Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Century Of French Music

Enjoy 90 great tracks!

French music. From Musette to underground rock, from chanson to yéyé, from gypsy swing to rap, from Paris to the oversea territories, from 1900 to 2009, here’s a personal overview of the best of a century of French popular music in 90 songs.
It’s difficult and useless to try to identify « pure » French music in the XXth century. Indeed, France has always been very open to foreign influences, like polka (Bohemia), waltz (Vienna), paso doble (Spain), or music hall (UK). 
In the beginning of the century, Aristide Bruant, Félix Mayol, Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier, and Fréhel were some of the first French singers to be recorded. They were playing what is called « chanson Francaise». The word simply means « song » in French but is used to describe the typical lyric driven music from France. At that time the chanson was the most popular style, alongside tango, jazz, waltz, music-hall, and musette. The 30’s and the 40’s saw the rise of many chanson singers and songwriters (Charles Trenet, Edith Piaf, Jean Sablon, Yves Montand, Lys Gauty, Lucienne Boyer, Lucienne Delyle) and Musette’s accordionists (Gus Viseur, Emile Prud’homme, Jo Privat). Chanson was soon influenced by Jazz (Ray Ventura, Trenet), like gypsy music with gypsy jazz (the guitarist genius Django Reinhardt and the violonist Stephan Grappeli) and Musette (Jo Privat, Gus Viseur). But jazz and tango were not the only foreign influences. For example, Henri Garat's “Avoir Un Bon Copain” is the cover of a German song, Felix Mayol’s Matchiche is a spanish paso-doble with lyrics about brazilian music (maxixe), and Edith Piaf covered Peruvian/Argentine waltz (La Foule).
The World War II changed many things. Most of the artists continued to sing during the German occupation of France, sometimes with songs with double meanings or a nostalgic flavor. In the aftermath, artists who sang for the Nazis had difficulties to continue their careers. With the Marshall Plan, the cultural influence of the USA was more important than never. Some pre-war artists were still very popular (Trenet, Piaf) but a cultural renewal was ongoing, exemplified by the existentialist movement (Sartre, Camus).
The golden age of chanson Francaise took place at that time, from the 50's to the 60's, with great songwriters such as Brassens, Jacques Brel, Léo Ferré, Barbara, Aznavour and interprets (Juliette Gréco, Patachou). Without doubt, the greatest of all was Georges Brassens which stands as the true musical genius of French music of the century. In France where there is an old tradition of poetry, the lyrics were often more important than the music. Complex and poetic lyrics may even be the trademark of chanson. Many singers sang classical poets (Verlaine, Baudelaire) and contemporary ones (Aragon, Quenau, Prévert). Nowadays, lyrics of Brassens and Brel are printed in French schoolbooks next to their great masters.
After the first rock ’n’ roll songs in the late 50’s (Boris Vian), the US and UK rock trend really hit the French public in the early 1960s to the 70's. Rock and especially twist energized typical chanson to give birth to the light yéyé (Claude François, France Gall, Jacques Dutronc). It also influenced more intellectual and experimental musics (Brigitte Fontaine, Léo Ferré). Nevertheless, Chanson was still very popular even among the youth (Renaud).
During all these years, some famous singers were also composers for other interprets (Trenet, Ferré, Gainsbourg) but other less known artists are behind true classics (J. Kosma, J-C. Vanier, Michel Legrand, Paul Misraki, Jean Boyer, Areski). This classification is of course too raw to be exact and many artists can’t be classified. For example, Serge Gainsbourg started as a typical chanson songwriter but was also inspired by jazz and African rhythms. He composed yéyé hits for teen-idols but also ambitious pop songs. On the contrary, Brassens never followed any style but his own and his sound is remarkably homogeneous through years.
In the 80s and the 90’s, French musicians merged the fury of underground rock to the spirit of chanson, musette or even gypsy, Latin and Spanish musics (Les Négresses Vertes, Mano Solo, Alain Bashung, les Têtes raides, Mano Negra). Other bands were playing raw rock (Dogs), punk (Bérurier Noir) or hard rock (Trust), but even then, there were a chanson taste with ambitious lyrics (Noir Désir). In the early 90’s, second-generation immigrants living in the suburbs of Paris or Marseille appropriated Hip-hop to French issues and language (NTM), with a gansta attitude (Lunatic, Booba), or more introvered lyrics (Oxmo Puccino). At the same time, French electronic music (Daft Punk, Air, Mr. Oizo) gained world-wide success following the path of Jean-michel Jarre 20 years earlier. Chanson is still very popular in the 00’s. The commercial one is called "variété" . The interesting one is almost always mixed to rock or pop (Benjamin Biolay, Mathieu Boogaerts, Mathieu Chedid, Yann Tiersen), to rock and raï (Zebda) or reggae (Massilia Sound system).
Within this great music, we can’t forget to mention important artists coming from outside Metropolitan France, such as Henri Salvador (Guyanne) or Jacques Brel (Belgium) but settled in Paris. French Caribbean islands (Guadeloupe, Martinique) had a particularly strong musical identity: ancient biguine, sometimes mixed with jazz (Alexandre Stellio) or psychedelic guitar (Les Loups Noirs), the drum music from Guadeloupe called gwo ka (Marcel Lollia aka Vélo). Most recent sounds include zouk in the 80's (Kassav') and reggae-dancehall (Admiral T). There are also original musics in Polynesian Nouvelle Calédonie (Kaneka) and in la Réunion at the east of Madagascar (sega). During the 70’s, there were a revival of local traditional songs in Regions with strong cultural identity, such as Corsica (I Muvrini) and Brittany (Tri Yann). In former French colonies, there were great artists singing in French, sometimes popular in France, sometimes just in the black diaspora (Orchestra Baobab from Senegal, Les Loups Noirs from Haiti, Magic System from Ivory Coast).
To finish, you can notice the links between music and cinema. Lyricists wrote screenplays (Prévert), songwriters composed film scores (J. Kosma, Michel Legrand, Glanzberg, Georges Delerue) and many singers were actors (Jeanne Moreau, Yves Montand, Jacques Brel, Trenet).
In this anthology, I tried to mix classics, popular hits and less known great songs. I preferred to left behind famous but less interesting artists, often playing what is called in French "variété " or "soupe" (Carla Bruni, Alyzée, Mylène Farmer, Johnny Hallyday, Richard Clayderman, Michel Sardou, Goldman, David Guetta…) to keep room to the best artists. Actually, I couldn’t put many important artists, so this anthology shall only be seen as a small introduction to French music. And I didn’t include traditional folk music neither contemporary classical music (Boulez, Dutilleux…) because I don’t know enough about them.

