Monday, July 28, 2014

Jacques Brel

As you may already know, I am half Belgian and actually live in Belgium most of the year. You may, but probably don't, know our renown national singer/song-writer Jacques Brel. Here, we all know him by name, even though most of us only heard one or two of his famous songs. I personally love him. I think he's one of the greatest singers I've ever heard, one of the best lyricists, as most of his songs  were initially written as poems, and made some of the best performances I've ever seen. 

Of course, it was quite a few decades ago, so he's probably seen as old-fashioned by now, but I don't really care for that. His songs were either written in French or Dutch, so many English speaking people won't know about him for that obvious reason, but you  probably know one of his songs because of their covers in English, notably by Frank Sinatra or Barbra Streisand, but there are also so many more others, and in so many languages! ( See for yourselves :'interpr%C3%A8tes_de_Jacques_Brel ). What I love about him, are not just his songs, but his whole persona. Obviously, I didn't know him, so my judgement relies only on what he showed, but he's was some sort of bohemian romantic old-fashioned (even then!) singer, who was passionate about everything in his life. He liked thinking of himself as a child who never grew up and who constantly searched for love. But don't get me wrong, he's not the chansonette type of guy, rather a very honest one who didn't think too much about what he should or shouldn't say.

He generally shocked French and Belgian audience with his lyrics and his mimicking on the scene, mostly the bourgeoisie. Still, they were the first to book his concerts, because there was just something indescribable about him that makes you instantly love him and forgive him for his harshness. I think it is because his honesty wasn't meant to be mean or to be shocking, it was only said because it was the truth, or at least his truth. And this feeling that you get about his persona is exactly what you get with his songs and performances, a harsh, sometimes even rude, performance, not meant to please you, but to please him. To me, this is something that I rarely find in new singers and that makes all the difference. 

Here are a few of his performances:


Ne me quitte pas:
Here is one of his concerts:

I thought it would be a little repetitive of me to simply restate his biography, so I rather link one for you to read right here:

And I also link you a documentary by the BBC where you not only see him and hear about his life, but also about his impact on the French-speaking scene, but also on a more international level:

Have a great day, and keep your mind sharp!

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