Valérie Lagrange


25 February 1942

Valérie Lagrange was born as Danielle Charaudeau in Paris. Her parents ran a hardware business at the Porte de la Chapelle. Having more artistic ambitions she started to frequent castings and auditions in search of an acting role. She scored her first job at the age of 17 when Claude Autant-Lara picked her out to play Bourvil's daughter in the film 'La jument verte'. It was then when she took up the pseudonym Valérie Lagrange. She starred in more movies in this period of which the one as Jean-Paul Belmondo’s fiancée in Philippe de Broca’s film 'Les tribulations d’un chinois en Chine' is the most memorable.

After her marriage to photographer Serge Beauvarlet in 1962 she broadened her perspective by taking up singing after she met songwriters Francis Lai and Pierre Barouh. She released a first single in 1964. In 1965 Serge Gainsbourg wrote her ‘La guérilla’ and participated on her debut album. The success of the album was secured with a sold out performance at the Bobino in 1966. That year also saw her return to cinema screens in Claude Lelouch's French film classic 'Un homme et une femme'. Following the student revolts of '68 she wrote to her record company to inform them she was cutting her showbiz ties and "leaving civilisation" for an undetermined period. Fleeing Paris to seek her own Utopia, Valérie teamed up with a group of like-minded friends from the arts (including Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Pierre Clémenti, Tina Aumont and Bulle Ogier) and they set up their own commune on an island off the coast of Italy. Valérie's Utopia turned sour, however. Her husband committed suicide and she decided to continue her search for the ideal lifestyle elsewhere, taking her nine-year-old son off to Bombay where one of her friends was living at the time.

Returning to France at the start of the seventies she met English songwriter and composer Ian Jelfs (how was a former member of the sympho band Alice). Their relationship developed into a passionate love story and creative working partnership. They started performing sometimes accompanied by Jean-Louis Aubert and Louis Bertignac (long before their Téléphone days).

After countless demo’s finally a first single was released in 1977. With it Valérie became the first artist to record a reggae song in French, scoring a minor hit ‘Si ma chanson pouvait’. That same year Valérie also provided guest vocals on Alain Bashung's Roman-photo. Finally in 1980 Lagrange hit the jackpot with ‘Faut plus me la faire’, an album featuring a vibrant fusion of rock and reggae. With this album she also became the first French artist signing to the Virgin label. A string of three more albums followed with the biggest international hit being ‘La folie’. In 1985 she also organised a tribute to aid the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. With Renaud she organised the fund-raising album ‘Chanteurs sans frontières’.

In 1986 she suddenly secluded from public life and her musical career. Her partner Ian sank further into drug abuse and took an accidental overdose in 1989 ending up in a coma. The coma lasted three weeks and left him tetraplegic and unable to speak. Valérie decided to devote her time to the care of her partner and it was not until 1998 when a sign of life came with a new bonus track ‘Au cœur de l’amour’ for the greatest hits. In 2000 she released an autobiography called ‘Une vie pour une autre’. A major comeback came in  with the album ‘Fleuve Congo’ produced by Benjamin Biolay. The ballad ‘Mon amour pour toi’ was written specially for Ian. No new album has been released since then but she did start up acting with a role in 2009 in ‘Joueuse’ by young director Caroline Bottaro.

On the web:

- Valérie's' website: http://valerielagrange.com.free.fr

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Loredana Bertè (Italy)

What do we think:

PR: Valérie Lagrange is one of the very first French pop singers I got to learn. I bought the single 'La folie' when it came out in the eighties and became intrigued by Valérie's voice. Since her regular albums were never released on cd format, I had to buy a cd-compilation and I was completely overwhelmed by the songs and her singing. This is as close as 'rock 'n roll' you can get in France. Having collected all of the few vinyl albums she released, they became - and still are! - precious treasures in our musical collection. It was a fantastic pleasure when news came that she would release a comeback album, 'Fleuve Congo', produced by no-one less than Benjamin Biolay. A public message to Virgin France: please re-release her original albums on cd-format! This is pure French pop music hgistory and it is a shame that these records were never proparly released on cd!

DB: The Grand Dame of the French new wave. OK, there is Catherine Lara as competition but to be honest Valerie is a class apart. Dark, stylish, in sync with the sounds of the eighties, hip but not trendy. I remember that 'La Folie' was a big hit but that track is only the tip of the iceberg. It's hard to choose which of the albums is better. There's only one solution, buy them all.


♪♪♪ - Moitié ange, moitié bête - 1966

♪♪♪♪♪ - Valérie Lagrange (Faut plus me la faire) - 1980

♪♪♪♪ - Chez moi - 1981

♪♪♪♪ - Les Trottoirs de l'éternité - 1983

♪♪♪♪♪ - Rebelle -1985

♪♪♪♪ - Fleuve Congo - 2003

♪♪♪♪♪ = 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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