Régine, disco pioneer and queen of nightclubs, dies at 92

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Paris (AFP)- French singer and actress Régine, who claimed the invention of the modern nightclub and once ran a nightclub empire from Paris to Los Angeles, died on Sunday at the age of 92, her granddaughter announced at the AFP.

Régine, born Regina Zylberberg in Belgium, opened her first club in the Latin Quarter in Paris in the 1950s, replacing the jukebox, ubiquitous in dance halls at the time, with turntables and disc jockeys.

The new format, she often said, vindicated her claim to “the invention of the disco”.

She said, “If you can’t dance, you can’t have sex.”

New discos spread to the jet set and Regine, who became known as the “Queen of the Night”, opened several other venues, including “Regine’s” in New York in the 1970s, and others in Miami , Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles.

“Régine left us peacefully at 11 a.m. (09:00 GMT) on May 1,” said her granddaughter Daphne Rotcajg.

In a statement sent on behalf of his friend Régine’s family, comedian Pierre Palmade said: “The queen of the night is gone. Closing time after a long and beautiful career.”

Régine “made the stars of the whole world dance in her nightclubs”, he added.

At its peak, Régine’s disco empire included 22 establishments.

“If you can’t dance, you can’t make love.” – AFP/Dossier

Her name “became synonymous with the crazy nights that lasted until the early hours,” Palmade said, adding that Régine herself “would be on the dance floor until closing time.”

Although she is most famous internationally as a nightclub entrepreneur, at home Regine has always been more highly regarded for her contribution to French songwriting.

French singer Renaud called her the last historical representative of French song, inspiring a whole generation of singer-songwriters, including Serge Gainsbourg and Barbara.

After performing in the mythical hall of the Olympia in the French capital in the 1960s, Régine sang at Carnegie Hall in New York and was warmly welcomed by an American audience, a feat that only Edith Piaf could match among French singers.

“It would make me very happy if people were still listening to my songs 50 years from now,” she told AFP in 2020, adding that she was “very proud” that some of them are now part of the French standard repertoire.

“My first job was nightclubs,” she said. “For a long time, songs were just a hobby. But now I realize that performing has been the most important part of my life.”

Régine has inspired many French singers, including Serge Gainsbourg
Régine has inspired many French singers, including Serge Gainsbourg PIERRE GUILLAUDAFP/File

She has also acted in several films, including star directors Claude Lelouch and Claude Zidi.

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