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Charles Trenet

Singer-songwriter Charles Trenet, a legend in his native France, died in a Paris hospital Feb. 18, following a stroke two weeks before. He was 87.

Trenet’s compositions include “La Mer” (The Sea), which has also been sung in English by numerous performers, as well as “Boum,” “Je Chante” and “Que reste-t-il de nos Amours?”

The tireless performer had just finished recording an album of 12 new songs that was due for release in March.

While less well known internationally than fellow artists like Edith Piaf or Maurice Chevalier, Trenet’s huge output of brilliantly crafted songs and his irrepressibly cheerful personality made him one of France’s most cherished stars.

President Jacques Chirac described him as “a magician with words and inventor of rhythms, one of those rare poets who give to an entire era its color, its tunes, its atmosphere, and who nourishes its dreams.”

Culture Minister Catherine Tasca said Trenet “engraved in our hearts some of France’s most unforgettable melodies.”

Charles Asnavour was among a host of French entertainers and politicians at his funeral at Paris’ Madeleine Church on Feb. 23.

Trenet, whose career spanned almost 70 years, said that he wrote songs “like an apple tree makes apples. They come from inside of me.”

But the performer knew the darker side of life. During the Second World War, he was attacked by pro-Nazi collaborators for his many Jewish friends and his homosexuality. In 1945 he left France for the U.S., where he stayed for six years before returning home to resume his singing career.

While Trenet’s songs essentially belong to another era, they have been rediscovered recently by modern French pop artists like Jacques Higelin and Alain Souchon.

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