Tracklist :
1. Aristide Bruant –Nini Peau d’Chien (1889/ 1909)
2. Félix Mayol – la Matchiche (chanson/paso-doble, Borel-Clerc , 1905)
3. Mistinguett – Mon Homme (chanson, A. Willemetz, J. Charles, M. Yvai, 1920)
4. Alexandre Stellio – Mussieu Dollar (Martinique, biguine, 1929)
5. Lucienne Boyer - Parlez moi d'amour (chanson, Jean Lenoir, 1930)
6. Henri Garat – Avoir un bon copain (chanson, W.Heyman, J.Boyer, 1931)
7. Maurice Chevalier – Paris je t’aime d’amour (chanson, Chertzinger, Grey, Bataille, Henri , 1932)
8. Lys Gauty- A Paris, Dans Chaque Faubourg (chanson, René Clair, 1933)
9. Jean Sablon & Mireille – Puisque vous partez en voyage (chanson, Jean Nohain, 1934)
10. Fréhel - Où sont mes amants (chanson, Charlys - M. Vandair , 1935)
11. Charles Trenet – Boum (chanson, 1938)
12. Django Reinhardt & Jean Sablon - Rendez-vous sous la pluie (chanson, Trenet, Siniavine, 1935)
13. Jean Sablon - Vous, qui passez sans me voir (chanson, C. Trenet / J. Hess 1936)
14. Django Reinhardt – Minor Swing (gyspy swing, 1937)
15. Gus Viseur – Jeannette (Musette, 1938)
16. Django Reinhardt – Nuages (gypsy swing, 1940)
17. Charles Trenet – Le temps des cerises (chanson, J-B Clément, A. Renard, 1866/1942)
18. Charles Trenet - Que reste t–il de nos amours ? (chanson, 1942)
19. Lucienne Delyle - Mon amant de Saint-Jean (Musette, Agel, Carrara, 1942)
20. Yves Montand - Les feuilles mortes, (chanson, J. Prévert, J. Kosma, 1945)
21. Django Reinhardt – Django’s Tiger (gypsy swing, 1946)
22. Yves Montand - Barbara (chanson, J. Prévert, J. Kosma, 1946/1962)
23. Henri salvador - Maladie d’Amour (1947)
24. Edith Piaf – Hymne à l’amour (chanson, 1949)
25. Edith Piaf – Padam Padam (chanson, H. Contet, N. Glanzberg 1951)
26. Georges Brassens – La Mauvaise réputation (chanson, 1952)
27. Georges Brassens et Patachou - Maman, Papa (chanson, 1952)
28. Georges Brassens –Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux (Aragon, chanson, 1953)
29. Boris Vian and Magali Noël – Fais moi mal Johnny (rock, A. Goraguer, 1956)
30. Jacques Brel – Quand on a que l’amour (chanson, 1957)
31. Edith Piaf – La Foule (chanson, Ángel Cabra, 1936, 1957)
32 Jacques Brel – Ne me quitte pas (chanson, 1959)
33. Juliette Gréco– Jolie Môme (Léo ferré, chanson, 1960)
34. Charles Aznavour- Je m’voyais déjà (chanson, 1960)
35. Georges Brassens – Embrasse les tous (chanson, 1960)
36. Serge Gainsbourg - La Chanson De Prévert (chanson, 1961)
37. Claude Nougaro – Le Cinéma (M. Legrand, 1962)
38. Françoise Hardy - Tous les garçons et les filles (yéyé, 1962)
39. Jeanne Moreau – Le tourbillon de la vie (S. Rezvani, OST Jules et Jim, 1962)
40. Georges Delerue – Thème de Camille (OST, Le mépris, 1963)
