Alain Bashung

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Alain Bashung
Bashung in 2007
Bashung in 2007
Background information
Birth nameAlain Claude Baschung
Born(1947-12-01)1 December 1947
Paris, France
Died14 March 2009(2009-03-14) (aged 61)
Paris, France
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active1966–2009

Alain Bashung (French: [alɛ̃ baʃuŋ], born Alain Claude Baschung; 1 December 1947 – 14 March 2009) was a French singer, songwriter and actor. Credited with reviving the French chanson in "a time of French musical turmoil",[2] he is often regarded in his home country as the most important French rock musician after Serge Gainsbourg.[3] He rose to prominence in the early 1980s with hit songs such as "Gaby oh Gaby" and "Vertige de l'amour", and later had a string of hit records from the 1990s onward, such as "Osez Joséphine", "Ma petite entreprise" and "La nuit je mens". He has had an influence on many later French artists, and is the most awarded artist in the Victoires de la Musique history with 12 victories obtained throughout his career.

Bashung's Play blessures (1982), Osez Joséphine (1991), and Fantaisie militaire (1998) have made multiple French lists of the greatest albums. L'Imprudence (2002) and Bleu pétrole (2008), the last two studio albums released during his lifetime, also garnered acclaim.[4] Bashung died at 61 after a two-year fight with lung cancer.



Alain Baschung (he later dropped the "c" from his surname) was the son of a Breton mother working in a rubber factory and an Algerian father, whom he never knew.[5] His mother remarried, and at the age of one, Bashung was sent to Wingersheim, near Strasbourg to live with his stepfather's parents.[6] He spent his childhood in the countryside, in a rather conservative environment, alongside a grandmother who did not speak French.[7] He discovered music during his childhood, notably Kurt Weill's Mahagonny, and began to practice with a Rosebud harmonica offered to him when he was five. He also practiced basketball and cycling and sang in the church choir of Wingersheim.

He came back to Paris in 1959, where he discovered the great chanson artists, and then rock artists such as Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly (whom he admired deeply), and Elvis Presley.[7] While studying (before dropping out after he was awarded a BTS in accountancy from the École nationale de commerce in 1965),[7] he formed a band called Les Dunces playing folk music and rockabilly.

Long beginnings[edit]

He later formed a band with musicians met in Royan, and then began to tour in restaurants, hotels and U.S. military bases. He began his career with his first EP, "Pourquoi rêvez-vous des États-Unis ?" in 1966, which he wrote and composed. At the same time, he joined the RCA label to become a music arranger. He wrote songs for French artists. In June 1967, at the Palais des Sports of Paris, he was the opening act (alongside Noël Deschamps and Ronnie Bird) of artists such as the Pretty Things, the Troggs or Cream.[7][8]

In 1968, he released his first single, "Les Romantiques", which was largely ignored by the public and unsuccessful.[9] Around that time, he dropped the "c" from his name and spent some time at the house of fellow singer Christophe.

From 1972 to 1974, he composed some of the music and cowrote three albums and three singles (including "Marilou") for French rock singer Dick Rivers.[7] In 1973, he played Robespierre in the musical La Révolution française by Claude-Michel Schönberg.[7]

In 11 years, he released no less than four EPs and ten singles, one under the moniker of David Bergen, and two others in 1976 and 1977 as Hendrick Darmen, composer for a band called Monkey Bizness. All of them failed to have any impact.

Boris Bergman and first successes[edit]

He then met sound engineer Andy Scott and lyricist Boris Bergman. Together, they realized his first album Roman-photos, with a country and rockabilly sound, which was a commercial failure as punk rock was rising. In 1979, he produced another album, Roulette russe, darker and leaning more openly toward rock. In 1980, he released the single "Gaby oh Gaby", which became his breakthrough success (selling more than a million copies).[7]

His critical and commercial success was confirmed with his next album, Pizza, which allowed him, thanks to his second hit success, "Vertige de l'amour", to tour in prestigious locations, such as the Olympia. However, he broke with Bergman at the time.[citation needed]

Artistic turn[edit]

In 1982, Bashung released an album called Play blessures, written by Serge Gainsbourg. The album, in contrast with its immediate predecessor, is dark, minimalistic and inaccessible. The album was intended to break away from his unexpected success. It was a commercial and, at first, critical failure,[7] Bashung being called by some the "Johnny Hallyday of new wave".[10] Yet, it is now considered a classic album in France.

In 1983, he produced another dark album, Figure imposée, which also met with little success. However, in 1984 he made peace with Boris Bergman, and the lyricist wrote for him "SOS Amor" which was a surprise hit.[11] In 1985, he sang "Touche pas à mon pote", a single for the association SOS Racisme.

In the wake of the success of "SOS Amor", he released in 1986 the album Passé le Rio Grande, which allowed him to get his first Victoires de la musique award.

