Daniel Balavoine

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Daniel Balavoine
Daniel Balavoine.jpg
Background information
Also known as Bala
Born (1952-02-05)5 February 1952
Alençon, Orne, France
Died 14 January 1986(1986-01-14) (aged 33)
Gourma-Rharous, Mali
Genres Pop, new wave, world
Occupations Musician
Singer-songwriter
Producer
Instruments Acoustic guitar
Piano
Synthesizer
Fairlight CMI
Years active 1971–1986
Labels Disques Vogue (1971–1973)
Barclay RecordsUniversal Music Group (1975–1986)
Associated acts Présence
Starmania
Website www.dbalavoine.com
Notable instruments
Fairlight CMI

Daniel Balavoine (5 February 1952 – 14 January 1986) was a French singer and songwriter. He was hugely popular in the French-speaking world, and inspired many singers in the 1980s, such as Jean-Jacques Goldman, and Michel Berger, his closest friend. He took part in French political life and is known for a 1980 televised verbal confrontation with François Mitterrand.

In the French music-business, Balavoine earned his own place with his powerful voice, his wide range, and his lyrics, which were full of sadness and revolt. He was emphatic, and his songs for the most part talked about despair, pain, and death, although hope was present as a theme as well. He sold more than 20 million records during his career.

Biography[edit]

Childhood[edit]

Daniel Balavoine was the youngest in a family of six children. He had two sisters and three brothers. His father, Emile, was an urban engineer and worked for the Reconstruction Ministry. His mother was an antiques wholesaler. In 1959, his father relocated to Algeria, and Balavoine moved to southern city of Pau and attended a boarding school, an experience he clearly didn't appreciate. When he was 11, he heard She Loves You by The Beatles which sparked his taste in music.[1]

In 1968, while attending high school, he supported the nationwide strikes which occurred during the summer like thousands of young people, and imagined himself beginning a political career; however, the way the events culminated disappointed him and he redirected his interests towards music, abandoning his scholarship.

Band time[edit]

Having fully decided to make a living in music, he began to perform as a ballroom singer in Pau, performing Bob Dylan songs. Then he joined some short-lived local bands and began to develop some notoriety.

In 1971, he moved to Paris but it was again disappointing for him and he returned to Pau. Soon afterwards, he answered an audition in Paris to join a hard rock band, Présence, whose singer had just left. Another great future singer, Laurent Voulzy, was the main competition for the job. Ultimately, Balavoine was chosen and went into the studio. The band soon released an album which wasn't a big success. Despite that, they toured all over France.

In 1972, the band signed a contract with Warner Music Group but Balavoine quit the group.

Hard times[edit]

In 1973, while he was working as a record dealer, The Vogue studios, which produced Présence, contacted him and offered him to support him in a solo career. His first Vogue record, "Viens Vite" was released, but suffered poor sales. Balavoine then became a background vocalist alongside his brother, Guy. Soon afterwards, they starred in a pop Musical, La Révolution Française.

In 1974, Patrick Juvet, one of the biggest performers in France at the time, offered him the opportunity to be the opening act on his next tour. Balavoine wrote a song for him, "Couleurs d'Automne," which appeared on Juvet's new album.

While attending a show, Léo Missir, vice president of Barclay Records, was impressed by Balavoine's aura and signed him immediately to a 3-year deal which ended up lasting far longer. His first record, "De Vous à Elle en Passant par Moi," was released in 1975, but again resulted in disappointing sales.

While recording the album, he met Catherine Ferry, who was chosen as the French candidate for the next Eurovision Song Contest, to take place in the Netherlands. Ferry came in second place with Balavoine and his brother on back-up vocals. This success led to Balavoine and Ferry developing a strong friendship. Balavoine would go on to write most of her songs following her Eurovision success.

In 1977, Balavoine released a second record, "Les Aventures de Simon et Gunther" but again it sold poorly and Eddie Barclay began getting impatient.

Success time[edit]

Starmania[edit]

In 1978, Michel Berger, who had just finish writing Starmania, was still looking for the singer to portray "Johnny Rockfort." While watching TV, he was impressed by Balavoine, who sang the title song from his last successful album. He immediately hired Balavoine and a strong brotherly relationship began between the two singers.

A few months later, Starmania was a phenomenal success and most of its songs hit the charts. Balavoine performed 3 of them: Quand on arrive en ville, Banlieue Nord and most notably, SOS D'un terrien en detresse, which was written specifically for Balavoine's voice. SOS D'un terrien en detresse went on to become a huge hit, nationwide and around the world.[2]Peter Kingsbery, the lead singer of the American band Cock Robin, wrote the English version of the song: Only the Very Best, which was also a big hit in France.[3]

Balavoine's solo career was soon very successful, as well, with the release of his third album, Le Chanteur. The title song, which spoke of the unstoppable rise and fall of a young singer,[4] was a huge commercial success, with one million units sold. The album itself sold 800,000 copies.

