Tribute to Jacques Brel

Today we pay a tribute to a master of the modern chanson Jacques Romain Georges Brel (8 April 1929 – 9 October 1978). He was born in Schaerbeek (Brussels) to a family of Flemish descent. Remembered as a courteous and manageable pupil, Brel did well in reading and writing, but struggled through arithmetic and Dutch. He helped set up the school’s drama club, taking on his first stage roles with great enthusiasm. He wrote short stories, poems, and essays. In 1944, at the age of 15, Brel began playing the guitar. The following year he formed his own theatre group with friends and began writing plays.

When you write a song, most of the words you use are in black and white, and then, from time to time, you use one that’s in color. These words in color are a part of ourselves, because we give them a meaning. If you like, we give them a third dimension.

Jacques Brel

Brel was close to his mother, fascinated by her generosity and sense of humour, which he inherited. With an academic career not in his future, the 18-year-old Brel went to work at his father’s cardboard factory in August 1947. In 1952 Brel began writing songs and performing them at family gatherings and on Brussels’ cabaret circuit. His family and friends were not supportive of his stark lyrics and violent, emotional performances. That year he performed on a local radio station for the first time.

Musical Career

It would be very difficult to make an exhaustive list of the titles of Jacques Brel which marked the history of French Chansons. Although he recorded most of his songs in French and occasionally in Dutch, he became an influence on English-speaking songwriters and performers, such as David Bowie. English translations of his songs were recorded by many performers, including Ray Charles, Shirley Bassey and Frank Sinatra. Brel was also a successful actor, appearing in 10 films. He directed two films, one of which, Le Far West, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973. Having sold over 25 million records worldwide, Brel is the third best-selling Belgian recording artist of all time.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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