Gérard Manset


21 Augustus 1945

Gérard Manset was born in Saint-Cloud and spent his childhood in Paris. He left highschool without a diploma because he fails for ‘French language’. In 1964 he starts at the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs de Paris. He starts drawing and tries to sell his work to advertising companies, without success. In the sixties he starts to write songs. First for other French singers because he finds his voice to unsuitable for singing. He sees himself more as a songwriter then a performing artist. In the end he does record a single called 'Animal on est mal' which is released at the hight of the Paris student revolts in 1968. It hardly sells just as the first album he releases a few months later.

Two years later he tries it again, this time with the symphonic album 'La mort d'Orion'. It sells over 20.000 copies and paths the way for the myth-Manset. He gets this name due to the fact that he refuses to speak to the press an lives a rather hermetic life. The 1975 'Y'a une route' gives him a first single hit with 'Il voyage en solitaire'. The single sells 300.000 copies which isn’t what Manset wants with his music. As a reaction he records a sad and gloomy album called 'Rien à raconter'. He even tops it with the more electronic follow up album 2870.

After delivering this album Manset starts travelling, mainly to Asia and South America. These travels form the inspiration for a whole stream of drawings, paintings, photo’s and books. His early eighties albums all are written from the perspective of these travels. In 1982 he exhibits his paintings in Maison de la Culture de Bourges and galerie Étienne de Causans. In 1984 he discovers the violin and starts cooperating it in his music. The wailing violin sound would become his signature sound next to his many overdubbed voice. Themes for his 1984 and 1985 albums ('Lumières' and 'Prisonnier de l'inutile') are youth, nostalgia and loneliness. In 1988 he decides to pull all his vinyl albums from the market and only release his albums on compact disc (the new format at the time). In the process he remixes his entire catalogue. The new album 'Matrice' is Mansets complaint at the cold and harsh society France has become during the eighties.

To accompany his 1997 album 'Jadis et nagu'ère Manset agrees to give a few interviews. In it he states:”Je trouve impudique, ridicule de chanter face à un public” ("I find it shameless and ridiculous to sing in front of an audience") and he describes himself as "une être de refus et d'échec" ("a creature of refusal and failure"). In 2014 he reworks some old songs for the album 'Un oiseau s'est posé' with the help of international fans like Mark Lanegan and Deus.

On the web:

- fansite: http://www.iparoles.net
- fansite: http://levoyageursolitaire.free.fr

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

Czesław Niemen (Poland)

Marek Grechuta (Poland)

Lucio Battisti (Italy)

What do we think:

DB: For the world outside France Manset is rather unknown. I had his 1975 album for years but somehow forgot about it. Untill PR read about him in the Encyclopedia de la Chanson Francaise and asked if I knew him. In fact I did and so, after maybe eight years, I finally played 'Y'a un route' again. Strange thing is that this time Manset's deep voice and baroque arrangements did grap me. Apparently as enigmatic as the man himself his music can touch you, if you let it.

PR: It is hard to explain the attraction of singer-songwriter Gérard Manset.He is almost without comparison within France and even in Europe there is not really anyone like him. He is a unique musician, a very talented songwriter. He lives and works secluded from the public eye. His voice is not technically perfect (it is not a Sinatra or Montand), but is very expressive and has a sad, tragic sound to it. His songs combine influences from traditional French chansons, (prog)rock and the Anglo-Saxon popmusic.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪ La mort d'Orion - 1970

♪♪ - L'album blanc - 1972

♪♪♪♪ - Y'a une route - 1975

♪♪♪ - 2870 - 1978

♪♪♪♪ - Royaume de Siam - 1979

♪♪♪ - Lumières - 1984

♪♪♪ - Prisonnier de l'inutile - 1985

♪♪♪♪♪ - Le langage oublié - 2004

♪♪♪♪ - Obok - 2006

♪♪♪♪ - Manitoba ne répond plus - 2008

♪♪♪ - Un oiseau s'est posé - 2014

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