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Joe Dassin

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Joe Dassin
Joe Dassin in the 1960s
Joe Dassin in the 1960s
Background information
Birth nameJoseph Ira Dassin
Born(1938-11-05)November 5, 1938
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
DiedAugust 20, 1980(1980-08-20) (aged 41)
Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
French pop
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, piano
Years active1964–1980
  • Columbia (Canada, 1964–71)
  • RCA (Canada, 1972–76)
  • CBS (elsewhere, and Canada starting 1976)

Joseph Ira Dassin[1] (French: [dasɛ̃]; November 5, 1938 – August 20, 1980), known as Joe Dassin, was an American–French singer-songwriter and actor. In his career spanning sixteen years (1964–1980), he enjoyed numerous successes in France and the French-speaking world, as well as singing in languages other than French. He had a career in Soviet Union, Finland, Greece, and Germany.[2] In total, he sold nearly 25 million records worldwide.[3][4][5] He was the son of film director Jules Dassin.

Early life[edit]

Dassin was born in New York City to American film director Jules Dassin (1911–2008) and Béatrice Launer (1913–1994),[6] a New York-born violinist, who after graduating from a Hebrew High School in the Bronx studied with the British violinist Harold Berkely at the Juilliard School of Music.[7] Both of his parents were mostly of Ukrainian-Jewish extraction from Kamianets-Podilskyi, Sataniv and Buchach.[8][9][10]

Dassin lived in New York City and Los Angeles until his father fell victim to the Hollywood blacklist in 1950, at which time his family moved to Europe. Between the ages of ten and fifteen Dassin changed schools eleven times.[11] He studied at, among other places, the International School of Geneva and the Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland, and finished his secondary education in Grenoble. Dassin moved back to the United States, where he attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 1957 to 1963, winning an undergraduate Hopwood Award for fiction in 1958 and earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1961 and a Master of Arts in 1963, both in Anthropology.[12] He became a stepson of Greek actress, activist and Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri following his father's second marriage in 1966.


Dassin with his father Jules Dassin in 1970

Moving to France, Dassin worked as a technician for his father and appeared as an actor in supporting roles, among others in three movies directed by his father, including Topkapi (1964) in which he played the role of Josef. He met his future wife Maryse Massiéra in Paris in 1963.

On December 26, 1964, Dassin signed with CBS Records, making him the first French-language singer to be signed with an American record label.

By the early 1970s, Dassin's songs were at the top of the charts in France, and he became immensely popular there. He recorded songs in German, Spanish, Italian, and Greek, as well as French and English. Amongst his most popular songs are "Les Champs-Élysées" (Originally "Waterloo Road") (1969), "Salut les amoureux" (originally "City of New Orleans") (1973), "L'Été indien" (1975), "Et si tu n'existais pas" (1975), and "À toi" (1976).


Joe Dassin appeared in the following movies:

Personal life[edit]

Joe Dassin with his parents, Jules Dassin and Béatrice Launer, in Paris in 1970.

Dassin married Maryse Massiéra in Paris on January 18, 1966. Their son Joshua was born two and a half months early on September 12, 1973, and died five days later. Overcome by grief, Joe became deeply depressed. Despite all their efforts, their marriage did not survive. In 1977, one year after their move to their newly built home in Feucherolles, just outside Paris, they divorced.

On January 14, 1978, Dassin married Christine Delvaux in Cotignac. Their first son, Jonathan, was born on 14 September 1978; and their second son, Julien, arrived on March 22, 1980. Christine died in December 1995.


Dassin died from a heart attack during a vacation to Tahiti on August 20, 1980, aged 41.[13] He was eating lunch with family and friends at the restaurant Chez Michel et Éliane in Papeete when he suddenly slumped in his chair, unconscious. A doctor who was also eating at the restaurant performed CPR on him, but Dassin died at the restaurant. The only ambulance in Papeete was unavailable at the time and took 40 minutes to arrive.[14] His body was returned to the United States and is interred in the Beth Olam section of Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.[15]

Dassin’s grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, California


In 2020, many established artists paid tribute to Joe Dassin songs in a covers / tribute album À toi, Joe Dassin. The album peaked at No. 44 in the French SNEP Albums chart. It also charted in Belgium peaking at No. 26 in the country's Ultratop albums francophone chart and also peaking at No. 4 in the Swiss Hitparade (Albums Chart).[16]

Artists interpreting Joe Dassin songs on the album included Ycare, Axelle Red, Les Frangines, Trois Cafés Gourmands, Patrick Fiori, Kids United Nouvelle Génération, Madame Monsieur, and Camélia Jordana.[citation needed]



  1. ^ The middle name, Ira, was chosen by his mother as a tribute to Ira Gershwin, whom she particularly liked.
  2. ^ According to one of his interviews, rebroadcast on France 2 in the program Vivement dimanche on 27 June 2010, his sales of songs in languages other than French accounted for two-thirds of his income.
  3. ^ RTBF
  4. ^ France Télévision
  5. ^ La libre Belgique
  6. ^ Béatrice Dassin. Genealogy Bank. Retrieved on 26 July 2015.
  7. ^ The Juilliard School of Music, "The Baton", p. 12
  8. ^ Interview with Béatrice Launer. Joedassin.info. April 2004.
  9. ^ Michael Sibir. Reference to the State Archives of Khmelnytskyi region. 31 September 2017.
  10. ^ Joe Dassin. Geneo - International Genealogical Forum. 4 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Joe Dassin, Jules Dassin et Mélina Mercouri : les relations entre père et fils" (Video). L'Institut national de l'audiovisuel (in French). 14 June 1970. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  12. ^ University of Michigan, List of Hopwood Award Winners Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "Joe Dassin, le roman de sa vie (France 3) – Le destin singulier d'une l'icône de la chanson française". Télé 7 Jours. 29 July 2022.
  14. ^ Telestar.fr (21 August 2015). "Joe Dassin : le récit des dernières heures avant sa mort [Phot... – Télé Star". telestar.fr (in French). Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  15. ^ "LOS ANGELES : Hollywood Forever – Cimetières de France et d'ailleurs". Landrucimetieres.fr.
  16. ^ Various Artists: À toi, Joe Dassin, lescharts.com. Accessed 3 July 2023.

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