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A Thought for Today
SING OUT! Don't die with all your songs
Gilbert Bécaud died in France
on Tuesday morning. He was 74 and in a long career as a singer-songwriter
he gave France and the world some of the most memorable music and electric
performances in quality pop music.
The term ‘electric’ is well advised when speaking of Gilbert for he had
long been known in Paris and around the world as
" Monsieur 100,000 Volts " because of his manic, supercharged delivery
from the moment he hit the stage till the end of many obligatory encores.
Like Brel, Aznavour, Ferré, and Trenet he was the consummate chansonier,
breathing life into only his own songs.
As a composer Gilbert supplied the melodies for songs that arrived on
American shores with titles like “Let it Be Me,” “What Now My Love,” “The
Importance of the Rose,” “The Day That The Rains Came.” “Where Would I
Be?” and “Nathalie.”
I had the pleasure and great good fortune of being the lyricist Gilbert
most often approached to translate and adapt the majority of his chansons
into English. The more than two-dozen songs we worked on together include
“Nathalie,” “Where Would I Be,” “On The Road Again,” “Paris,” “The Girls
of the Summer,” and “Merci Beacoups.” One of the high points in both of
our careers came when Pierre Delanoë and I provided the French and English
lyric respectively to a commission by Princess Grace for The Official song
of Monaco “The Importance of the Rose” (L’Important C’Est la Rose.) This
is certainly one of Bécaud’s most memorable tunes.
Gilbert Bécaud was born in
Toulon, France on October 24th 1927 and studied classical piano and music
theory at conservatories in Nice and Toulon. In the early 1940’s he joined
the French Resistance and fought till the liberation of Paris.
Before becoming a renowned entertainer Bécaud achieved acclaim by writing
songs for many of France’s top artists including Edith Piaf. But his
influence and success knew no boundaries and in the end he provided
standards, repertoire and hits for Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Judy
Garland, The Everly Brothers, Shirley Bassey. Bob Dylan, Vicki Carr,
Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Vic Damone, Jack Jones, Jane Morgan and
a nearly endless list of international recording artists and performers.
I was a fan of Bécaud’s chansons long before I met and worked with him and
in the early sixties David Kapp found and produced a chart nudging single
for me of one of his early French successes, “Marie, Marie.” Earlier the
same year Kapp had done the same for Jane Morgan’s hit recording of
Bécaud’s “The Day The Rains Came."
Gilbert was greatly admired by the musical critics as well as his peers.
He wrote “September Morn” with Neil Diamond and collaborated with Charles
Aznavour on several songs. I once asked Jacques Brel why he and Bécaud had
never written together. His answer, “We tried. When we met it was Paris,
when we parted it was Berlin.” I had to chuckle at that comment because
Brel and Bécaud were both such individual and demanding (particularly of
themselves) artists and the thought of the super charged working
atmosphere they might have shared still makes me smile.
There wasn’t much Bécaud couldn’t do musically. He wrote a Christmas
cantata, a Broadway show (“Roza,”) several film scores and my own personal
favorite “Opera D’Oran,” a 3 act classical work commissioned by The Paris
Opera. It was full of those rich, romantic melodies that made Bécaud’s
music so singular and touching.
Bécaud was well served by his two most frequent lyricists, the late chief
of the Paris police Louis Amade and Pierre Delanoë the director (for life)
of the French Performing Arts Society. A few years ago during a long, wet
with good French wine, luncheon Pierre and I were discussing my
translation of his lyric for “Nathalie” and we agreed that only Gilbert
could produce such a melody and he added, clasping me on the shoulder,
“And only you and I were crazy enough to take him on.”
I’ve had some crazy and wonderful moments with Gilbert and his death on
Tuesday caused so many of them to come flooding back. I remember his wit,
his incredible talent and most of all his friendship and sense of family.
My sorrow for his widow Kitty and his children Jennifer, Emily, Gaya,
Phillippe and Anne is only tempered by the knowledge that his long and
difficult battle with cancer is at last over. What lilting songs he and
Louis must be making for St. Pete.
Here’s a note from Jerry Lonn
regarding the first concerts to be set for 2002:
dates are starting to come together.
We're firm in Glendora, CA (Citrus College) for May 3rd.
BB King’s is set in New York for May 17th. 2 shows on Friday evening.
We'll set up a big promotional schedule for the days before that,
including a book signing, newspaper, hopefully television. Tickets for B.B
King's will go on sale next Friday and I hope to have all of the
information by the end of the week. It looks like fans will be able to
purchase tickets over the web for this show (and probably the others).
Just thought it would be a good idea to "alert" the fans to these dates.
I’ll give you the specific info as soon as tickets go on sale.”
There you have it. Next week we’ll post ticket details.
'Tis The Season
It must be that time of year
since every other TV commercial is recycled just like the perennial
Christmas Carols. I submit ‘Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds,’ ‘The Salad
Shooter,’ various electric razors, The Clapper & Chiopet.
With the exception of white diamonds (the real, not smelly ones) if you
receive any of the above in your stocking consider it a lump of coal.
While we’re at it, no household appliances for Mom, please – she manages
without them all year long & if she wants a Salad Shooter she’ll pick it
up on her own at an after Christmas sale.
Skip the ties for Dad and if you plan on getting him a sweater add a
couple of extra bucks and make it cashmere. As for Junior and Junior Miss,
forget the apparel (bad enough that we buy them all the wrong and
embarrassing clothes in September for ‘back to school') and concentrate on
something pretty or cunning and impractical. By mid-January it’ll be
broken or cashed in anyway.
Join me tomorrow for a smile or two as I pass along some of recently
arrived ‘stuff’ that has no place to go but to you. Sleep warm.
RM 12/19/2001 Previously