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The Eye of the INA: Claude Nougaro twenty years later, still in verse but not against everyone

Claude Nougaro liked to define himself as a “lover of words.

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The Eye of the INA: Claude Nougaro twenty years later, still in verse but not against everyone

Claude Nougaro liked to define himself as a “lover of words.” Twenty years after his death, they continue to touch the hearts of the public. The lyrics of his songs are present in the streets of Toulouse, to which he dedicated a song.

His hometown is not the only one to have paid tribute to him. Today, there are nearly a thousand places in France that bear his name, including performance halls, schools and sports clubs. Madelen invites you to rediscover, or, perhaps, to discover, an anthology of refrains that should never have existed. Originally, this lover of poetry had given himself the vocation of writing alexandrines and reading in tiny cabarets. He cannot imagine, in fact, entering into vocal competition with Pierre, his father, a baritone at the Paris Opera.

Also read: Claude Nougaro, late recognition

In 1954, he began to say his verses at Lapin Agile, the dean of Montmartre cabarets, which he called “the safe of eternity”. One evening, without warning, a musician sits down at the piano and spontaneously adds a melody to a text called “Pégase.” Caught in the game, Nougaro improvises notes intended, in his mind, to make his words ring out.

This is how he imagines his first measures without playing the card of excess. He began by writing, for other performers, lyrics set to music by Michel Legrand and Henri Salvador, the first to have adhered to his rhythms. In 1958, he recorded his first 45, but it was only four years later that he finally achieved success with A Little Girl in Tears, and Jazz and Java. At the time of yé-yé, his songs were not often broadcast on the radio, but that did not prevent him from triumphing at the Olympia as the opening act for Dalida, then, alone, throughout France.

A compilation of Nougaro's great songs

A meeting with Baden Powell, who wrote the music for Bidonville, sparked something. He discovers how Brazilian rhythms can give even more strength to his words. The 1970s were thus marked by packed houses, particularly in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Ville and at the Olympia, where he appeared for the first time with a white scarf that went down to his knees. It will become its brand image.

In 1985, the financiers who succeeded Eddie Barclay at the head of his record company fired him. They did the math and his record sales were found to be “slightly loss-making.” Disappointed, he took a trip to New York to make his lifelong dream come true, to discover Harlem, which he called “the Jerusalem of jazz.” He took the opportunity to record the model of what would become Nougayork. Thanks to this song, which brought him two Victoires de la Musique, a new generation discovered him, and made him a triumph, in particular at the Zénith in Paris and at Bercy, where he would never have imagined performing. Throughout the last two decades of its existence, it alternated between large venues, more intimate concerts accompanied by a trio, such as at the Petit Journal Montparnasse, and even by a single pianist. He also published collections of poems illustrated by drawings, another of his talents which he did not show for more than thirty years.

Today, Hélène, his fourth wife whom he called “the woman of his death” ensures his posterity. For his part, one of his three children, Cécile, his daughter, whom he sang shortly after her birth, created “la maison Nougaro” on a barge, at the port of l'Embouchure, in Toulouse. In particular, it exhibits manuscripts of songs written in large notebooks for which he fell in love one day upon discovering the name of the brand: Racine. He had then undoubtedly imagined that thus equipped, he would never yawn to the crows.

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