Michel Berger


28 November 1947 – 2 August 1992

Berger was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine as Michel-Jean Hamburger, son of the doctor Jean Hamburger and concert pianist Annette Haas, both of whom were Polish Jews. Inspired by Yeye Michel started performing with the schoolband at the age of 15. Adopting the stage name Michel Berger, the young singer went into the studio in the spring of 63 to record his début single 'Amour et Soda'. Unfortunately this first single failed to make a major impact on the French music scene. Indeed, it received scarcely any airplay at all. Michel Berger's second single, 'Tu n'y crois pas', proved a different story altogether. Picked up on by the hit radio show 'Salut les copains' (broadcast on Europe 1), The song was a big hit and put the 17-year old in the spotlights.

After which he became record producer and songwriter for EMI and where he wrote amongst others 'Les girafes' for Bourvil in 1967. In the early 1970s, he moved to Warner Music where he produced the early albums of Véronique Sanson. Madly in love with the singer he was devastated when she went off to America with her new boyfriend, the American guitarist Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills and Nash). The break-up with Véronique left Berger feeling abandoned which resulted in his official debutalbum 'Coeur brisé' ('Broken heart'). In 1973, he produced the album 'Message personnel' for Françoise Hardy. The title track, co-wrtitten with Hardy, relaunched her career. Berger started writing for France Gall in 1974, produced all her albums from 1975 on, and married her on 22 June 1976.

In 1978, he composed the musical 'Starmania', with lyrics by Luc Plamondon. The musical starred France Gall, Daniel Balavoine, Diane Dufresne, Nanette Workman, Eric Estève and Fabienne Thibeault. The show was a big success and meant his return to the mainstream. An English version 'Tycoon' was released in 1991 with lyrics by Tim Rice. Partnered by producer Jerome Savary, and by lyricist Luc Plamondon in 1980, he produced the musical 'La legende de Jimmy'. The show never saw the light of day, but the album was nevertheless released in 1982.

In1980 Berger, a shy and private person, had reached this point in his career where he could no longer hide from his popularity and refuse to perform live. So in this year the singer overcame his stage fright to give a concert in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées (30 June - 5 July). Berger was accompanied on stage by a group of ten rock musicians and the Orchestre des Concerts Colonne. Overcome his stagefright he would tour France regularly in the eighties.

Berger was one of a handful of French artists who participated readily and actively in humanitarian acts: in 1985, he worked exclusively for Action Écoles alongside France Gall, Richard Berry and Daniel Balavoine, then later for Ethiopia with Renaud (Chanteurs Sans Frontières) and for Les Restos du cœur with comedian Coluche.

On 2 August 1992, a few weeks after the first album of duets with France Gall came out, Michel Berger died of a heart attack, in the middle of a tennis match. He is buried in the cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.

On the web:

- Webpage on Radio France: http://www.rfimusique.com/siteen/biographie/biographie_6090.asp
- Michel's grave: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6810

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

Claudio Baglioni (Italy)

Frank Boeijen (Netherlands)

What do we think:

DB: For me Berger gaps the bridge between true chanson and french eighties pop. His arrangements are not made with the Café chantant in mind but were more mini-musicals. Especially in the seventies his talent and musical output was different then the other french popular artists. Although his compositions for France Gall became already popular it would take him untill 1979 to gain success on his own. His natural shyness wasn't helpfull I suppose. His influence on French popmusic during the eighties is big considering artists like Balavoine, Lara and Bashung who would probably sound very different if it wasn't for Michel.

PR: Great composer of sad and sometimes humorous piano-based popsongs. He has a very soft and tender voice, that matches perfectly with his somewhat feminin, introvert personality. Besides being a succesful recording artist, many French artists have recorded his songs. His life partner France Gall was his muze and no one interpreted Berger's music better than she did.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪ - Michel Berger - 1973

♪♪- Chansons pour une fan - 1974

Que l'amour est bizarre - 1975

Mon piano danse - 1976

♪♪ - Starmania - 1978

♪♪♪ - Beauséjour - 1980

♪♪♪♪ - Beaurivage - 1981

Dreams in stones - 1982

♪♪♪ - Voyou - 1983

♪♪♪♪♪ - Différences - 1985

♪♪♪ - Ca ne tient pas debout - 1990

♪♪♪♪♪ - Double jeu (with France Gall) - 1992

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