French-speaking Belgium has been paying tribute to the Brussels-born singer and actor Annie Cordy, who has died at her home near Cannes in the south of France, at the age of 92.
Cordy was born Léonia Juliana Cooreman in Laeken in Brussels in 1928 to a carpenter father and musical mother. She started dance lessons at the age of eight, and went on to record over 700 songs and appear in musical comedies, films TV series and plays, as well as 10,000 live shows.
Her fame soon spread beyond Brussels and the local radio, when she was convinced to move to Paris. She later took French nationality.
She was ennobled by King Albert II in 2004 as Baroness, and took as her motto “La passion fait la force” (Passion is strength), a play on the national motto “L’union fait la force”.
Among the first to pay tribute was none other than prime minister Sophie Wilmès.
“Annie Cordy was an accomplished artist whose humour and joie de vivre represented so well that Belgitude that we love so much,” she tweeted.
“It has captured the hearts of many generations. She will be sorely missed. My sincere condolences to her family and loved ones.”
Paul Magnette, himself a possible future prime minister, commented, “We have lost a radiant artist and singer whose talent and permanent good humour have made Belgium shine all over the world.”
Bénédicte Linard, culture minister for the French Community of Belgium, also tweeted:
“We will always remember her choruses, but also her eternal smile, her energy and her talent. It is a great lady who has left us today, and a little of our Belgitude has gone with her.”
From the world of showbiz, Plastic Bertrand, who knew her well, told the RTBF, “She was a truly incredible woman, she was the queen of the music hall. She had such a benevolent spirit. She was a queen, a marvel on legs.”
Cabaretier Vincent Taloche said he was in shock. “I last spoke to her just two weeks ago. It’s a part of my childhood that has gone. She inspired acrobats like us to do this job,” he said.
“What I admired about Annie was her eternal positivity, her eternal desire to make people laugh, without a second thought.”