Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bleating time

There are many stars of French variété I grew up disliking, like Michel Sardou and Serge Lama, and usually I remained steady in my dismissal of them: If I couldn't stand them when I was 13, chances are I still can't stand them. A major exception is Véronique Sanson. For years her bleaty vibrato drove me crazy, but for some reason hearing her 1972 song "Besoin de personne" on the radio a few months ago led to a conversion. It was as if I heard Sanson with a new pair of ears, discovering an uncanny melodic talent and great arrangements. I still have problems with her vocal mannerisms (something she shares with another singer of the same generation, Julien Clerc) but now I can overlook them and focus on the songwriting.

After releasing a pair of singles with her sister Violaine and François Bernheim under the name Les Roche Martin, Sanson put out her solo debut, Amoureuse, in 1972; in retrospect, it stands along Carole King's Tapestry as an album by an introspective female singer-songwriter backing herself on the piano in the early 1970s. (I started writing that it was ahead of its time but in actuality it is very much of its time.) The record and its followup were produced by Michel Berger, who'd go on to reinvent France Gall's career. In 1973, Sanson left for the US where she married Stephen Stills (yes, of Crosby, Stills etc.) and stayed for a while. Like many first-rank variété singers, she's still active and popular—the French public tends to remain more loyal than the American one.

From the variety show Cadet Rousselle, here's Sanson performing her first hit "Besoin de personne," sporting a sensational crochet vest:

Kiki Dee did an English version of the title track, "Amoureuse," in 1973:

Here are three MP3s from Sanson's 1972 solo debut, Amoureuse: "Tout est cassé tout est mort" "Pour qui" and, of course, "Besoin de personne."

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