Gilbert Bécaud


24 October 1927 – 18 December 2001

Bécaud learned to play the piano at a young age, and then went to the Conservatoire de Nice. In 1942, he left school to join the French Resistance during World War II. He began songwriting in 1948, after meeting Maurice Vidalin, who inspired him to write his early compositions. He began writing for Marie Bizet; Bizet, Bécaud and Vidalin became an extremely successful trio, and their partnership lasted until 1950.

While touring with Jacques Pills as a pianist, Bécaud met Édith Piaf, the wife of Jacques Pills at the time. He began singing at her suggestion in 1953, with 'Mes mains and les croix'. His first performance came the year after, and by 1955 he had earned his reputation as the most electrifying performer on the French scene. His hits in the later part of the decade included 'La corrida' (1956), 'Le jour où la pluie viendra' (1957) and 'C'est merveilleux l'amour' (1958).

His first hit in the English-speaking world was Jane Morgan's version of 'Le jour où la pluie viendra' as 'The days the rains came', with English lyrics by Carl Sigman in 1958. He began acting in the same period, starting with 1956's 'Le pays d'ou je viens'. In 1960, he won a Grand Prix du Disque and composed 'L'enfant à l'étoile', a Christmas cantata. That same year, 'Let It be me', an English version of 'Je t'appartiens', became a hit for the Everly Brothers, followed, over the years, by Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Jerry Butler and James Brown.

In 1961, Bécaud wrote and recorded 'Et maintenant', one of the biggest singles in French history. Translated as 'What now my love?', the song became a hit by Shirley Bassey, Sonny & Cher, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra. After writing the opera 'L'opéra d'Aran', Bécaud toured Europe and continued recording a string of pop hits, including 'Natalie' and the controversial 'Tu le regretteras'. He also co-wrote 'Love on the rocks' with Neil Diamond, which was featured on the soundtrack of 'The jazz singer' and was an international hit. The energetic live performances Bécaud gave (always dressed with a speckeled tie which is his trade mark) earned him the pseudonym 'Monsieur 100,000 volts'.

Focusing more on touring than recording into the 1970s, Bécaud did some acting work and finally took time off in 1973, citing exhaustion. In 1974, he was named 'Chevalier dans le Légion d'honneur'.The following year he scored his one and only entry on the UK charts with 'A little love and understanding' which reached number 10 in the spring. He wrote with Pierre Grosz and Neil Diamond, also composing the Broadway musical 'Roza' with Julian More. In 1982, he recorded the duet 'L'amour est mort' with Québécoise singer Martine St. Clair at the start of her career.

The 1990s saw a drastic slowdown of Bécaud's activity, releasing various compilations and touring occasionally. In 2001 he died at the age of 74, on his houseboat on the Seine and was interred in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

On the web:

- Gilbert's website: http://www.becaud.com
- Gilbert's grave: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6521418

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

Andre Hazes (Netherlands)

Lucio Dalla (Italy)

Joaquin Sabina (Spain)

What do we think:

DB: Bécaud combines the bravoure of the old rock 'n roll artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard with french class. No wonder his compositions have been popular in America (in an English translation of course). His powerfull voice and live appearance left us with dozens 'Olympia' albums. Don't weed through them all but stick to his 1966 concert when Bécaud was on the hight of his artictic life. His 69 studio album is a nice one to close the sixties. After this he started repeating himself endlessly untill his death. Good stuff but more of the same.

PR: Bécaud is huge and is one of the few French artists that really had a big international career (he can be compared with Piaf, Montand, Ferré and Trenet). Unlike DB I do not think Bécauld only repeated himself after the sixties. I agree, the late seventies and eighties were not really his strongest periods, but as from the ninetees on, he refound his creativity, resulting in a few very nice albums.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪ - Gilbert Bécaud - 1953

♪♪♪ - Bécaud - 1956

♪♪ - Croquemitoufle - 1963

♪♪♪♪ - A L'Olympia - 1966

♪♪♪♪ - Bécaud - 1969

♪♪ - L'amour c'est l'affaire des gens - 1976

♪♪♪ - Ensemble - 1996

♪♪♪- Spectacle de l'Olympia 97 - 1997

♪♪♪♪ - self titled - 2002

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