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Georges Moustaki, Who Wrote Songs For Edith Piaf, Dies

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Georges Moustaki, Who Wrote Songs For Edith Piaf, Dies

The Musicians

Georges Moustaki, Who Wrote Songs For Edith Piaf, Dies

Georges Moustaki, Who Wrote Songs For Edith Piaf, Dies

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/186323043/186321752" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Georges Moustaki with Edith Piaf in New York in 1958. Moustaki wrote the lyrics to "Milord," one of Piaf's biggest hits. Keystone-France/Getty Images hide caption

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Keystone-France/Getty Images

Georges Moustaki with Edith Piaf in New York in 1958. Moustaki wrote the lyrics to "Milord," one of Piaf's biggest hits.

Keystone-France/Getty Images

Georges Moustaki, one of France's most beloved songwriters, died Thursday in Nice after a long illness. He was 79. Moustaki was known for infusing French song with sounds from around the world.

In 1959, Moustaki wrote the lyrics to Edith Piaf's international hit "Milord," a song about a working-class girl who falls for an English gentleman. At the time, Piaf was in her early 40s and the handsome Moustaki was in his mid-20s.

Piaf was smitten with Moustaki's music, as well as his great charm. Carolyn Burke, who wrote a biography of Piaf, says the two were lovers. They wrote "Milord" while they were on vacation.

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"He started writing words down on a paper napkin. One of them was the word 'milord.' Piaf chose it, drew a circle around it and told him, 'Start from there,' " Burke says.

Although Moustaki did not write the music for "Milord," Piaf liked how his compositions were flavored with jazz and styles that went beyond France's borders. She sang a number of his songs, including "Le Gitan et La Fille" and "Eden Blues."

Moustaki was born in Egypt to Greek parents and moved to France when he was a teenager. He wrote poetry and worked as a journalist for an Egyptian newspaper. As a solo artist, Moustaki became popular for songs about freedom and individuality. His first hit — "Le Meteque" (or "The Mongrel") — is about being an outsider.

In one of the many tributes being written today, France's culture minister wrote that Georges Moustaki was "an artist committed to humanist values."