Brigitte Fontaine


24 June 1939

The daughter of two teachers, Brigitte Fontaine developed her taste for writing and comedy very early. She spent her childhood in small villages of Finistère, then in Morlaix. At 17 years old, she moved to Paris in order to become an actress. In 1963, she turned to singing and appeared in several Parisian theatres, interpreting her own works. With Jacques Higelin and actor Rufus, she created the play 'Maman j'ai peur' ('Mom I am afraid'). With Higelin she recorded a single and two albums with material they wrote together. In 1969, she began what would be a long collaboration with Kabyle musician Areski Belkacem. With Belkacem and in the company of Higelin, she conceived 'Niok', an innovative spectacle of theatre and song, for the Lucernaire theatre. Soon after, Fontaine wrote a series of works in free verse and prose which comprised the show 'Comme à la radio'.

Brigitte Fontaine then became an incontrovertible figure in the French underground. In a half-dozen albums, the majority of which published by the independent label Saravah, Fontaine explored different poetic worlds without worrying about the charts. She renounced the use of rhyme, and using talk-over sometimes, she recorded, with very little means and often on two tracks, songs which addressed topics with humour or gravity, according to the mood.

In the eighties the couple took a break from recording and focussed on writing and the theatre. She did record an album after her Japanese tour in 1984 called ‘French corazon’ but no record company was willing to release it until 1990. It seemed Brigitte’s eccentric music was out of date. Finally in 1994 Etienne Daho, a fan himself, took her under his wing for the release of her album 'Genre humain'. It met with great reviews with surprising titles like ‘Conne’ (co-written by Étienne Daho), ‘La Femme à barbe’ (produced by Les Valentins), and poetic ones like ‘Il se mêle à tout ça’ (produced by Yann Cortella and Areski Belkcem). Sales weren’t that high though. Another album ‘Les Palaces’ looked into the then popular electronic scene and saw her reunited with Higelin and Bashung. It met the same fate however.

Not until 2001 was she rediscovered on a large scale. Mainly due to sampling artists (taking samples of her old records) and international acclaim. She recorded a single with British group Stereolab. Her albums 'Kékéland' (2001) and 'Rue Saint-Louis en l'île' (2004) benefited from prestigious collaborations with artists such as Noir désir, Sonic Youth, Archie Shepp, -M-, Gotan Project, Zebda, etc. In 2005, after having given a series of concerts with her usual band (but also with La Campagnie des musiques à ouïr), she published a new novel, 'La bête curieuse', whose erotic ambiance somewhat foretold the tonality of her sixth album, 'Libido' (2006). On the album she works together with French artist M.

In October of 2006, Fontaine appeared at the Barbican Centre in London along with Jarvis Cocker, Badly Drawn Boy and other English artists, for the first public interpretation of Gainsbourg' 'Histoire de Melody Nelson'. On March 29, 2007, she performed in l’Olympia supported by collagues such as Jacno, Arthur H, Anaïs and Jacques Higelin. Between touring she recorded the single ‘Partir ou rester’ with Olivia Ruiz. In 2009 she presents a more political outspoken album 'Prohibition' kicking against increasing governemental paternalism. In 2011 she reworks some of her songs adding it with some shelved songs for a duet-album. In 2013 she returns to her seventies folkrock work with Areski back at the helm.

On the web:

- Brigitte's site at Universal: http://brigittefontaine.artistes.universalmusic.fr
- Website dedicated to Brigitte: http://www.brigittefontaine.net
- Brigitte's pages on Radio France: http://www.rfimusique.com

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What do we think:

DB: Brigitte est folle, a better self description as an album title couldn't have been chosen. If not crazy then at least very bizarre. Her music goes from punk, to jazz, to folk, to electro and back again. She is one of the most intriging artists coming from France and certainly one of the more experimental. Her more 'accessable' albums are the ones she made after 1995.

PR: The diva of French underground music. Always open for experiment, always in tune with the music of that moment. In her career, spanning 40 years!, she created some very unique and intersting albums. Do not start with Brigitte if you are into smooth French chansons like, for instance, Aznavour or Celine Dion. Brigitte offers a completely different kind of listening experience. Her singing/chanting is not beautiful, but intriguing. Her songs are not easy listening, but experimental and challenging. Interested in buying a Fontaine-album? It is difficult to recommend one, because her sound and style is different with almost every album. But her masterpiece is definitely 'Kékéland' and this album will be a great introduction to La Fontaine.


♪♪ - 12 chansons d'avant le déluge (with Jacques Higelin) - 1965

? - 15 chansons d'avant le déluge (with Jacques Higelin) - 1966

? - 13 chansons décandentes - 1966

♪♪♪ - Brigitte Fontaine est folle - 1968

♪♪♪ - Comme à la radio - 1969

♪♪ - Brigitte Fontaine - 1972

♪♪ - Je ne connais pas cet homme - 1973

♪♪ - L'Incendie - 1974

♪♪♪ - Le Bonheur - 1975

♪♪♪ - Vous et Nous - 1977

? - Les églantines sont peut-être formidables - 1979

? - French corazon - 1990

♪♪♪♪ - Genre humain - 1995

♪♪♪ - Les palaces - 1997

♪♪♪♪♪ - Kékéland - 2001

♪♪ - Rue Saint Louis en l'île - 2004

♪♪♪♪ - Libido - 2006

♪♪♪♪- Prohibition - 2009

♪♪♪ - L'un n'empêche pas l'autre - 2011

♪♪♪♪ - J’ai l’honneur d’être - 2013


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