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Georges Brassens

French poet & singer songwriter

 

Georges Brassens, one of the most important figures in French musical history, created his unique style in the 40's, forging a legendary reputation with his poetical texts set to simple, but catchy, melodies.

Brassens rarely performed abroad. His lyrics are difficult to translate, though attempts have been made. He accompanied himself on acoustic guitar. Most of the time the only other accompaniment came from his friend Pierre Nicolas with a double bass , and sometimes a second guitar (Barthélémy Rosso, Joël Favreau).

His songs often decry hypocrisy and self-righteousness in the conservative French society of the time, especially among the religious, the well-to-do, and those in law enforcement. The criticism is often indirect, focusing on the good deeds or innocence of others in contrast. His elegant use of florid language and dark humor, along with bouncy rhythms, often give a rather jocular feel to even the grimmest lyrics.

Some of his most famous songs include:

  • Les copains d'abord, about a boat of that name, and friendship, written for a movie
  • Chanson pour l'Auvergnat, lauding those who take care of the downtrodden against the pettiness of the bourgeois and the harshness of law enforcement.
  • La Cane de Jeanne for Marcel and Jeanne Planche, who befriended and sheltered him and others.
  • La mauvaise réputation – "the bad reputation" – a semi-autobiographical tune with its catchy lyric: "Mais les braves gens n'aiment pas que l'on suive une autre route qu'eux" (But the good folks don't like it if you take a different road than they do.)
  • Les amoureux des bancs publics – about young lovers who kiss each other publicly and shock self-righteous people.
  • Le gorille – tells, in a humorous fashion, of a gorilla with a large penis (and admired for this by ladies) who escapes his cage. Mistaking a robed judge for a woman, the beast forcefully sodomizes him. The song contrasts the wooden attitude that the judge had exhibited when sentencing a man to death by the guillotine with his cries for mercy when being assaulted by the gorilla. This song, considered pornographic, was banned for a while. The song's refrain (Gare au gori – i – i – i – ille, "beware the gorilla") is widely known
  • Fernande – a 'virile antiphon' about the women lonely men think about to inspire self-gratification (or to nip it in the bud). Its infamous refrain (Quand je pense à Fernande, je bande, je bande..., `When I think about Fernande, I get hard') is still immediately recognized in France, and has essentially ended the use of several female first names.
  • Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète, a long song (7:18) describing, in a colourful, "live" and poetic way, his wish to be buried on a peculiar sandy beach in his hometown, "Plage de la Corniche".
  • Mourir pour des idées, describing the recurring violence over ideas and an exhortation to be left in peace.

Brassens died of cancer in 1981, in Saint-Gély-du-Fesc, having suffered health problems for many years, and rests at the Cimetière le Py in Sète.

If you want to listen to some of his songs, check out these clips:-

La mauvaise réputation (chanson sous titrée en français)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVy87tdvx8w

Les amoureux des bancs publics 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ic_wbt63LD8&feature=related

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse … 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWlLNpJE1zI&feature=related

Quand on est con (le temps ne fait rien à l’affaire)  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gznDOMKeWkA&feature=related

Hécatombe  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7OV-0REgzc

Le Gorille    

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2fghLXlBh0&feature=player_embedded

Click here for the text in French for 2 of Brassen's more controversail songs: Hecatombe and Le Gorille