Throughout a marvelous career that spanned the enchanted years of the French belle époque, the great songwriter/operetta composer Vincent Scotto kept a cautious distance from high French culture, choosing instead to identify with the language and music of the cafés, the street, and the countryside. Scotto's perhaps 4,000 songs are a monument of French popular music, while a number of his 60 beloved operettas are still performed to this day. The songs typically exude the cosmopolitan air he breathed in Paris, while the operettas burst with the charms and colors of Provence, his birthplace. Scotto was born in 1876 in Marseilles to Neapolitan immigrants. He began writing songs as a child when still just getting his little fingers around the guitar. He never learned to read music, however, nor did he receive any significant formal training, and was always reliant on others to transcribe his works. While still a teenager, Scotto rocketed to fame when the popular singer Polin picked up his song Le navigatore and, under the title La petite Tonkinoise, managed to make it an enormous hit. After strategic relocation to the capital in 1895, Scotto soon became the top musichall songwriter, starting with his next big success Ah ! si vous voulez de l'amour. His songs were performed by such notables as Maurice Chevalier, Tino Rossi, Josephine Baker, and Edith Piaf. During the 1910s and '20s, he also composed numerous operettas for concerts in the cafés. After returning to Marseilles in 1931, he achieved the first in a series of gigantic successes with the operetta Au pays du soleil. In the '40s, Scotto produced a handful of operatic pieces in a more serious musical style. Most successful among these was Violettes impériales of 1948. Through the '30s and '40s, Scotto also composed the music for over 200 French films, including some of the greatest of the period. The French government recognized his accomplishments with the award of Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur. When he died in 1952 at the age of 76, Scotto was still the fountain of melody he had always been.
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