French President JACQUES CHIRAC has led a host of celebrities paying tribute to legendary singer SACHA DISTEL, who died yesterday (22JUL04) aged 71.

Distel, most famous for singing RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD, lost a long battle with illness at his parents-in-law's home in Rayol-Canadel in the southern French region of Var.

Chirac said, "With his melodies full of happiness and optimism, Distel lit up the lives of millions of French people."

French prime minister, JEAN-PIERRE RAFFARIN, added that Distel "had swing under his skin".

Singer AMANDA LEAR added, "He was one of the few French singers known overseas. Everywhere, he was a star.

"Everywhere in the world, Sacha was the symbol of the French romantic."

Distel will be buried at a private funeral on Saturday (24JUL04).

A message on his website from his record label UNIVERSAL MUSIC FRANCE reads, "He had already won several battles with illness but illness won the war."

23/07/2004 17:37