The singer-songwriter Georges Moustaki died today, aged 79. While lamenting the loss of the composer of such gems as 'Eden Blues', 'Le gitan et la fille' and of course 'Milord', it would be lacking of me not to refer to some of his lesser-endearing qualities.
There's quite a chunk about Moustaki in my new book, Edith Piaf: Interviews With Those Who Knew Her, published for the 50th anniversary of her death. A genius without any doubt, he was also a moody soul and a thug who according to everyone I interviewed--most especially our mutual friend, Barbara--like to knock his women around.
Felix Marten even wrote Piaf a song about him, 'C'est un home terrible', while they were together--the gist of this being that, while he loved nothing more than using her as 'target practice' and 'giving her some knuckle', when sleeping he bubbled like a baby. Catherine Jan, who was at Piaf's place the first time Moustaki visited, recalls Piaf ordering him to have a bath before meeting him--ironically he slipped on the tiles and broke his collar bone. Barbara told similar stories. When Piaf was very ill in New York--she'd paid for him to go with her--upon hearing she might not survive after collapsing on stage and undergoing a five-hour operation, Moustaki went off in search or 'pretty women' because, if she did survive, Piaf would no be of no more use to him.
A musical genius he certainly was--a nice man, in his youth, he certainly was not. This is why, last year when we were preparing a radio retrospective about Barbara for the BBC and I and her manager were given the task of drawing up the guest list, Moustaki's name was crossed off.