1933.

His musician mother instilled in him a love of music at an early age.

Family connections

Distel's uncle was Ray Ventura - a popular big band leader who was France's answer to Glen Miller in the 1940s and 1950s.

He asked me what you could do with [a guitar] - I told him it was great to get the girls
Henri Salvador
Ventura encouraged his nephew to take up the guitar, which he learned under the guidance of veteran musician Henri Salvador.

"I taught him how to play guitar," Salvador told French radio on Thursday.

"He asked me what you could do with it. I told him it was great to get the girls!"

Distel took up the challenge with relish. By the late 1950s he was regarded as one of France's finest guitarists.

He played with some of the world's jazz greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, and Miles Davis.

He then turned to singing, enjoying his first hit with Scoubidou in 1958.

His popularity in France grew in the 1960s, as he got more hits to his name, as well as his own television show.

Tragedy

He achieved international fame in 1971 with Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head, and went to work with singers like Liza Minelli and Dionne Warwick.

He also covered a popular French version of Stevie Wonder's You Are the Sunshine of My Life.

Although his singing career was on the wane from the mid-1970s, he continued to enjoy huge popularity throughout the decade.

He remained ubiquitous on French TV and tried his hand as a film actor.

But tragedy hit in 1985, when the car he was driving crashed in central France. The actress who was his passenger was severely injured and her career interrupted.

Distel later recorded several albums but without his previous success.


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