At the same time, Balavoine continued touring with Starmania, becoming one of its most notable faces. Between April and May 1979, the musical was performed at the Palais des congrès in Paris, before 100,000 spectators, further increasing Balavoine's popularity.

In 1979, he released his fourth album, Face Amour/Face amère. Though it enjoyed moderate success, its sold fewer copies than the previous album. Me laisse pas m'en aller and Ces petit riens were the biggest hits from the record. Even still, this last opus allowed him to put on a very successful solo tour throughout France for the first time, with the high point being a 3-day stint at the Olympia.

Un Autre Monde[edit]

In 1980, Balavoine returned with his fifth studio album, Un Autre Monde. This record was particularly successful, with three songs hitting huge commercial success: Mon Fils, Ma Bataille with 543,000 units sold, Je ne suis pas un Heros,[5] originally written for Johnny Hallyday, who would insert it in his own set list in tribute, and La vie ne m'apprend rien.

Balavoine went on tour again and came back to the Olympia for 4 sold out shows, which gave birth to his first live album, Daniel Balavoine en Concert in November 1981.

Vendeur de Larmes[edit]

During the winter of 1981, Balavoine went to Ibiza, Spain to write his sixth album. Balavoine decided to radically change his musical style, making it more rock-oriented and using electronic effects. In April 1982, Vendeur de Larmes was released with eventual hits, such as Vivre ou Survivre,[6] Dieu que l'Amour est triste and Soulève-moi.[7]
[8]

The Album hits a huge success becoming a Diamond album in few months. The following tour was also very popular, challenging the best performances of the time. During 4 days, Balavoine performed in Palais des Sports. All his shows were sold out.

International time[edit]

Loin des yeux de l'Occident[edit]

In 1983, Balavoine participated in his first Paris-Dakar Rally. Victim of a breakdown during the first run, he followed the rest of the race as a spectator and discovered Africa. What he saw shocked him: "when, arriving in a small village, we saw a kid looking for flies in order to eat them, there was nothing more to say". After that, he went to Scotland in order to write his seventh album. Very inspired by his African experience, he released, in October 1983, Loin des Yeux de L'Occident (Far from the Eyes of the West). According to music specialists, this last record is also his most politically committed. He talks about Third World women in Pour la Femme veuve qui s'éveille (For the Widow who is waking up), Torture in Frappe avec la tête (Strike with the head), drugs in Poisson dans la cage (Fish in the cage) and South American dictatorships in Revolucion.

The melody, very close to one by Peter Gabriel, mixes electronic music (electrical guitar, keyboards etc.) with World music ambient with African drums.

During the year, he is also starring in the Musical Abbacadabra, alongside with ABBA brunette Frida Lyngstad. They performed the song "Belle" together.

When a bombing in Beirut happened, Balavoine, whose brother, Yves, was stationed, created a polemic by insulting the French Veterans and the government who were pushing the war. Two weeks later, he made a public apology for the disorder he created.

In 1984, Balavoine went again on the road for a yearlong tour across France. For this new tour, Balavoine introduced new technologies like Vari-Lite lights and HF tech. Balavoine looked for the perfect sound and the perfect ambience rather than the set, which was furnished sparsely. All his songs were rewritten in very pronounced rock versions.

In July, at age 31, Balavoine became a father for the first time. Touched and blessed by the event, he wrote a brand new song, '"Dieu! Que c'est beau!" and included it in his tour setlist.

He also wrote a full album for his friend Catherine Ferry using for the first time his Fairlight synthesizer.

Fairlight

Sauver l'amour[edit]

In 1985, all the music stars are more and more involved in charities and humanitarian events. Balavoine was invited to the Live Aid but did not have any chance to perform.
[9]

So the French created their own event, The Singers Without Borders, which was not a big success mostly because of the expensive price. Nevertheless, the concert album sold well.

During the Summer, Bala comes back in Scotland for his eighth and most successful record: Sauver l'amour. The French artist innovates again using his Fairlight and it is the first album released on Compact Disc. The Fairlight allows Balavoine to insert a lot of electronic effects and sound never heard before. Sauvez l'amour is the best demonstration of Balavoine's talent.[10]

Mostly all the songs of the album became hits: "L'Aziza" in honor of his Jewish Moroccan wife and mother of his son, Corine; the main title song of the album, "Sauver l'amour" an hymn to love; "Tous les Cris, les SOS", a song about despair, "Petit Homme mort au Combat" which main theme is child soldiers, Aimer est plus fort que d'être aimé which was the last single released before Balavoine's death.

