30 years have handed because the loss of life of Michel Berger. Fascinated by the swing of Gershwin, the soul of Ray Charles and the rock of the Beatles, he modernized the track. The journalist Yves Bigot, who knew him intimately, publishes a wealthy and nutritious biography. The place we uncover a troubled and demanding employee, anxious and in love.
What made you so on this French singer?
Ten years in the past I knew his story for a superb and easy purpose. I merely assumed that it’s higher to jot down a few subject when you already know it. I felt like I used to be the guardian of various issues. I talked rather a lot with Michel about his story. I even had entry to all of his recording contracts. Like my exchanges, they have been quite a few with France Gall and Véronique Sanson, in addition to with all her musicians. This additionally corresponds to the time I used to be lively on Europe 1 and Liberation. I lived the story of Michel Berger in actual time. So I believed all of that allowed me to inform this story. I up to date the primary model as a result of two occasions occurred within the final 10 years. First, France Gall’s loss of life closed the story. As well as, I used to be lastly capable of meet Béatrice Grimm, a mannequin from the 80s, with whom Michel Berger needed to maneuver to Los Angeles.
Did this early loss of life improve his work? Has he grow to be a fantasy?
The disappearance of the 44-year-old actually provides to the tragic facet of the occasions. And as you say, with a mythic aspect for artists. However have been it not for the essential high quality of his repertoire and his modernity, he wouldn’t have such a response. Most of his repertoire, his model, has not aged in any respect. That is additionally one of many the explanation why I needed to jot down this biography. For Véronique Sanson, the model of music she invented and modernized in France is one thing crucial. He’s not solely a singer and songwriter amongst different issues, he’s somebody who has structured music and songs in France because the late 60s.
What was Michel Berger’s contact like?
In France, he was the primary to handle virtually every part, i.e. not solely the lyrics and music, the manufacturing of the file, but in addition the contracts, advertising, scenography of the concert events, and at last, he shot the video clips himself. He was somebody who had a holistic view of his work. He additionally invented a really rhythmic fashionable, very soulful groove, very rock method to each sound recording and direct lyrics. It’s a clear break with the historical past of French track with a poetic vocation. Right here we’re with a syllable on a notice. As a result of if it is essential to say issues, they should rock!
You describe a superb man in each manner…
He got here from a Protestant higher center class in Paris. Protestantism corseted it. That is what at all times stored him from letting go, actually dwelling and embodying this rock’n’roll perspective that he himself named and wrote for Johnny. In truth, he might solely dream of her. At Michel’s we might snort just a little, however because it was helpful for one thing. His obsession was by no means to waste time. He wasn’t the kind to exit ingesting beer to speak bullshit!
Was it troublesome to dwell?
He was extraordinarily demanding and really demanding! He was capable of follow you for 3 hours with willpower to persuade you of one thing. All the pieces was so near his coronary heart, even questions that had nothing to do with music, like geopolitics, that he virtually felt sick. However at all times with nice magnificence, at all times extraordinarily well-mannered and attentive. He had this aspect of “we’ve got to vary the world, however as everybody takes care of it, I’ve to be the one to do it…”
Did this rigor of thought assist him face up to the shock of the nice tragedies of his life, such because the abandonment of his father, the loss of life of his brother, and the loss of life of Daniel Balavoin?
Quite the opposite, I ponder if it wasn’t all these details that pressured him to take a position headlong into every part he launched into. Not letting the rest intrude so I do not cry… I imagine his willpower allowed him to guard himself. It was very a lot marked by abandonment. To this horrible record have to be added the sickness of her daughter. I by no means heard him complain or whine about something. I’d additionally add that he was a particularly modest individual.
Additionally capable of rage at those that hijacked his work…
On the launch of Chirac’s presidential marketing campaign in 1988, Johnny took to the stage singing “all of us have one thing of Jacques Chirac…”. Michel instantly referred to as me on Europe 1 to say that he was outraged and that he needed to reply. He discovered this abuse shameful. He was outraged, particularly since he was at all times on the left. He was very near Jacques Attali. As quickly as Johnny was pressured by somebody to do one thing, he did it. He did not know the way to say no to Chirac… However he did not do it with malice in thoughts. Michel was the individual Johnny revered probably the most on the earth. And so they did not fall out.
What creative temper was he in earlier than his loss of life?
After the triumphant tour for the Babacar album in 1989, the most important success of their profession collectively, France knowledgeable him that she needed to cease singing, primarily to handle their daughter. This upset Michel very a lot as a result of, as he mentioned, “If I promote 50,000 albums, she is going to promote 1 million!””. She was his spokesperson. As a result of he was obsessive about the social which means of the track and the message it conveyed, France’s stoppage was introduced as a major lack of affect. It couldn’t for no monetary consideration. At the moment Michel had an absolute want to get into cinema and above all he needed to proceed his profession in the USA. It was his obsession.
Have been he and France Gall prisoners of their superb couple picture?
They have been showbiz children and so they have been excellent at fooling them regardless of the troubles their couple was going by means of. That is how their final duet album was born. On this final recording, all of the musicians testified that the environment was very tense for the primary time. France not favored what Michel was doing and needed different issues. She knew she cherished another person. Figuring out that she had a number of tales of her personal, some even claimed that she pressured Michel to look elsewhere. He fell very a lot in love with Béatrice Grimm, who confirmed to me that he deliberate to settle along with her in the USA. However historical past will keep in mind that he died within the arms of France.