Catherine Lara


29 may 1945

Catherine (real name: Catherine Baudet) was born in Poissy, near Paris as the daughter of a doctor (and amateur violinist). Catherine started to play the violin herself at 11 and entered the conservatoire at Versailles, leaving two years later with a first prize. This gave her entrance to the Paris Conservatoire National in 1958. Everything seemed to point to a career in classical music. However Lara also accompanied singers like Mireille Mathieu, Juliette Gréco, Jean Ferrat and Claude Nougaro. At the end of the sixties she met songwriter Daniel Boublil with whom she started a project to mix the classical and variety world. The album ‘Ad Libidum’ was the result and featured the highly unlikely radio hit ‘Morituri’. The track also gave her an invitation for the popular music TV program 'Discorama', where she got 45 minutes to talk about her work. In 1972 she met singer Barbara with whom she wrote two songs, ‘Accident’ and ‘Clair de nuit’. The two became friends.

Undeniably, Catherine Lara made a name for herself right from the start. But she had to wait until the eighties, nine albums later, to make a commercial success. In 1979 Lara made a highly publicised move towards rock with the album ‘Coup d'feel’. The lyrics were again by Boublil and Luc Plamondon (who achieved fame the previous year with the lyrics of the musical 'Starmania'), and Jean-Pierre Ferland. With the follow up ‘Geronimo’ she went a step further openly singing about feminism and her homosexuality. To assert her femininity, she posed topless with fist raised in the inside pages of the album.

In 1981 Lara left CBS for the record company Tréma. The track ‘Johan’ was the centrepiece of the album and a crowd-pleaser since then. In 1982 she tried yet another musical discipline: the musical. 'Revue et corrigée' played at the Casino de Paris with Annie Girardot, Jacquie Quartz and Catherine herself in the mayor parts. The production was a flop. For Catherine, this experience was followed by a long period of depression and fatigue, coupled with a lung disease. But in 1983 she bounced back into the charts with two albums. First, there was 'Une femme libre', with lyrics by Grosz and Boublil. But it was 'La rockeuse de diamants' that placed Lara back on the scene. And for the first time, Lara entrusted a woman with the lyrics of her songs. The follow up 'Flamenrock' confirmed her status. In 1986 she was awarded the Victoire de la Musique prize for the best female singer of the year.

In 1988 her good friend Daniel Balavoine died tragically and she recorded the song ‘IEO’ in his remembrance (featured on the album ‘Rocktambule’). Tired of the big shows Lara undertook a tour along small venues accompanied by three musicians, called 'Rock en chambre'. In 1991 she took another go at the musical genre with a comedy about French novelist George Sand. The show, featuring Maurane, Véronique Sanson, Daniel Lavoie and Richard Cocciante was more successful then her previous musical adventure.

She has released regular albums as well until 1996, when she disappeared from the limelight. She starts some new projects like a tv and radioshow but no albums. In 2000 she teams up with French dance act Deep Forest for the instrumental project ‘Aral’. Despite a major promotional campaign on French TV and support from Zazie, it turned out to be a flop. In 2002, she co-wrote the French football team’s official song for the World Cop. It was entitled ‘Tous ensemble’, performed by Johnny Hallyday. In 2003 Catherine Lara played the violin for the Bercy show of the Cavaliers du Cadre Noir. In 2005 she finally returns with again a musical (‘Graal’) and, finaly, a regular pop album 'Passe-moi le ciel'.

On the web:

- Belgian fan site: http://www.lalapassion.be
- Biography: http://www.rfimusique.com/siteen/biographie/biographie_6167.asp

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Gianna Nannini (Italy)

What do we think:

PR: Catherine Lara is something of an 'anti-star'. She plays the violin, she's openly gay, she is certainly not a Madonna of Britney look-a-like, and having produced folk, prog, rock, eighty-synth-pop, musicals and filmscores one can hardly say her output is very consistent... However, Lara is also a very strong personality with a clear creative vision. She is definitely not one of the 'whisper-singers' like Jane Birkin or Francoise Hardy; this is a very self-assured woan with a husky voice. And a very expressive stagepersonality as well. Personally, I prefer the albums she has released between '81 and '88. They may sound quite commercial at first, but the songs are very strong and after a while you just can't get them out of your head.

DB: Can a violin be a rock instrument? Lara proves that it can. With her drive to experiment and mix the worlds of chanson, classical avant garde and rock together she created a unique and yet very French sound. It took her several albums in the seventies to get it right but then the great albums follow one after another. I do recommend her seventies period if you're into progrock or avant garde folk. Or just want to hear the whole spectrum of her catalogue. But for the mainstream her eighties albums are the best bet.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪- Nil - 1975

♪♪ - Coup d'feel - 1979

♪♪♪ - Geronimo - 1980

♪♪♪ - Johan - 1981

♪♪ - T'es pas drôle - 1982

♪♪♪♪♪ - La Rockeuse de diamants - 1983

♪♪♪♪♪ - Flamenrock/Espionne - 1984

♪♪♪ - Nuit magique -1986

♪♪♪ - Encore une fois - 1987

♪♪♪♪♪ - Rocktambule - 1988

♪♪ - Maldonne - 1993

♪♪ - Mélomanie - 1996

♪♪♪ - Passe-moi l'ciel - 2005

Further listening:

Ab libitum - 1972; Marche dans le temps - 1972; La craie dans l'encrier - 1974; Jeux de société - 1976; Babylone - 1977; Sand et les romantiques - 1992; Aral - 2000; Graal - 2005

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