Erik Satie, a composer, calligrapher, and writer was born in Honfleur, France on 17th May 1866.
During his lifetime he lived very much as an "artist" - for his work and his ideals, and did not place a great deal of importance on money. Consequently he lived as poor man for much of his life.
Despite this he moved in the same circles as more famous contemporaries such as Jean Cocteau, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Pablo Picasso, and it was with these people he shared his ideas and friendship.
Satie has a reputation as an eccentric - he gave his work bizarre titles such as Chilled Pieces, Drivelling Preludes (for a Dog), and Dried-up Embryos. This is probably because he had a distinct and unusual sense of wit, but also because he enjoyed courting controversy among the music critics who held a very requited dislike of him.
His music also included strange instructions addressed to the performer. For example: " To whoever. I forbid anyone to read the text aloud during the musical performance. Failure to obey to my instruction will provoke my just indignation against anyone so presumptuous. No exception to this rule will be granted."
And famously, From the short piano piece, titled Vexations (1893): "To play this motif 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence…"
This led to purists ensuring that they did play it exactly 840 times, which of course he doesn't specify is actually required.
Satie was considered an outsider, even founding his own church. He also valued his privacy, never letting anyone see his apartment in Arceuil, where he lived for the last 27 years of his life. He had one known relationship in his life - an intense love affair in 1893 with the model, painter and former trapeze artiste Suzanne Valadon.
He and his music were relatively unknown until the 1960s but in the latter part of this century he has become more popular, and his originality respected rather than vilified.
The great irony of Satie is that his most famous piece is Trois Gymnopedies. Now as likely as Eine Kleine Nachtmusic to be played as the accessible "everyman's" classical piece, it was actually Satie who invented the concept of "Muzak" with what he called "Furniture Music". This was music, which was designed not to interfere with other activities, but to provide a pleasant or soothing background to them. As he remarked: "I see it as melodious, as masking the clatter of knives and forks without drowning it completely, without imposing itself. It would fill up the awkward silences which occasionally descend on guests. It would save them the usual
banalities. Moreover it would neutralise the street noises that indiscreetly force themselves into the picture".
This node lived happily under Eric Satie for a few innocent moments, long enough to collect a Ching! and a good few votes, until Yam pointed out that really, he's an Erik. Sorry for any confusion, and thanks to Yam for furthering the cause of veracity :-)