41. Barbara – Nantes (chanson, 1964)
42. Barbara – Dis Quand reviendras-tu (chanson, 1964)
43. Michel Legrand – Duo Geneviève - Guy (OST, Les parapluies de Cherbourg, 1964)
44. Jacques Brel – Ces Gens là (chanson, 1966)
45. Georges Brassens – Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète (chanson, 1966)
46. France Gall – Les Sucettes (yéyé, S. Gainsbourg 1966)
47. Claude François – Comme d’habitude (yéyé, G. Thibaut, 1967)
48. Brigitte Fontaine – Dommage que tu sois mort (1968)
49. Jacques Dutronc – L’Opportuniste (yéyé, 1969)
50. Anzala, Dolor, Velo – Ti Fi La Ou Te Madam (gwo-ka - Guadeloupe, 197?)
51. Brigitte Fontaine – Comme à la radio (Belkacem, the Art ensemble of Chicago, 1970)
52. Léo Ferré – La mémoire et la mer (1970)
53. Serge Gainsbourg – Ballade de Melody Nelson (with J-C Vannier, 1971)
54. Léo Ferré – Ton style (chanson, 1971)
55. Brigitte Fontaine – L’Auberge (Jean-Charles Capon,1972)
56. Les Loups noirs – Jet biguine (Biguine - Haiti, 1972)
57. Tri Yann - Tri Martelod (1972, traditional)
58. Serge Gainsbourg – Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais (1973)
59. Renaud – Hexagone (chanson, 1975)
60. Serge Gainsbourg – Variations sur Marilou (with J-C Vannier, 1976)
61. Trust – Antisocial (hard rock, 1979)
62. Renaud – Chanson pour pierrot (1979)
63. Alain Bashung – Vertige de l’amour (1981)
64. Dogs – Too much class for the neighborhood (rock, 1982)
65. Orchestra Baobab – Coumba (Senegal, afro-cuban , 1982)
66. Kassav – Zouk La Ce Sel Medicament Nou Ni (zouk, 1984)
67. Les Rita Mitsouko – Marcia bella (rock, 1984)
68. Bérurier Noir – Pavillon 36 (punk, 1987)
69. Les Négresses Vertes – Zobi la mouche (rock, 1988)
70. Mano Negra – Mala Vida (rock, 1988)
71. Les Têtes Raides – Gino (live) (chanson, 1992)
72. Mano Solo – Allo Paris (chanson , 1993)
73. NTM – Qu’est ce qu’on attend ? (Rap, 1995)
74. Daft Punk – Da Funk (House, 1995)
75. Noir Désir – Un Jour en France (rock, 1997)
76. Alain Bashung – La nuit je mens (1998)
77. Zebda – Oualalaradime (1998)
78. Yann tiersen – La dispute (chanson, Le phare, 1998)
79. Mano Solo – Je suis venu vous voir (live) (1999)
80. Mathieu Chedid (M) - Je dis aime (Andrée Chédid, 1999)
81. Mr. Oizo – Analog worms attack (electronic music, 1999)
82. Magic System – Premier Gaou (Ivory Coast, 2000)
83. Air – Suicide Underground (electro, 2000)
84. Lunatic – Groupe Sanguin (Rap, 2000)
85. Oxmo Puccino – J’ai mal au mic (Rap, 2001)
86. Admiral T – Gwadada (Guadeloupe, Dancehall, 2002)
87. Nosfell – Mindala jinka (2005)
88. Booba – Pitbull (rap, 2006)
89. Mathieu Boogaerts – Chaque fois (chanson, 2008)
90. Benjamin Biolay – La Superbe (chanson, 2009)
cover : a picture of the French sex-symbol Brigitte Bardot


