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Alain Bashung (born Alain Baschung [alɛ̃ baʃuŋ]) (1 December 1947 – 14 March 2009) was a French singer, songwriter and actor. In France, he is considered one of the most famous singers in French chanson and French rock. He rose to prominence in the early 80s with hit songs such as "Gaby oh Gaby" and "Vertige de l'amour", and later had a string of hit successes from the 90s onward, such as "Osez Joséphine", "Ma petite entreprise" or "La nuit je mens". He has had an influence on many later French artists, and is the most awarded artist in the Victoires de la Musique history with 12 victoires obtained throughout his career.

Biography[edit source | editbeta][]

Youth[edit source | editbeta][]

Alain Bashung was the son of a Breton mother working in a rubber factory and an Algerian Kabyle father, whom he never knew.[1] His mother remarried, and at the age of one, Bashung was sent to Wingersheim, near Strasbourg to live with his stepfather's parents.[2] He spent his childhood in the countryside, in a rather conservative environment, alongside a grandmother who did not speak French.[3] He discovered music during his childhood, notably Kurt Weill'sMahagonny, and began to practice with a Rosebud harmonica offered to him when he was 5. He also practiced basketball and cycling and sang in the church choir of Wingersheim.

He came back to Paris in 1959, where he discovered the great chanson artists, and then rock artists such as Gene VincentBuddy Holly (whom he admired deeply), and Elvis Presley.[3] While studying (before dropping out after he was awarded a BTS in accountancy from the École nationale de commerce in 1965),[3], he formed a band called Les Dunces playing folk music and rockabilly.

Long beginnings[edit source | editbeta][]

He later formed a band with musicians met in Royan, and then began to tour in restaurants, hotels and American military bases. He begins his career with his first EP,"Pourquoi rêvez-vous des États-Unis ?" in 1966, which he wrote and composed. At the same time, he joined the RCA label to become a music arranger. He wrote songs for French artists such as Claude ChannesÉvelyne Courtois (whose nom de scène was Pussy Cat) or Noël Deschamps. In June 1967, at the Palais des Sports, he was the opening act (alongside Noël Deschamps and Ronnie Bird) of artists such as the Pretty Thingsthe Troggs or Cream.[3][4] In 1968, he released his first single, "Les Romantiques" (which is now extremely hard to find) which was ignored by the public.[5] Around that time, he dropped the "c" from his name and spent some time at the house of fellow singer Christophe.

From 1972 to 1974, he composed some of the music and cowrote three albums and three singles (including "Marilou") for French rock singer Dick Rivers.[3] In 1973, he plays Robespierre in the musical La Révolution française byClaude-Michel Schönberg.[3]

In 11 years, he released no less than four EPs and ten singles, one under the moniker of David Bergen, and two others in 1976 and 1977 as Hendrick Darmen, composer for a band called Monkey Bizness. All of them failed to have any impact.

Boris Bergman and first successes[edit source | editbeta][]

He then met sound engineer Andy Scott and lyricist Boris Bergman. Together, they realized his first album Roman-photos, with a country and rockabilly sound, which was a commercial failure as punk rock was rising.[3]

In 1979, he produced another album, Roulette russe, darker and leaning more openly toward rock. In 1980, he released the single "Gaby oh Gaby", which became his breakthrough success (selling more than a million copies).[3] His critical and commercial success was confirmed with his next album, Pizza, which allowed him, thanks to his second hit success, "Vertige de l'amour", to tour in prestigious locations, such as the Olympia. However, he broke with Bergman at the time.

Artistic turn[edit source | editbeta][]

In 1982, Bashung released an album called Play blessures, written by Serge Gainsbourg. The album, in high contrast with its immediate predecessor, is dark, not very accessible and minimalistic, as an attempt to break away from his unexpected success. It was a commercial and, at first, critical failure,[3] Bashung being called by some the "Johnny Hallyday of New Wave".[6] Yet, it is now considered a classic album in France.

In 1983, he produced another dark album, Figure imposée, to little success as well. However, in 1984 he made peace with Boris Bergman, and the lyricist wrote for him "SOS Amor" which was a surprise hit.[7] In 1985, he sang "Touche pas à mon pote", a single for the association SOS Racisme.

In the wake of the success of "SOS Amor", he released in 1986 the album Passé le Rio Grande, which allowed him to get his first Victoires de la musique award.

In 1989, he went back to his dark experimentations with the album Novice, from which the singles "Bombez !", "Pyromanes" and "Étrange été" were released. The album marked his first collaboration with lyricist Jean Fauque and his definitive breakup with Boris Bergman.

Mainstream and critical success[edit source | editbeta][]

In 1991, he released another album with Fauque as lyricist, Osez Joséphine, which also included some American classics covers. The album helped him achieve mainstream success, selling 350.000 copies and "Osez Joséphine" became his first real popular success since "Vertige de l'amour". On the same album is featured "Madame rêve", another classic in a different, more atmospheric style, which would be a trademark of his future releases.

