Jacques Romain Georges Brel (French: [ʒak bʁɛl]; 8 April 1929 – 9 October 1978) was a Belgian singer, songwriter, actor and director who composed and performed literate, thoughtful, and theatrical songs that generated a large, devoted following—initially in Belgium and France, later throughout the world. He was widely considered a master of the modern chanson. Although he recorded most of his songs in French and occasionally in Dutch, he became an influence on English-speaking songwriters and performers, such as David Bowie, Alex Harvey, Marc Almond and Rod McKuen. English translations of his songs were recorded by many top performers in the United States, including Ray Charles, Judy Collins, John Denver, the Kingston Trio, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Scott Walker, and Andy Williams.
In French-speaking countries, Brel was also a successful actor, appearing in ten films. He also directed two films, one of which, Le Far West, was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973. Having sold over 25 million records worldwide, Brel is the third best-selling Belgian recording artist of all time. Brel married Thérèse "Miche" Michielsen in 1950 and the couple had three children. He also had a romantic relationship with actress and dancer Maddly Bamy from 1972 until his death in 1978.