30 years later, a tribute to Georges Brassens at Cité de la Musique / Paris

BrassensIn his songs naughtiness became a virtue, disobedience a must and irreverence an art. Polished as poems, his lyrics reflected tenderness as much as a ferocious irony. 30 years ago died Georges Brassens, the iconic French songwriter who personified dissent and art de vivre altogether. As France blossoms with tributes, IntoFrench gives you a glimpse of Brassens long lasting legacy.


A man of repute


It was not about fame – he would find the word trivial, if not insulting. It was about reputation. As if Georges Brassens had discerned all the frowning, rumbling and fury his songs would later provoke, one among his first titles ever recorded was disarmingly full of candour. La mauvaise réputation – see the video – speaks of it's character's disregard for the established (be it people, institutions or customs), his desire to live as an outsider and the bad reputation he subsequently acquired – a reputation that would eventually lead him to death. No such extreme in Brassens fate of course – reach Wikipedia's full account of his life. But this early text, one of the singer's most inspiring, gives an uplifting sketch of the values this man of word(s) would always promote: independence, iconoclasm, freedom. Later would come along fondness – “J'ai rendez-vous avec vous”, satire – Listen to the hilarious “Trompettes de la renommée” – or belief in everlasting friendship – Listen to “Les copains d'abord” and its haunting melody.

A legacy becoming heritage

BrassensAll the fuss he still provokes would undoubtedly bewilder Brassens. Miles away of today's hit and run performers, the moustached singer forged an impressively coherent corpus built on demanding texts and complex melodies. Along with Jacques Brel and Léo Ferré (see picture), he formed a golden generation of songwriters whose influence still lasts on contemporary chanson française. As Brassens' legacy turns into heritage, it is no wonder that the highly selective Cité de la Musique in Paris seized the opportunity of the anniversary to dedicate a full retrospective to this quiet rebel's astonishing modernity – check the website for an insight. If you are in Paris next months, better not miss it...

By Hadrien Diez