In 1992, he covered a French pop classic, "Les Mots bleus" by Christophe, for an AIDS research support compilation. In 1994, he released Chatterton, which he called a "new age country" album. For this album, he worked with artists such as Sonny LandrethAlly McErlaineLink WrayMarc Ribot or Stéphane Belmondo. The single "Ma petite entreprise" was a new popular success. Following the album, he toured for two years and in 1995 released the double live album Confessions publiques.

From 1994 onwards, Bashung began to spend more time for his acting career (which he started in 1981 with Nestor Burma, détective de choc), for instance with Ma sœur chinoise by Alain Mazars.

After recording a duet with Brigitte Fontaine, "City" for her Les Palaces album, he came back to music in 1998 with Fantaisie militaire. For this album, he notably collaborated with Jean FauqueRodolphe BurgerLes ValentinsJean-Marc Lederman and Adrian Utley of Portishead. The arrangements and strings were done by Joseph Racaille. The first single from the album was "La nuit je mens" which was another hit for Bashung. For the album, he received 3 more Victoires de la musique awards in 1999 (and in 2005, he received another for the "best album of the last twenty years"). For Bashung, it was a huge commercial and critical success.

In 2000, he released the compilation Climax, on which some songs are rerecordings as duets with notable artists from the French scene (most famously, the song "Volontaire" from Play blessures with French band Noir Désir). That same year, he cowrote "L'Eau et le vin" for Vanessa Paradis' album Bliss.

In 2002, he released another album, L'Imprudence to critical acclaim, which is considered one of the darker albums of his discography. The album is not easily accessible and features strings and electronic arrangements, with sometimes nearly spoken lyrics, and was inspired according to Bashung by old black and white movies. That same year, he recorded the album Cantique des cantiques with his new wife, singer Chloé Mons, the song was written for their wedding in 2001 by Rodolphe Burger, from a new translation of Solomon's Song of Songs by Olivier Cadiot. In 2003, he sang the French chanson classic "Avec le temps" by Léo Ferré for a tribute album to the late artist, Avec Léo !and wrote the preface to a book about that artist.

In 2004, the double live album La Tournée des grands espaces was released. In 2005, he sang "Le Sud" on a tribute album to Nino FerrerOn dirait Nino. In 2006, he recorded a Charles Trenet song, "Que reste-t-il de nos amours ?" as a duet with Françoise Hardy for her album (Parenthèses...).

In June 2006, in the Cité de la musique in Paris, he got the opportunity to sing for several days. There he brought on stage artists such as ChristopheDominique ARodolphe Burger or Arto Lindsay. In early 2007, after a small break, he was involved in the Les Aventuriers d'un autre monde tour alongside rock and pop artists Jean-Louis AubertCaliDaniel DarcRichard Kolinka and Raphaël. He sang for a couple of evenings in the Salle Pleyel in Paris, and played the role of Jack the Ripper for the song "Panique Mécanique" on Dionysos' album La Mécanique du Cœur.

That same year, he played with Belgian singer Arno in the movie J'ai toujours rêvé d'être un gangster, by Samuel Benchetrit. They appear as themselves, arguing over the authorship of a song.

[1][2]Bashung during his last tour on the 11th of July 2008 at the Francofolies in La Rochelle.

In 2008, he sang "L.U.V." as a duet with Daniel Darc for the latter's album, Amours suprêmes. He was also involved in Étienne Daho's Daho Show, covering "I Can't Escape from You" as a duet with Daho. He also rerecorded Serge Gainsbourg's classic album, L'Homme à tête de chou, for a show.

On 24 March 2008, he released the album Bleu pétrole, collaborating notably with Gaëtan Roussel of French band Louise AttaqueArman MélièsM. Ward or Gérard Manset (covering the latter's song "Il voyage en solitaire" as the final song on the album). He then began to tour for the album. The 10th of June 2008, he sang several times at the Olympia although he was undergoing a chemotherapy for his lung cancer.[8] Jean Fauque claimed that a new album was underway.[8]

Final months[edit source | editbeta][]

On 1 January 2009, Bashung was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur.[9] On 28 February 2009, he received three prestigious Victoires de la Musique awards for his final album Bleu pétrole. The 2009 award ceremony was his last public appearance. He appeared frail, but still performed "Résidents de la République." He won the Best male artist of the year, Best album and Best tour awards.

