Regine, singer and discotheque pioneer, has died aged 92

The singer, actor, nightclub owner and proclaimed inventor of the modern disco leaves an extraordinary legacy

French singer and actor Regine, who claimed the invention of the modern discotheque and once ran a 22-venue nightclub empire across the world, has died aged 92.

The news of her death on Sunday (May 1) was confirmed by her granddaughter, Daphne Rotcajg, who shared the news that Regine “left us peacefully at 11 am (0900 GMT) on this May 1.”

In a statement sent on behalf of Regine’s family, her friend, the comic Pierre Palmade said: “The queen of the night has left. Closing time following a long and great career,” adding that the performer and entrepreneur “had the stars of the whole world dancing in her nightclubs”.

Regine, who operated nightclubs from Paris to Los Angeles, “became synonymous with the crazy nights that lasted until the small hours”, Palmade said, upon which time she would “hit the dance floor until closing time”.

Regine
Regine pictured in the UK in 1972. CREDIT: Evening Standard/Getty Images

Born Regina Zylberberg in Belgium, the legendary figure opened her first club in Paris’ Latin Quarter in the 1950s, replacing the more traditional jukebox set-up with DJs. “If you can’t dance,” she famously claimed, “you can’t make love.”

Despite her international reputation as a nightclub entrepreneur, Regine was best known for her contribution to French songwriting back home, as well as her film acting. Her notable performances included Olympia in Paris and New York’s Carnegie Hall.

“It would make me very happy if people still listened to my songs 50 years from now,” she told AFP in 2020, adding that she was “very proud” that some of them had become part of France’s standard repertoire.

“My first profession was discotheques,” she said. “For a long time, songs were just a hobby. But now I realise that the stage has been the most important part of my life.”

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