01 May 2015

La fin d'une époque

Another important figure in my life passed away yesterday. She was a singer whose stage name was Patachou, and she was 96 years old. She hadn't been active for quite a while. I haven't had time to prepare anything about her for the blog, but I can say that I probably learned more French (and derived more hours of pleasure) from listening to Patachou's songs than I have learned from only a handful of other important French people in my life.

I'll try to write more about her later, but I certainly do recommend her music to anybody who appreciates the beauty of the French language. You can listen to a well-known example here. Meanwhile...

It pains me to see the old France that I have loved so much, and that has shaped my life for 50 years, continue to disappear. Paris, the vineyards, the architecture, the history, the literature and music remain, but so many of the great practitioners of a certain era in the history the French language are dying off or have retired. Among singers, I think of Georges Brassens, Barbara, Claude Nougarou, Daniel Balavoine, Michel Berger, Alain Bashung, Jean Ferrat, Georges Moustaki, Charles Trenet, Jacques Brel, and of course La Piaf.... all gone.

Others, artists of my generation — Alain Souchon, Laurent Voulzy, Julien Clerc, Francis Cabrel, France Gall, Véronique Sanson — are at the end of their careers. I'm improvising, so I've probably left some important people out. I hope I don't sound melancholy — I'm not. I'm so happy to have had this life I've led, and to be spending the last part of it in France. I hope this isn't yet the time for my swan song!


  1. I think we are in a "lucky" era when it comes to performing artist...
    be they singers, comedians, entertainers or actors....
    since recording material was first invented, we can "go back and listen"... or watch...
    and re-live and remember...
    the majority of very early attempts have been digitised for modern useage...
    but how long will this approach go on for...
    the 'greats' will probably always have their stuff moved to the new media...
    but we are going to lose a lot.
    And with that, a lot of social history, too!!

    Nice post.... makes one think...

    1. After living in France, mostly Paris, through the '70s and into the early '80s, I went back to the U.S. and didn't return to France until 1988. Fortunately during those years I was working with CHM and other French translators, so my French actually improved despite my being in the U.S. all that time. When Walt and I started coming back to France in the late '80s, I would always return with stacks of music CDs that I'd buy at Virgin Records or the FNAC. Now we have all that music in an iTunes database, for easy listening.

      Here's another famous Patachou song, originally by Georges Brassens. It looks old-fashioned, but it's full of subtleties about that era.

  2. Interesting post. My grandmother was French born.

  3. Bonjour Ken,

    pas de Françoise Hardy :-)

  4. Thank you for the introduction to a singer I did not know.


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