La Chanson Francaise (the music of France) | Sunny with Occasional Rain
Literally translated, it means ‘French Music’. It was really of an era, a time when some of the greatest artists in the world of French music produced many of the truly immortal songs and lyrics. It was the era when I was growing up, living in Brussels, my father working in the music business and therefore I, being lucky enough to experience so much of that music at a young and impressionable age. It was only when I first started boarding school at 8 years old, that I was really exposed to English culture, French being the language of choice in our house. During holidays, however, i would be back to Brussels and my more habitual environment. Sometimes, during school holidays, I was allowed to spend time at the HMV factory, racking records. This meant organizing and stock controlling LPs ( long playing records) and 45s (singles). It was exciting, grown up, and exposed me to many different styles of music that were being produced and on their way to record shops, ranging from classical, to pop, to accordion music to traditional French and so on. I felt somehow involved in the whole process and was electrified by the idea of everything these records represented, the magic of music, recording artists, the world it conjured up for me at that sentient age.
French music was around me throughout this time of my life. It was only with the emergence of Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley and the Everley Brothers that I started to feel the sensation of a new and different style of music. But despite that, I can never underestimate the enormous effect and influence that the great French artists had on my life, and eventually, many years later, also on my style of composition that always reflects some of that emotion within the melodies. I was also lucky to see and sometimes meet many of these artists – only later did I realize what legends I had had the chance to encounter, whether on stage or in person. I saw one of Piaf’s last performances at the Ancienne Belgique night club. She was frail, clearly ill but the voice was still extraordinary. One of the single great experiences of my life. I would hear pre-release songs from Adamo (signed to HMV Brussels) and listen to discussions about the chart potential of a new release and the different opinions regarding which song from the album should be the single. I discovered Jacques Brel, Becaud, George Brassens, Dalida, Trenet, names that have resonated with me all my life.
My father was a man who loved music. He himself was not a musician, he was an accountant by training. He had attended night school to achieve that qualification, working as an office boy by day and cycling 7 miles each way, every day to achieve a means to succeed. He worked for HMV, later EMI, all his life. He was eventually recognized by both the British and Belgian Governments for his work in charity – pushing artists to perform philanthropically. Unquestionably he was a great lover of the music of that era and I absorbed much of that passion from him.
Today, when I sit and look at the Mediterranean and smell the sweet – musty scent of
Provence, I hear the haunting melody of Charles’ Trenet ‘ La Mer’ later recorded in English by many artists as ‘Beyond the Sea’. One of my all time top ten. Similarly, whenever I hear and wherever I might be in the world, if I hear ‘La Vie En Rose’, I am instantly transported to the Paris that I remembered as a young boy, and along the cobbled streets of Montmartre. Special time, unforgettable music and for me, a most precious gift, a unique turn of fate.
Sunny with Occasional Rain
Sunny with Occasional Rain is a blog series written by BKP Media Group CEO, Barry Kirsch, highlighting moments from his intriguing career.