Bashung died in Paris on 14 March 2009 from lung cancer at the age of 61 at the Hôpital Saint-Joseph in Paris. After a religious ceremony at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, he was buried on 20 March 2009 in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Posthumous events[edit source | editbeta][]

The 12th of November 2009, the opening of a ballet using a rerecording of L'Homme à tête de chou, a 1976 Serge Gainsbourg album, by Bashung as the soundtrack, occurred at the Maison de la Culture de Grenoble, with a choreography by Jean-Claude Gallotta who approached him in 2007 to adapt the work.[10][11]

On the 27th of November 2009, a box set called À perte de vue, which contained the entire output of Bashung so far (on 27 discs), was released. The box set features his twelve solo albums so far, his five live albums, his two duet albums with Chloé Mons, two albums of instrumentals and three albums of covers, duets and rarities. Alongside this box set a double live album documenting his last tour, called Dimanches à l'Élysée and recorded at the Élysée Montmartre on the 14th of December 2008, was released on the 16th of November. That same day, a live video recorded at the Olympia the 10th and 15 June 2008 was released. This DVD was awarded the 2010 Victoires de la musique award for best musical DVD of the year. At the same Victoires ceremony, French singer Benjamin Biolay, who was awarded the Best male artist of the year award, paid tribute to Bashung.

The 26 April 2011, a tribute album called Tels Alain Bashung was released. It features twelve covers of Bashung songs by various artists and bands, with a documentary called Alain Bashung - Faisons envie directed by Thierry Villeneuve. On the 7th of November 2011, his rerecording of L'Homme à tête de chou was released on Barclay Records.

Influence[edit source | editbeta][]

A multi-platinum artist, Bashung received three awards during the ceremony at the Paris Zenith, including best male artist, best album for "Bleu Pétrole" (Barclay/Universal) and best live show. He spent his career singing a pop-chanson repertoire. With 12 trophies won since 1993, he was the most awarded artist in the history of the Victoires de la Musique. Bashung, who had cancer, had to postpone several dates of his last tour. While receiving his award, he said he hoped that record companies would "remain in a human dimension by making people happy with records."

In February 2009, the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine placed six of his albums in their list "100 disques essentiels du rock français" (100 Essential French Rock Albums) with two albums in the top 10, Osez Joséphine at number one, and Fantaisie militaire at number nine.[12]

Discography[edit source | editbeta][]

Studio albums[edit source | editbeta][]

Year Album Charts
France Belgium Switzerland
1977 Roman-photos - - -
1979 Roulette russe 13 - -
1981 Pizza 1 - -
1982 Play blessures - - -
1983 Figure imposée - - -
1986 Passé le Rio Grande - - -
1989 Novice - - -
1991 Osez Joséphine 14 - -
1994 Chatterton 6 - -
1998 Fantaisie militaire 1 15 -
2002 L'Imprudence 1 2 46
Cantique des cantiques

with Chloé Mons

- - -
2006 La Ballade de Calamity Jane

with Chloé Mons and Rodolphe Burger

- - -
2008 Bleu pétrole 1 4 11
2011 L'Homme à tête de chou - - -

Singles[edit source | editbeta][]

Year Single Charts
France Belgium
1966 "Pourquoi rêvez-vous des États-Unis?" - -
1967 "T'as qu'à dire Yeah" - -
"Tu es une petite enfant qui fait la belle" - -
1968 "Chère petite chose" 66 -
"Les romantiques" - -
1969 "Lise" - -
"La rivière" - -
"Simplement quelques jours" - -
"Ho gli occhi chuisi" - -
1970 "Un jour viendra" - -
1971 "Du feu dans les veines" - -
1973 "Bois de santal" - -
1977 "Roman Photos" 71 -
"C'est la faute à Dylan" - -
1979 "Je fume pour oublier que tu bois" - -
1980 "Gaby oh Gaby" 2 -
1981 "Vertige de l'amour" 1 -
"Rebel" 19 -
"C'est comment qu'on freine?" 45 -
1983 "Elégance" - -
1984 "S.O.S. Amor" 36 -
1985 "Tu touches pas à mon pote" - -
"Hey Joe" 59 -
1986 "L'arrivée du Tour" 44 -
"Malédiction" 36 -
1989 "Bombez!" 76 -
"Pyromanes" 94 -
"Etrange été" - -
1991 "Osez Joséphine" 14 -
"J'écume" - -
1992 "Madame rêve" - -
1994 "Ma petite entreprise" 61 -
"J'passe pour une caravane" 31 -
1998 "La nuit je mens" 12 -
"Sommes-nous" 24 -
"Aucun express" 39 -
2003 "La ficelle" - -
2008 "Résidents de la République" 49 32
2008 "Je t'ai manqué" 33 -
2009 "Sur un trapèze" - -
2013 "La nuit je mens" - -

Live albums[edit source | editbeta][]

Compilations[edit source | editbeta][]

Filmography[edit source | editbeta][]

Actor[edit source | editbeta][]

Composer[edit source | editbeta][]