For people who settle in America, food and music are vital reminders of home. That's exactly what Lebanese singer Sabah meant to a lot of Arab Americans and Arab immigrants.

Sabah, who real name was Jeanette Gergis al-Feghali, was a singer and actress who died earlier this week at her home in Beirut. She was 87 years old.

When Sabah began her career in 1940 at the age of 13, Warren David wasn't yet alive. But the president of the multicultural website Arab America, who's a third-generation Lebanese American with Syrian roots, still had a deep connection to her music.

"Her music really brought me close to my culture. It was a way of self-indentification," he explains. "Sabah just had this invigorating voice, and I remember she was a very lively singer. My grandparents, any time there was a festive occasion, we would all gather around and we'd listen to Sabah and dance."

Sabah was playful with her fans, giving them winks and nods during her performances, David remembers. He even met Sabah in the 1980s.

"She was extremely friendly, extremely down-to-earth," he says. "She got into my personality, she became part of me. And I think that was one of her traits: An easy going person, very likeable, very humanistic — those are the traits that I remember about her."

Sabah lived a glamorous life and broke many taboos surrounding women in the Middle East. She took nine husbands, embraced plastic surgery with the verve of Joan Rivers, and hiked up her hemlines like a supermodel.

"She wasn't your typical Arabic singer of the age," David says. "If you go back in Arabic music and you look at the classical music — the singer Umm Kulthum, for example, in Egypt and so forth — Sabah was a whole different way. I think she was a trendsetter in some ways and I think that the newer generation have looked to her and basically borrowed a lot of the techniques and mannerisms that Sabah displayed so well."

One singer of that newer generation is Lebanese pop star and model Rola Saad. She often referred to Sabah as her "soul mother," and Sabah considered Rola one of her daughters. Several years ago, the pair re-recorded some of Sabah's biggest hits as a tribute to Sabah's career of more than 50 years.

Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated where Warren David works. He is the president of Arab America.

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