Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel wrote intensely poetic songs about love and friendship, but also about his homeland, death, misogyny and the bourgeoisie.
He refused to write in English and only ever gave two performances to the English-speaking world, and it is difficult to translate his songs into English without losing much of the clever wordplay and pathos that gave them their depth in French.
Seasons In The Sun (albeit a bizarrely emasculated version of the vitriolic original) was a #1 hit for Terry Jacks and then Westlife, and If You Go Away was a Top 10 hit for New Kids On The Block in 1991 (it has also been recorded by Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones).
At the height of his fame in 1966, Brel quit the music business and took up acting in spaghetti westerns, eventually directing two of his own. He then bought a boat, sailed around the world and went to live in Hiwa-Oa in the South Pacific (the island where the painter Gauguin lived and is buried).
He returned to France in 1977 and, having said nothing to his record label about the lung cancer that was slowly killing him, recorded one final album called simply Brel. In 24 hours, it sold 650,000 copies, eventually selling more than two million.
Jacques Brel died in 1978 at the age of 49.