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Jacques Brel - All about the musician

Decades later, the man's music has not lost its popularity. Brel's albums continued to sell 200,000 copies a year worldwide! And his melancholic composition "Amsterdam", about the life of sailors on the shore in Amsterdam, became a cult anthem!

The complete biography of French-speaking bard Jacques Brel.....

Jacques Brel is a Belgian French-speaking poet, bard, actor and film director. He is often called "the father of French chanson"... Brel was born in Brussels, although he spent most of his life in the legendary city of love, Paris! He died of lung cancer in the suburbs of Paris, and his name is forever engraved in history as the name of one of the best French composers ...

We offer the story of this unique man in today's article....

Childhood and youth

Jacques Brel.
Jacques Brel.

Jacques Brel was born in 1929 in Scharbeek, Brussels, into a wealthy bourgeois family. His parents - Elisabeth and Romain Brel - loved the boy very much and from an early age tried to provide him with everything he needed... Jacques' father was an employee of an import-export company and later co-director of a cardboard company.

Jacques had a peaceful and carefree childhood: he attended the prestigious Catholic school École Saint-Viateur and was a member of the local scout troop.

The boy read and wrote a lot, excelled in history and French... However, in other school subjects, Brel had a clear failure.

As a teenager, Jacques wrote not only stories, but also complex poems and even essays... The boy also loved music, finding a lot of inspiration and beauty in it... At the age of 15, Jacques learned to play the guitar, and very soon formed his own theatre group with his schoolmates, where he began to write his first plays. As for studies - it came to naught. All exams Jacques safely failed ... However, - it was worth it! After all, a dazzling career was ahead of him...

The beginning of the journey

Jacques Brel
Jacques Brel

Brel's first foray into the world of performance art was with a Catholic-humanist youth group called Franche Cordée, in which he sang and played. Soon Jacques developed a thirst for fame, so he quit his job and moved to Paris.

By 1952, Brel was already performing in various cabarets and music halls around the city, performing heartfelt compositions of his own composition! And although Jacques's relatives considered his hobby not serious, the young poet himself persistently continued to trample his way to fame....

In 1955, Jacques released his debut studio album, Grand Jacques. During the same period, the performer-musician's popularity takes on clearer contours, especially when it comes to Jacques' influence on France and French-speaking European countries...

A real success with "Quand on n'a que l'amour."

His first real success came in 1957 with the release of his second album, Quand on n'a que l'amour! The record went gold in Brel's home country and sold over 25,000 copies... The album's single of the same name won Jacques the "Académie Charles Cros" award and became a favourite among a number of famous artists: Dalida, Celine Dion, Lara Fabian, Patricia Kaas....

Following the success of his fourth album, La valse à mille temps, Brel toured the country extensively. Already by the end of the decade, Jacques was already renowned as a superstar....

Musical style and major hymns ...

By the late 1950s, Brel's musical style had visibly changed. Under the influence of pianists such as Gérard Joinest and François Raubert, Jacques's music took on a more melancholic character... Lyrically, he began to deal with more complex themes of life and death, both spiritually and psychologically. The poet often resorted to metaphors in his lyrics, making social commentary and often raising such sensitive issues as middle-class obsession with material goods, the availability of women, addiction to drugs... It is the songs "L'ivrogne", "Jef" and "La chanson de Jacky" that expose a social world so vicious and so criminal.

"Amsterdam," one of Brel's best-known and well-received recordings, is a sombre tribute to the unfortunate lives of sailors.....

And compositions such as "Le Bon Dieu," "Dites Si C'Était Vrai," and "Fernand" explore more spiritual themes.

Sometimes Brel also recorded Flemish versions of songs, such as: "Le Plat Pays", "Les Bourgeois" and "Les paunés du petit matin", released on the sixth album Les Bourgeois (1962).

By the way: these translations were often interpreted by the Dutch poet, writer and translator Ernst Rudolf van Altena.

New successes, film acting career ...

In 1965, celebrating the twelfth anniversary of his music business, Brel performed in a famous cabaret in Paris called Les Trois Baudets! At the end of the same year, after a long tour in Russia, the bard was invited to perform on the stage of the majestic Carnegie Hall... A cherished dream of every musician!

Jacques Brel ...
Jacques Brel ...

At the beginning of 1967, Jacques Brel performed for the second and, unfortunately, last time at Carnegie Hall... During his stay in New York, Jacques managed to see the musical "L'Homme de la Mancha", inspired by the legendary novel "Don Quixote". It fascinated the bard so much that he immediately decided to recreate the musical for European audiences!

In the spring of 1967, Jacques gave his last concert in the French town of Roubaix, after which he turned to acting... Jacques' first role was as Don Quixote himself in his own version of L'Homme de la Mancha, which he translated and directed himself! Jacques prepared for the production thoroughly, and therefore even wrote the accompanying soundtrack! The composition was later released to the public....

In the late 1960s, Jacques, along with actress Claude Jade, starred in a French comedy called My Uncle Benjamin. And in 1973, Brel co-wrote, directed and acted in the comedy film The Wild West! After screening at the Cannes Film Festival, the comedy was announced as a nominee for the Palme d'Or! In the same year, the poet planned a huge round-the-world trip on a yacht ...

Personal life

In 1950, Jacques proposed to Therese Michielsen, to which she accepted. The couple soon had children - three girls.

However, in 1972, Brel became close to actress Madley Bamy. Between them began a stormy romance, which lasted until the death of the artist....

The last years of his life...

Jacques Brel (jacques Brel)...
Jacques Brel (jacques Brel)...

In 1973, Jacques learns that he is terminally ill... Doctors diagnose the musician with a terrible disease: advanced lung cancer. Jacques soon decides to make the most of his remaining years....

Soon Brel started travelling, spending almost all his time sailing! Despite his ill health, Jacques travelled to the Marquesas Islands and then returned to Paris to record his final album "Les Marquises". The record was a great success! It included a political satire called "Les F..." which ended up being blacklisted by Flemish radio. But that didn't bother Jacques anymore. He continued to fly to his favourite islands until he was admitted to hospital in July 1978.

On 9 October, Jacques Brel died. Subsequently, the musician was buried in the much-loved Marquesas Islands....

But even decades later, the man's music has not lost its popularity. Brel's albums continued to sell 200,000 copies a year worldwide! And his melancholic composition "Amsterdam", about the life of sailors on the shore in Amsterdam, became a cult anthem!

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