Saturday, March 14, 2020

Michel Sardou Wears Rolex en Chantant

French Star, Singer, Songwriter

Michel Sardou 

Wears Rolex... en chantant !


I've always felt that one of the most wonderful things about growing up in France is to be able to understand its music. The richness of French lyrics and the soul of their love songs are unfortunately un-translatable. We are far here from the She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.

To understand French talent in music making is to be reminded that probably the most famous melody in the world, "My Way" sung my Frank Sinatra, started as a French song ("Comme d'Habitude"). The song came out in France in 1967 and was sung by Claude François, pictured sitting below, right, before the rights were bought for the American market and released in the US in 1969.

In a previous story in these pages I wrote about Johnny Hallyday, "the French Elvis," after he passed away in 2017. He is pictured above, center. Michel Sardou, the subject of my story today, is on the far left. 

Michel Sardou and Johnny Hallyday are both trans-generational giants of French music. Your mom would hum their tunes, but you also took your petite-amie to their concerts. To give you an idea, Michel Sardou's first No. 1 hit ("La Maladie d'Amour") came out in 1973 while his 2004 album Du plaisir went straight to the number one spot on the French album charts.

And just like with Johnny, I often saw Michel's portrait adorn the front pages of the French press and teen magazines. Posters were hung on bedroom walls; marriages and divorces were thoroughly chronicled. 

Some of the pictures of Michel Sardou I found wearing a Rolex are very rare because they date back from the 80s. They are nowhere on the Internet in the digitized format. Please indulge me. I decided to post them even if you see the aging and crease on the paper as they highlight his stardom; they are a piece of Rolex history.

In one of my favorite songs, "La Maladie d'Amour" (The Love Disease), he describes the symptoms of being in love and compares it to a beautiful disease. 

Elle fait chanter les hommes et s'agrandir le monde (It makes men sing and make the world bigger) / Elle fait parfois souffrir tout le long d'une vie (It sometimes makes one suffer for an entire life) / Elle fait pleurer les femmes, elle fait crier dans l'ombre (It makes women weep, it makes us cry in the shadows) / Mais le plus douloureux, c'est quand on en guérit (But the most painful is when we are cured from it).

Michel was a romantic and always felt the best part of a relationship is the beginning. There was also a rebel side to him. He sang against French colonialism; another song talks about the rights of women in Islamic countries ("Musulmanes"). 

Though France had abolished the death penalty, he sang a song called "Je Suis Pour" (I am for it). But to understand Michel Sardou is to know that his own son had been taken from him. 

He also had a song called "Les Ricains," the nickname French give to Americans. 

Si les ricains n'étaient pas là / Vous seriez tous en Germanie / A parler de je ne sais quoi / A saluer je ne sais qui / Un gars venu de Géorgie / Qui se foutait pas mal de toi / Est v'nu mourir en Normandie / Un matin où tu n'y étais pas

(If the Ricains hadn't been here, you'd be all in Germany / Talking about who knows what / Saluting who knows whom / A guy who came here from Georgia / And though for you personally he didn't much care / He came and died in Normandy / One morning when you weren't there.)