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Friday, 3 August 2012

Friday's French music break - Michel Berger, "Quelques mots d'amour"

Friday's French music break this week is from one of arguably France's most influential singer-songwriters, Michel Berger.

It's his 1980 single "Quelques mots d'amour".

Michel Berger (screenshot from "Paradis blanc" video)

With excellent timing TF1 broadcast a special tribute to Berger back in early June even though August 2 marked the 20th anniversary of the day Berger died from a heart attack aged just 44.

So much has been written about the man who for two decades shaped the French pop music scene as both a singer and a songwriter, and there's no need to repeat what can be found elsewhere at the press of a button.

(If you're interested, perhaps begin here in English or the official Michel Berger-France Gall site in French)

Berger had the talent, making his first recording at just 15, of someone who has been described as having "music as his mother tongue".

He played a vital role in the careers of, among others, France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Véronique Sanson and (he can be forgiven for one small error perhaps) the relaunch of Johnny Hallyday.

Berger co-wrote the musical Starmania, which was a huge success in France throughout the 1980s and as with much of his music, the songs live on as standards of French variety music.

As Radio France Internationale points out though, unlike other past greats such as Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré or Claude Nougaro, the songs of Berger aren't the preferred choice of contemporary covers versions or reworked into other musical genres.

The original versions remain by and large the ones everybody prefers; instantly recognisable to a huge number of people from the opening bars.

Well that's one interpretation of course. Another would be that they are perceived as being dated and don't lend themselves easily to being reworked into jazz, rock, folk, soul or RnB formats.

Whatever the case, ask any French person to name a Berger song and the chances are they'll come up with one - if not more - and probably be able to sing a few lines too.

And the list from which to choose a favourite is very, very long.

It includes "Paradis blanc",  "Le Groupie de pianiste", "Diego" and the list goes on and on.

Hard to choose, but here's "Quelques mots d'amour" as this week's Friday's French music break.

"Quelques mots d'amour"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've loved Michel Berger's music ever since I moved to France fifteen years ago. It's strange that there hasn't been more cover versions of his songs in the anglo-saxon world, as his music has wonderful tunes.
But I don't agree with what you say about Michel Berger's relaunch of Johnny Halliday's career. Just listen to "Quelque Chose en Nous de Tennessee", a tribute to Tennessee Williams. It's beautiful!


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