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Peter Sarstedt dead; British singer-songwriter was 75

Peter Sarstedt waves during a TV show in

Peter Sarstedt waves during a TV show in Berlin on Feb. 2, 2005. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Soeren Stache

Peter Sarstedt, a British singer-songwriter whose 1969 hit “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” gently mocked the jet set and brought him a measure of resurgent fame when it was used in the score of Wes Anderson’s film “The Darjeeling Limited,” died Jan. 8 at 75.

The British media widely reported his death, citing a statement from his family that said Sarstedt had progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disease.

Sarstedt recorded more than one dozen albums, many of them in a folk-rock vein reminiscent of the Scottish singer Donovan. None was more successful than his self-titled 1969 debut, which peaked at No. 8 on the British charts on the strength of “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?,” a lilting waltz about Marie Claire, a poor girl from Naples who ascended the heights of Parisian society and left her childhood friend in the dust.

“You talk like Marlene Dietrich and you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire,” Sarstedt sang, in a nod to the glamorous movie star and ballet dancer, respectively. The subject of the song has adopted the seductive airs of a woman who skis in St. Moritz and tans - wearing a “carefully designed topless swimsuit” - in Juan-les-Pins.

The song was a No. 1 hit in England and in 14 other countries, according to Sarstedt’s website, and earned the singer rave reviews in British magazines such as New Musical Express, which called him the “most original talent to emerge in decades.”

The track won a British songwriting prize, in 1970, but failed to find a wide audience in the United States.

That changed in 2007, when the song was featured in the soundtrack for “The Darjeeling Limited,” Anderson’s film about a train trip through India, and in “Hotel Chevalier,” a short companion piece to the film.

Peter Eardley Sarstedt was born in Delhi, where his parents worked in the British civil service, on Dec. 10, 1941. The family moved to London following Indian independence in 1947 and his father’s death several years later, and Sarstedt began playing music with his brothers Richard and Clive in a skiffle group called the Fabulous Five.

In the liner notes to his debut album, he said he wrote “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” for a girlfriend who “tragically died in a hotel fire.”

In 2009, he told the Daily Express the fire story was “completely untrue.” The girl of the song was “meant to be a generic European girl,” he said, but was based partly on a Danish student, Anita Atke, whom he married in 1969 and later divorced. A subsequent marriage to Joanna Meill also ended in divorce.

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