Vasja said...

Bien fait, l'ami!

Peter said...

It's really nice blog.

Paulo1105 said...

Bien qu'étant français depuis ma naissance, j'ai jamais eu le temps en 22 ans de bien me pencher sur la chanson française, la vraie, celle d'antan (et un peu celle actuelle aussi, faut pas déconner et faire son snob non plus).

Pour tes compilations, ton goût, et ce que j'vais découvrir, d'avance : MERCI !


Boebis said...

J'espère que tu trouveras ton bonheur. Je ne sais pas si j'ai été très objectif, mais j'ai essayé de mettre les plus importants, en en snobant ce qui se rapprochait trop à mon goût de la variété(Aznavour par exemple mais d'autres très connus et respectés aussi) mais d'autres amoureux de musiques françaises seraient en désaccord. Pour la musique récente, j'ai mis relativement peu de chanson classique car elle me plait moyennement, mais elle empreigne quand même très fortement le rock et la pop de qualité donc elle est présente en filigrane. Classement contestable comme tout classement, et en le relisant je me dis que j'aurais bien changé quelques trucs, mais qui peut servir utilement j'espère comme première approche partiale et partielle des musique françaises!

Anonymous said...

hey, good mix and writing. I am trying to download them

Boebis said...

Hope you'll like it!

Anonymous said...

Yiks! Fabulous stuff. It's always great to see someone overwhelmingly dedicated to what is generally seen as "niche" music. I always keep my eye out for retro/antique/classic French popular music, especially musette.

Many thanks for your labor!

Boebis said...

Thanks for the compliment but actually I'm not really dedicated to French music. It's just that I'm French ;-) I listen for many musics not only the french one, and I even manage a blog (in french) dedicated to world musics and like everybody i listen a lot to english speaknig music.

Yes musette's pretty awesome. Unfortunately, it's a completely dead style, even more than gypsy swing. The only young musette artist I know is Carmen Maria Vega. I hope we'll have a musette revival one day!

Tony said...
you can find good french/american music reviews here

Mr Axl said...

Wow, great post. Looking forward to hearing the mix.

This is a bit of a cheeky question, but I've been trying to find out what the lyrics are to "Ti Fi La Ou Te Madam" are and have not been able to. I don't suppose there's any chance you could put them up, is there?
(Not looking for a translation, just been trying to find the lyrics.)

Boebis said...

The song has been re-released by Soundway on "Tumbélé! Biguine, afro & latin sounds from the French Caribbean" but i haven't the lyrics, and can't write it as it's not sung in french but in créole :-)

Mr Axl said...

Ah, never mind. Thanks anyway. : )

Yeah, Tumbélé was how I first heard the song. That album is so so good.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately down, :(

Boebis said...

i will upload it again, but it's difficult to find website like megaupload to upload such big files.