(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Lebanese singer Sabah, one of the leading Arab performers of her generation, has died at the age of 87, her family said on Wednesday.
Born Jeanette Feghali and known to her fans as the “singing bird,” Sabah recorded at least 4,000 songs in her lifetime, released over 50 albums, and acted in 98 films.
In the mid-1970s, she became the second Arab singer after Egypt’s Oum Kalthoum to perform at L’Olympia in Paris. She also performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House.
Sabah was born to a Christian family in the village of Bdedoun, a Lebanese town in the Baabda-Aley province. She is known for her multiple marriages, tying the knot with at least nine men.
Her last marriage, to Lebanese artist Fadi Lubnan, lasted 17 years. She had two children, Dr Sabah Shammas and actress Howayda Mansy, both of whom live in the United States.
She released her first song in 1940, while her parallel screen career began three years later in Egypt, the centre of the Arabic film industry.
In Lebanon, Sabah was often humorously mocked for refusing to leave the limelight, as well as her garish outfits and use of cosmetic surgery.
But she was unabashed: “I’m proud that I’m a village girl but I had a lot of ambition,” she said in 2008.
“She broke so many taboos. I don’t know if she was even aware of it,” said Chady Maalouf, head of programming at Voice of Lebanon radio.
“She was the example of a star, she was totally complete in her appearance, behavior and voice. She shocked people all the time.”
“Today, Lebanon lost a legend. Sabah is gone but she remains in our hearts,” famed Lebanese pop singer Nancy Ajram said on Twitter. “Her memory will remain in the minds and hearts of millions.”
Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt wrote on Twitter: “She was a great singer of a Lebanon that my generation knew, that will never come back”.
Rest in Peace, Sabah.