Four songs as sung by Marie-Louise Damien, more popularly known as Mme. Damia – a French singer, actress and stage personality who was born in 1889 and died in 1978. Damia recorded quite a lot during her career. She is virtually unknown in the U.S. and has all but fallen off the radar around the rest of the world since her death in 1978.
But at the time, certainly at the time of these recordings, made for the French Columbia label in the late 1920s all the way through the 1930s and into the 1940s, Mme. Damia was one of the most popular and versatile tragic singers of her generation.
Not that most French singers don’t lean towards tragedy in their repertoire, Damia was particularly good at wringing out the last bit of pathos in just about any song; and these four are ample proof of that:
1. Calais-Douvres – Columbia (France) DF – 768
2. C’est Mon Gigolo – Columbia (France) DF 133
3. Pluie – Columbia (France) – DF 1425
4. La Marie-Jeanne – Columbia (France) – DF – 2048
In addition to a stellar singing career which began at the turn of the century, she was also an actress, having played numerous roles in motion pictures, going back to her cinema debut in 1927 in Abel Gance‘s Napoleon and continuing into the early 1950s. Her popularity during her lifetime was worldwide, as was evidenced by one of her last tours, which included several dates in Japan in 1953. In 1956 she began what would be her farewell tour, eventually retiring from singing. During a 1974 interview, Damia was asked by the Anglo-French biographer David Bret what her secret to her long life and unique voice was. She matter-of-factly replied; “smoking three packs of Gitanes a day”.
If you’ve never heard Mme. Damia before, here are four samples of her work. It’s a good place to start – there are several reissues of her considerable output of songs to investigate.
In the meantime, pull up a seat, fire up a Gitanes and relax.