French conductor Paul Mauriat dies

French conductor Paul Mauriat, who enjoyed huge popularity in Japan and was famous for his 1968 hit “Love is Blue”, has died at the age of 81 in the southern French city of Perpignan, friends and family said Saturday.

Mauriat, who died Friday, was born in Marseille but grew up in Paris and began conducting his own orchestra during the Second World War. He wrote his first song with Andre Pascal with whom he won a major French prize in 1958. From 1967 to 1972 he wrote many songs for French singer Mireille Mathieu.

In 1968 his arrangement and orchestration of André Popp’s “Love is Blue” brought him fame and topped the US hit parade. Another hit was Petula Clark’s “I will follow him”. Mauriat also orchestrated songs for Charles Aznavour, Melina Mercouri, Leo Ferre and Leny Escudero. He had a wide following in Japan, where his work was regarded as a benchmark of high quality. He gave some 1,200 concerts in Japan and South Korea. His last appearance was at Osaka in 1998 but his orchestra continues to perform in Asia with new leaders.