Gilbert Becaud – Pauvre Pecheur – March 18, 1955 – Le Voix de Son Maitre
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The legendary French singer-songwriter/actor Gilbert Becaud, known affectionately as “Monsieur 100,000 Volts”, Gilbert Becaud was one of the most popular and enduring singers France has ever offered, and his stature as one of the Great Singers of French Pop Music was acknowledged all over the world.
Tonight it’s a ballad, Pauvre Pecheur, which Becaud recorded for French EMI in 1955. Technically not really putting it in the shellac category, but still offered, as many pop records were at the time on 78 rpm. The recording on this post is the original 78 release.
Becaud had a long a very fruitful career before his death in 2001 and this is only one of the many hundreds of recordings he made during his fifty years of recording.
His best-known hits are “Nathalie” and “Et maintenant”, a 1961 release that became an English language hit as “What Now My Love”. He remained a popular artist for nearly fifty years, identifiable in his dark blue suits, with a white shirt and “lucky tie”; blue with white polka dots. When asked to explain his gift he said, “A flower doesn’t understand botany.” His favorite venue was the Paris Olympia under the management of Bruno Coquatrix. He debuted there in 1954 and headlined in 1955, attracting 6,000 on his first night, three times the capacity. On 13 November 1997, Bécaud was present for the re-opening of the venue after its reconstruction.
Bécaud learned to play the piano at a young age, and then went to the Conservatoire de Nice. In 1942, he left school to join the French Resistance during World War II. He began songwriting in 1948, after meeting Maurice Vidalin, who inspired him to write his early compositions. He began writing for Marie Bizet; Bizet, Bécaud and Vidalin became a successful trio, and their partnership lasted until 1950.
While touring with Jacques Pills as a pianist, Bécaud met Édith Piaf, the wife of Jacques Pills at the time. He began singing at her suggestion in 1953, with “Mes Mains” and “Les Croix”. His first performance came the year after. His hits in the later part of the decade included “La Corrida” (1956), “Le Jour où la Pluie Viendra” (1957), and “C’est Merveilleux L’amour” (1958).
His first hit in the English-speaking world was Jane Morgan’s cover version of “Le Jour où la Pluie Viendra” (as “The Day the Rains Came”, with English lyrics by Carl Sigman) in 1958. He began acting in the same period, starting with “Le Pays D’où Je Viens” (1956). In 1960, he won a Grand Prix du Disque and composed “L’enfant à L’étoile,” a Christmas cantata. That same year, “Let It Be Me”, an English version of his “Je t’appartiens”, became a hit for the Everly Brothers, followed, over the years, by Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Jerry Butler, Sam & Dave and James Brown.
Get ready for Monday.