The French composer Claude Debussy was born in the northwestern suburbs of Paris. The oldest of five children, his father was a china shop salesman.
Although his sizable family was short on cash, Debussy landed a spot at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 10. where he studied piano under Antoine Francois Marmontel. Within three years he was playing Chopin piano concertos.
Debussy's 1879 Conservatoire report described him as: "A pupil with a considerable gift for harmony but desperately careless."
Debussy's private life was often turbulent, and his cavalier behavior with women was widely condemned. As a teenager he began an eight-year affair with Blanche Vasnier, wife of a Parisian lawyer. The relationship eventually faltered and he racked up a series of marriages, divorces and affairs, which yielded only one surviving child, Claude-Emma.
Although Debussy's personal turmoil proved amusement for Paris society, his works were praised, starting with "L'enfant Prodigue" (The Prodigal Son), which won the much-coveted Grand Prix de Rome prize.
Debussy was a slow composer, it would often take him weeks to choose one chord in preference to another.
Debussy died of colon cancer at his home in Paris in 1918 at the age of 55.