Daniel Balavoine


5 February 1952  - 14 january 1986

Daniel Balavoine was born on February 5th 1952 in Alençon in Normandy. The family had a travelling household going from Bordeaux, Biarritz  to Dax. At the age of 16 the student revolts of 1968 in the town of Pau had big effect on him. In 1970 he started to make music and sang with several bands, including Memphis, Shade's and Présence. The two singles Présence recorded on the Vogue label went unnoticed and the band finally broke up. In '72, Balavoine embarked on a solo career. His first single was a flop. The world of musicals gave him a second chance and he auditioned for the musical comedy 'La Révolution Française' with singer Antoine. The show - whose songs were written by Claude-Michel Schönberg - wasn't a box office success.  In 1974 Balavoine became Patrick Juvet's backing singer. Juvet was in the middle of preparing his album, ‘Chrysalide’. He would give his new backing singer a first break by allowing Balavoine to insert a song of his own, ‘Couleur d'automne’, on the album. 

This track gave Balavoine his break at Barclay where in 1975 he released ‘De vous à elle en passant par moi’. Although again without much succes Barclay believed in Balavoine’s talent and allowed him to record ‘Le Aventures de Simon et Gunther...Stein’  in 1977. The record's main theme was the Berlin Wall and its consequences, which had made a deep impression on the singer, but it also contained the very promising title, ‘Lady Marlène’. However, yet again, the release went almost unnoticed. 

His career only really took off when Michel Berger offered him the role of Johnny Rockfort for the studio recording of ‘Starmania’, In between time, he had shut himself up in a recording studio and concocted what was to be his first hit, ‘Le Chanteur’ in 1978. Another track that featured on the album, ‘Lucie’, also contributed to his growing popularity.  In 1980 Balavoine was big enough to to play at Olympia for three days in a row. One event, however, was to transform him into a unique figure in French music. On March 20th 1980, he appeared on the Second Channel news alongside François Mitterrand, then Socialist candidate for the Presidency. Exacerbated by the sterile content of the debate, the singer proclaimed that: "the young have given up hope, they have lost all faith in French politicians". Overnight he became the spokesman of the young generations who had had their fill of the indifference the ruling class showed towards them. Paradoxically, however, Balavoine's vehement anti-political statement transformed him into a politically militant singer and mouthpiece.  

A passionate car enthousiast, Daniel Balavoine took part in the 1983 Paris-Dakar rally at the beginning of January, co-piloting a Japanese car driven by Thierry Deschamps. He returned filled with impressions from West Africa which he worked into ‘Loin des yeux de l'occident’.  In July 1984 , he took part in the Band Aid concert at Wembley in London, organised to raise funds for the struggle against the famine in Ethiopia. A similar event was organised in France at the Courneuve park to the North of Paris on October 16th 1985, featuring numerous French artists, including Balavoine. Following this, and as a result of his sensitivity to humanitarian problems, Balavoine and Michel Berger founded the charity organisation 'Action Ecoles', to fight against hunger in Africa. In 85, he brought a new, highly electronic, album, ‘Sauver l'amour’. The hit single, ‘L'Aziza’, a tribute to his partner, a Moroccan jew, was an indirect accusation of all forms of intolerance and racism and he was personally awarded the ‘SOS Racisme’ prize. 

A long term ambition had been to get his 'Water pumps for Africa' effort going, taking advantage of the extensive media coverage of the Paris-Dakar rally. In January 86, he went to Africa to supervise the delivery of the pumps, destined for villages. On January 14th, during a reconnaissance trip with the Paris-Dakar rally's director, Thierry Sabine, their helicopter was caught in a sudden sand storm and crashed into a dune. The five people aboard, including Daniel Balavoine, died. Balavoine was buried in the Biarritz cemetery in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques in France. In 2006, Barclay marked the twentieth anniversary of the singer's tragic death, releasing his complete recorded works as a boxed set entitled ‘Balavoine sans frontières’.

On the web:

- Balavoine fansite: http://www.dbalavoine.com
- Another Balavoine fansite: http://www.balavoine.net

If you like this, you probably like... / european counterparts:

Miroslav Žbirka (Slovakia)

What do we think:

DB: The singer with the high pitched voice is so very French that's its hard to imagine he could have made any career elsewhere. And indeed, on first listening to foreign ears you'll find it all a bit strange. Don't let it put you down, Balavoine wrote some great stuff. And, although he had a bit of bad start, at the end of his career he recorded some of France's best records of the eighties. Fellow French artist know this for a fact and Balavoine still holds a sacred aura among them. Note that fellow eighties-star Jeanne Mas still sings 'Tous les cris les SOS' in his memory at all her concerts. Some media and marketeers tend to focus on the humanitarian work the singer had done in his lifetime, sadly overlooking the contribution he had made to French music.

PR: One of the best and most famous French singers of the eighties, died way to young. One can only imagine what creative heights he would have reached if only he would not have died in that helicopter crash... Helas, we only have his few records to remember his great musical talent. And although the production and arrangements are sometimes typical for the eighties (a lot of synths), the melodies, song structure and of coures that typical voice remind us that Balavoine was (and is) a unique talent. 'Sauver l'amour' is a great introduction and one of the best albums of the eighties.


De vous à elle en passant par moi - 1975

♪♪ - Les aventures de Simon et Gunther... Stein - 1977

♪♪♪ - Le chanteur - 1978

♪♪♪ - Face amour / Face amère - 1979

♪♪♪ - Un autre monde - 1980

♪♪♪ - Vendeurs de larmes - 1982

♪♪♪♪ - Loin de yeux de l'Occident - 1983

♪♪♪♪♪ - Sauver l'amour - 1985

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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