This album was a huge commercial success, the best one of Daniel Balavoine: 1,240,000 records sold and 1,580,000 singles sold.[11]

Daniel Balavoine received, as a posthumous title, the Victoire de la Musique Album of the Year Award in 1986 for Sauver L'amour.

Death[edit]

In 1986, Daniel Balavoine was chosen to lead a fund-raising effort aimed at building water wells in Africa. In order to supervise it, he was invited by Thierry Sabine, founder and director of the Paris-Dakar Rally Raid.

On January 14, 1986, Balavoine, Sabine, a female reporter and her cameraman got aboard Sabine's Chopper to attend a football match. At 7pm, the helicopter encountered a desert storm and landed. But some time later, the chopper took off again, and after a few minutes disintegrated, killing all the passengers.

Balavoine's tomb

The news of Sabine's and Balavoine's deaths plunged the country in deep grief, and the accident remains unexplained today. Balavoine was buried in Biarritz.[12]

A politically and humanitarian involved singer[edit]

Since 1968, Balavoine was very interested in French political life. During the strikes in May of that year, he first thought about going into politics. But the end of the movement and General de Gaulle's come-back disappointed him, and he turned his mind to music.

Nonetheless, his political interest did not leave him. In 1980, he confronted François Mitterrand, who was at this time the National Secretary of the French Socialist Party and a French presidential candidate, during a France 2 Evening News broadcasting program, leaving the entire room speechless. During a 7-minute spontaneous speech, an angry Balavoine expressed how he felt about the political situation of the youth in France, namely that the youth was completely ignored by the political world, only interested in their own stuff.[13] After this famous intervention, Balavoine became, in the eyes of France, the perfect spokesperson for a French youth that wanted political answers to their problems.

He supported his friend Coluche in his presidential bid. When Coluche finally abandoned, François Mitterrand, who was still impressed by the young artist's aura, asked him to join his campaign team. Balavoine performed during the first meetings, but finally left, feeling he was being used for political purposes.

More and more, he turned his mind toward humanitarian work, especially in Africa. A few months before his death, he had joined an NGO called Action Ecole, a French charity supported by Bob Geldof, which creates student communities to raise funds for Africa. He was in charge of managing the building of water wells in the Sahel. It is while supervising this project that he died in the crash of Sabine's Ecureuil in Mali.

Balavoine was also appointed first Godfather of Les Restos du Cœur, founded by Coluche, and was one of the biggest representatives of SOS Racisme, whose president Harlem Désir gave him an award for Best song against Racism for his song L'Aziza.

Balavoine's legacy[edit]

The French public look proudly upon songs like "Vivre ou survivre" (1982), "Dieu que c'est beau" (1984), "L'Aziza", "Sauver l'amour", "Aimer est plus fort que d'être aimé", and "Tous les cris, les SOS" (1985), comparing Balavoine favourably to English language groups like Eurythmics, Queen and Depeche Mode.

Balavoine’s songs have been interpreted by many artists, for example Catherine Ferry for whom he wrote near 20 songs, Jeanne Mas, Liane Foly, Frida Lyngstad, Lena Ka, Johnny Hallyday, Pascal Obispo, Patrick Fiori, Florent Pagny, Grégory Lemarchal, as well as Marie Denise Pelletier (from Quebec) who had an enormous success with her own rendition of the song "Tous les cris, les SOS" in 1987.

In 1986, Belgian francophone artist Lara Fabian released her first single, "L'Aziza est en pleurs" (composed by Marc Lercs) in honour of Balavoine.

In 2006, to mark the 20th anniversary of the singer's death, Barclay Records released his complete recorded works as a boxed set entitled "Balavoine sans frontières".

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

  • De vous à elle en passant par moi (1975)
  • Les aventures de Simon et Gunther... Stein (1977)
  • Le chanteur (1978)
  • Face amour / Face amère (1979)
  • Un autre monde (1980)
  • Vendeurs de larmes (1982)
  • Loin des yeux de l'Occident (1983)
  • Sauver l'amour (1985)

Live albums[edit]

  • Sur scène (1981)
  • Au Palais des Sports (1984)

Compilations[edit]

  • Ses 7 premières compositions (1986)
  • L'essentiel (1999)
  • Sans frontières (2005) (a 12-CD box set containing all of his recorded works, studio and live)
  • Balavoine (2012)

Other projects[edit]

  • Starmania (1978) (sings 5 songs)
  • Chrysalide, of Patrick Juvet (1974)
  • Patrick Juvet vous raconte son rêve (1973)
  • Catherine Ferry "Vivre avec la musique" - producer and composer (1984) WEA
  • Abbacadabra (1983) – a children's musical based on songs of Swedish group ABBA

Filmography[edit]

  • Alors... Heureux ? (1980)
  • Qu'est-ce qui fait craquer les filles... (1982)

External links[edit]

References[edit]