Patricia Kaas was born as the youngest of seven children near the border of Germany. Her father Joseph (a miner) was French, her mother Irmgard German. Kaas grew up in Stiring-Wendel, between Forbach and Saarbrücken on the French side of the border. Until the age of six she spoke only a German dialect. Her Franco-German heritage resulted in a constant interest in improving the relationship between the two countries. Her mother encouraged Kaas to become a singer from a very young age. At the age of eight Kaas was already singing songs by Sylvie Vartan, Dalida, Claude François and Mireille Mathieu, but also English-language songs such as New York, New York, at various small events; among others the marriage of her brother. Her first great success came when she received first place at a pop song contest. At her first appearances Kaas was already displaying the throaty, smoky voice that would lead to comparisons with Édith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. Patricia Kaas is one of the most successful French-speaking singers in the world. Stylistically her music is not classical chanson, but is closer to a mixture of pop music, jazz and chanson. Since the appearance of her debut album Mademoiselle chante (1988) Kaas has sold more than 17 million records worldwide. In 2002 Kaas had her film debut in "And now... Ladies and Gentlemen" alongside Jeremy Irons. Following the release of "Sexe fort" album Kaas received a particular distinction on 8th December 2003 when she received the First Class Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for her contribution to friendship between France and Germany, an honour that until then had been awarded to only a few international artists.