On The Beat, with Spencer Leigh..9th May 2015..6pm—8pm

Spencer and I have known each other for many years…he has interviewed me alot about John ..and we decided it was time to do something a little different. This started earlier this year with my being a panelist on his ‘Juke Box Jury’ show. I was one of four reviewers…and had a great time. We arranged to do another programme, with a subject that indulges us both..the French chansons, some of the why’s and wherefore’s. The date was set for May 9th and we parted ways.

Well, you know how temps fugit…February???…. miles away…March..how many weeks??? April…hmmm busy, busy…when in May??

Panic!!!! Bottles of wine, surrounded by cd’s old, borrowed and new…zut alors et allons-y!!!

I had enlisted the help of Martine, whom I have known for 30 years..I have stayed with her family in Le Mans..her Mother, Louise, was a dynamic lady, who loved the chansons, having grown up with them. We have sat in her brother, Claude’s house, eating, drinking and singing many of these songs, many times. For me, if you want to be IN France, this is the way to do it!  We looked and listened both offline and online, made notes, lost them, listened some more…printed off  words and sang along.

You can hear the resulting programme on this link:


If that doesn’t work, you’ll find it on my FB page.

We had a list of ab fab chansons that didn’t get played…or Spencer put in his own choices.. (we had to let him…it’s his programme!!!)…but we wouldn’t have replaced any of them with Petula Clark or Maurice Chevalier. or even Charles Aznavour…a good tenor/operetta singer…but compared to Brassens/Brel, he does little for us.

If you want you want to hear what Martine and I have been singing, in original recordings, these are all on You Tube…my uber- hot- favourite online space!!

Georges Brassens…’Aupres de mon arbre.’    ‘Le Gorille.’  Mr. Very Beautiful..an outright anarchist who understands life.  I had a photograph of him on the fireplace forever, guiding me, alongside one of John, Elvis and The Dalai Lama!!!!! They disappeared with a replastering earlier this year and I miss them.

Also, you could listen to Leo Ferre’s hommage to Brassens, ‘A Brassens’….as well as his ‘Paris Canaille.’…a wonderful song describing the underbelly of Paris…the one we all want as soon as we’ve seen The Eiffel Tower.

Jacques Brel….’Ne Me Quitte Pas’…could you leave anyone who sang to you like this??!!…’Amsterdam’  When was at University in Caen, 1966/7, being politically woken up, I was at a party with friends, vagueky the worse for wear. We heard that there were still some tickets for Jacques Brel at the fabulous new concert hall…we all piled into a taxi and saw one of the best shows I have ever seen. I have also taken my children…as teenagers…to see the house where he was born in Sete..also to admire Simone de Beauvoir’s apartment..never to knock, although she was still alive at the time..she must have confined her singing to the bath, as there aren’t any recordings out there!

Yves Montand..’Les Feuilles Mortes’   you will probably recognise it as ‘Autumn Leaves’..recorded by Nat King Cole, Aznzvour and Piaf and any balladier…a poignant song of how loves grows simultaneously in unattainable joy and overwhelming pain…’Life separates those who love each other, without making a noise’ (Tout doucement)…ouch!

Francoise Hardy…although more of a pop genre, I’ve always liked her  ..’Comment te dire Adieu’ and ‘Mon amie, la Rose’.

Juliette Greco…John loved her and Brigitte Bardot..we had a full-length pictures of both of them….like a photo negative….he obviously settled on B.B…this Cynthia’s easy transition into John’s very own blonde bombshell.  Try, ‘Sous le ciel de Paris’ and the wonderful ‘Parlez-moi d’amour’..which I am learning with a friend.

Edith Piaf…have you seen the film, ‘La Vie en Rose’, where Marion Cotillard becomes Piaf, before your very eyes and ears? It’s one of the few films that I can watch again…and again. Any song from her life is soul-tearing. We had chosen, ‘L’Accordeoniste’  ‘La Vie en Rose’ and ‘Rien de Rien.’ We wanted everything.

Jean Ferrat, ‘La Femme est l’Avenir de l’Homme’…just when will men accept this???!!!!

Serge Reggiani…an enchanting eulogy for his daughter…’Ma fille’..apparently, this is availabe as a ring-tone…and also ‘Les Loups sont entres dans Paris’…an anti-war song.

Charles Trenet has to be credited for influencing the lives of so many chansonniers……’La Mer’…a love song to the sea.

Gilbert Becaud’s, ‘Nathalie’…describing falling in love with a Russian tour guide in Red Square…you will have heard it, I’m sure.

Boris Vian…a genius polymath…he did everything…but sady, always suffered from ill-health and died at 39 of heart failure. Inhhis short time, he sang, acted, directed, wrote, played jazz..listen to ‘Le Deserteur’..he too was a left-wing rebel, who was telling people not to engage in war and its horrors…this record was banned during the Vietnam war..and in fact, Vian was barred from all television appearances. A more modern Vian, for me, is Neil Young…who also released an anti-war cd..which was immdiately banned by the Bush government at the time of the Iraq invasion. It shot to number overnight.

Boris Vian wrote a beautiful story, ‘L’Ecume des Jours’, where the main protagonist was a woman who had a water-lily growing in her lung..and her millionaire husband was bankrupted trying to keep her alive, by having her constantly surrounded by fresh flowers. He was from a rich family himself, but that couldn’t prevent his poor health. There are English translations.

Now for some more obscure chansonniers…we couldn’t use them on the programme because we could only find them on You Tube.too crackly..you see, we should have started earlier!

Etienne Daho, ‘Des Heures Hindoues’..also recorded by Vanessa Paradis

Frehel…’La Java Bleue’…it’s a dance.

Rina Ketty..”J’attendarai’…I’ll wait for you..

The fabulous Mistinguett, singing, ‘Mon Homme’..a love song to her man.

And let’s finish with Leonard Cohen…’La Manic’,which is on his latest album…he is a true poet…a very real chansonnier..this song is also a love song…as most of these chansons indeed are…one in the form of a letter written to a construction worker on the Manicouagan Power Project…originally sung by its author, George Dor.


Is Bob Dylan a chansonnier? I think so…maybe he doesn’t see himself like that. He read the 19th century poet Rimbaud and wrote:

‘The poet makes himself a seer by a long, prodigious and rational disordering of the senses. He reaches for the unknown and even if, crazed, he ends up by losing the understanding of his visions, at least he has seen them.’

Allez les Chansons!!!!!

Julia x