Sacha Distel

Sacha Distel
Sacha distel4.jpg
Background information
Birth name Alexandre Distel
Born (1933-01-29)29 January 1933
Paris, France
Died 22 July 2004(2004-07-22) (aged 71)
Genres Pop, rock, jazz
  • Singer
  • musician
  • actor
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1950–2004

Alexandre "Sacha" Distel (29 January 1933 – 22 July 2004) was a French singer, guitarist, and actor who had hits with a cover version of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" in 1970, which reached No 10 in the UK Charts,[1][2] "Scoubidou", and "The Good Life". He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur in 1997.[3]


Distel was the son of Russian-French emigre Léonide Distel who was born in Odessa (Russian Empire) and French-Jewish pianist Andrée Ventura (1902–1965), born in Constantinople.[4] His uncle, bandleader Ray Ventura,[5] promoted jazz in the 1930s and was involved with swing in France. After Ventura settled in Paris with his orchestra Les Collégiens, Distel gave up piano and switched to guitar.[6]

In 1948, Ventura invited Distel to hear Dizzy Gillespie perform with his orchestra, along with Bruno Coquatrix, Paul Misraki, and André Hornez. Distel's efforts led to the orchestra's split into two rival bands: Guy Wormser's New Orleans band and the cool jazz and bebop aficionados led by Distel. After meeting Hubert Damisch, a saxophonist, Distel founded the band that would allow him to be with the leaders. With help from Jean Marie Ingrand (bass), Mimi Perrin (piano), and Jean-Louis Viale (drums), the band won the Coliseum's Night of Jazz Meilleur Petit Orchestre Moderne award, with Damisch and Distel winning prizes on the same night.

Distel became a professional jazz guitarist. During his career he worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Tony Bennett. He appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1950s after establishing himself as a French crooner. He rose to fame in 1958 with the song "Brigitte", a homage to Brigitte Bardot, with a photo of the couple on the cover. In the 1960s, he composed "La Belle Vie", a tune that made its way across the Atlantic as "The Good Life" and performed by Tony Bennett. French lyrics were added in the 1970s and it became Distel's signature tune. During the 1960s, he had a variety show on French television. His only British hit single came in 1970 with a cover of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", the Oscar-winning Burt Bacharach/Hal David song from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Distel's version reached No. 10 in the UK. In the 1970s, he became popular outside France and hosted the Miss World contest in London in 1977.

He appeared on TV variety shows in the UK throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Seaside Special and The Val Doonican Show. Maintaining his popularity in his homeland, however, Distel recorded French versions of English-language hits, such as "Vite, Chérie, Vite" ("Beach Baby"), "Chanson Bleue" ("Song Sung Blue") and "Je T'Appelle Pour Dire Que Je T'Aime" ("I Just Called To Say I Love You"). He also recorded in German, Spanish and Italian to satisfy his audiences in other parts of Europe.

In August 1980, in honour of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Distel performed at Buckingham Palace to mark her 80th birthday.

On 12 January 2004, Distel recorded an edition of Desert Island Discs for BBC Radio 4. Maurice Ravel and Frank Sinatra were among his eight song choices. The programme was broadcast a month later on 15 February 2004, five months before his death.

During his career, Distel worked with Kenny Clarke, Jimmy Gourley, Lionel Hampton, Slide Hampton, Bobby Jaspar, Barney Kessel, John Lewis, Pierre Michelot, Bernard Peiffer, Henri Renaud, Fats Sadi, Art Simmons, Martial Solal, René Urtreger, and Barney Wilen.[7]

Personal life

Distel was involved with actress Brigitte Bardot in 1958, having invited her to his birthday party in St. Tropez. The relationship ended in 1959. He was romantically involved with singer Dionne Warwick. He married championship Olympic skier Francine Bréaud in 1963. Distel publicly stated that he remained faithful to his wife. "Anything I want in a woman I can get at home."[8]

In an interview a month after Distel's death, his widow Francine said she knew he had been unfaithful. "I knew it was going to happen and I knew it was going to pass."[9]


Distel died of stomach cancer at the age of 71 on 22 July 2004 at his mother in law’s home in Rayol-Canadel, France.[citation needed] Two weeks before his death, he could be seen on TV in a charity broadcast of Qui veut gagner des millions ?.[citation needed]


  • Afternoon in Paris with John Lewis (Atlantic, 1957)
  • Everybody Loves the Lover (Philips, 1961)
  • From Paris with Love (RCA Victor, 1962)
  • Les Filles Moi J'Aime Ca! (RCA, 1963)
  • The Good Life (Kapp, 1969)
  • Back to Jazz with Slide Hampton (La Voix de Son Maitre, 1969)
  • Sacha Distel (Warner Bros., 1970)
  • Close to You (Warner Bros., 1970)
  • More and More (Warner Bros., 1971)
  • Love Music (Polydor, 1973)
  • Swing with Sacha Distel (Contour, 1973)
  • Love Is All (Pye, 1976)
  • Forever and Ever (Carrere, 1978)
  • From Sacha with Love (Mercury, 1979)
  • Amour Tout Court (DRG, 1982)
  • My Guitar and All That Jazz (Pablo, 1983)
  • Move Closer (Towerbell, 1985)
  • Ecoute Mes Yeux (Arcade Music, 1998)
  • But Beautiful (Mercury Records, 2003)


  1. ^ UK Hits Singles 1952-2004 by Graham Betts
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records. p. 157. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. ^ "Ordre De La Legion D'honneur Décret du 31 décembre 1996 portant promotion et". JORF. 1997 (1): 29. 1 January 1997. PREX9612816D. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  4. ^ "Sacha Distel". The Telegraph. 22 July 2004. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  5. ^ Harris, Craig. "Sacha Distel". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  6. ^ "La découverte du bebop". Sacha Distel Official Myspace. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  7. ^ Kernfeld, Barry (2002). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries. p. 619. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  8. ^ Leigh, Spencer (24 July 2005). "Sacha Distel". The Independent. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  9. ^ Randall, Colin (27 August 2004). "Why I accepted Sacha's string of affairs". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 November 2018.