When most Americans hear the songs "Love on the Rocks" and "September Morn" made popular by Neil Diamond, they don't usually think of the French composer and singing star Gilbert Becaud. But it was Becaud who collaborated with Diamond to write such hits and it will be Becaud who performs for the first time before a Washington audience tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

Sometimes called the Frank Sinatra of France, Becaud said his first Washington appearance will be "a mixture of English and French -- of course, all the songs known in this country." At 57, Becaud has composed more than 400 songs since his first at age 14. It wasn't until his early thirties that he really began his singing career when a minor hand injury "gave me the opportunity to sing. It helped me to sing without a piano in front of me," he said. Now, Becaud sings in six languages on tours around the world.

But in the United States, Becaud said he's chosen to be known as a composer. With his songs sung by Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand and Kenny Rogers, Becaud says, "I'm supposed to be big as a singer every place else except here. When I was 15 you didn't have any Bordeaux wine, so I thought it was a better idea to go back to France . Now, I come here and compose with my friends and say 'hello' to Washington."

Canada is the next stop on Becaud's North American tour. Then, on to Los Angeles where he and Diamond will team up again to produce a new LP.