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France's Queen of Accordeon Yvette Horner dies

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Yvette Horner in 1987. GEORGES BENDRIHEM/AFP

Famous French accordeonist Yvette Horner died on Monday at the age of 95. Having become famous as the mascot for the Tour de France, she performed music by David Bowie and Michael Jackson towards the end of her career.


Horner's agent Jean-Pierre Brun said the woman who had made more than 300 albums and sold millions of recordings in her career was not ill. "She died from a life filled to the brim." he said.

Yvette Horner referred to music as her whole life and "the accordeon was 15 kilos in my arms, that's 15 kilos of happiness".

Born Yvette Hornère in the south-western city of Tarbes on the 22 September 1922, Horner began her career in 1947.

Her mother modified the family surname because she found the shorter version "more commercial".

A year later, she was the first woman to win the Accordeon World Cup.

Horner's parents ran a theatre and she grew up in a household of music lovers.

She studied piano before being introduced to the accordeon by her mother.

In the early 1950s Horner formed her orchestra and began touring.

Her music became popular thanks to her role as official mascot for the Tour de France cycle race.

For 11 years she rode atop the publicity vans playing her accordeon.

At the end of the 1980s, after her husband's death, she changed her look with the help of French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, swapping her jet black hair for flamboyant red and wearing extravagant outfits.

Produced by Quincy Jones in 1989, Horner played music by David Bowie, Michael Jackson and even tried some rap. In the French television show Taratata , she accompanied British pop star Boy George.

Gaultier designed the stage costumes for Horner's last concert in 2011 as well as the CD cover for her album of the same year Yvette hors norme.

Horner was given several special French awards throughout her life, notably the Légion d'honneur, awarded by then president François Mitterrand.