In 1989, he returned to a dark, experimental style with the album Novice, from which the singles "Bombez !", "Pyromanes" and "Étrange été" were released. The album marked his first collaboration with lyricist Jean Fauque and his definitive breakup with Boris Bergman.

Mainstream and critical success[edit]

In 1991, he released another album with Fauque as lyricist, Osez Joséphine, which also included some cover versions of classic American rock songs. The album helped him achieve mainstream success, selling 350.000 copies and "Osez Joséphine" became his first real popular success since "Vertige de l'amour". On the same album is featured "Madame rêve", another classic in a different, more atmospheric style, which would be a trademark of his future releases.

In 1992, he covered the French pop classic song "Les Mots bleus", from the album by the same name by Christophe, for an AIDS research support compilation. In 1994, he released Chatterton, which he called a "new age country" album. For this album, he worked with artists such as Sonny Landreth, Ally McErlaine, Link Wray, Marc Ribot or Stéphane Belmondo. The single "Ma petite entreprise" was a new popular success. Following the album, he toured for two years and in 1995 released the double live album Confessions publiques.

From 1994 onwards, Bashung began to spend more time for his acting career (which he started in 1981 with Nestor Burma, détective de choc), for instance with Ma sœur chinoise by Alain Mazars.

After recording a duet with Brigitte Fontaine, "City" for her Les Palaces album, he came back to music in 1998 with Fantaisie militaire. For this album, he notably collaborated with Jean Fauque, Rodolphe Burger, Les Valentins, Jean-Marc Lederman and Adrian Utley of Portishead. The arrangements and strings were done by Joseph Racaille. The first single from the album was "La nuit je mens" which was another hit for Bashung. For the album, he received 3 more Victoires de la musique awards in 1999 (and in 2005, he received another for the "best album of the last twenty years"). For Bashung, it was a huge commercial and critical success.

In 2000, he released the compilation Climax, on which some songs are rerecordings as duets with notable artists from the French scene (most famously, the song "Volontaire" from Play blessures with French band Noir Désir). That same year, he cowrote "L'Eau et le vin" for Vanessa Paradis' album Bliss.

In 2002, he released another album, L'Imprudence to critical acclaim, which is considered one of the darker albums of his discography. The album is not easily accessible and features strings and electronic arrangements, with sometimes nearly spoken lyrics, and was inspired according to Bashung by old black and white movies. That same year, he recorded the album Cantique des cantiques with his new wife, singer Chloé Mons, the song was written for their wedding in 2001 by Rodolphe Burger, from a new translation of Solomon's Song of Songs by Olivier Cadiot. In 2003, he sang the French chanson classic "Avec le temps" by Léo Ferré for a tribute album to the late artist, Avec Léo ! and wrote the preface to a book about that artist.

In 2004, the double live album La Tournée des grands espaces was released. In 2005, he sang "Le Sud" on a tribute album to Nino Ferrer, On dirait Nino. In 2006, he recorded a Charles Trenet song, "Que reste-t-il de nos amours ?" as a duet with Françoise Hardy for her album (Parenthèses...).

In June 2006, in the Cité de la musique in Paris, he got the opportunity to sing for several days. There he brought on stage artists such as Christophe, Dominique A, Rodolphe Burger or Arto Lindsay. In early 2007, after a small break, he was involved in the Les Aventuriers d'un autre monde tour alongside rock and pop artists Jean-Louis Aubert, Cali, Daniel Darc, Richard Kolinka and Raphaël. He sang for a couple of evenings in the Salle Pleyel in Paris, and played the role of Jack the Ripper for the song "Panique Mécanique" on Dionysos' album La Mécanique du Cœur.

That same year, he played with Belgian singer Arno in the movie J'ai toujours rêvé d'être un gangster, by Samuel Benchetrit. They appear as themselves, arguing over the authorship of a song.

Bashung during his last tour on 11 July 2008 at the Francofolies in La Rochelle.

In 2008, he sang "L.U.V." as a duet with Daniel Darc for the latter's album, Amours suprêmes. He was also involved in Étienne Daho's Daho Show, covering "I Can't Escape from You" as a duet with Daho. He also rerecorded Serge Gainsbourg's classic album, L'Homme à tête de chou, for a show.

On 24 March 2008, he released the album Bleu pétrole, collaborating notably with Gaëtan Roussel of French band Louise Attaque, Arman Méliès, M. Ward or Gérard Manset (covering the latter's song "Il voyage en solitaire" as the final song on the album). He then began to tour for the album. The 10 June 2008, he sang several times at the Olympia although he was undergoing a chemotherapy for his lung cancer.[12] Jean Fauque claimed that a new album was underway.[12]

Final months and death[edit]

On 1 January 2009, Bashung was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur.[13] On 28 February 2009, he received three prestigious Victoires de la Musique awards for his final album Bleu pétrole. The 2009 award ceremony was his last public appearance. He appeared frail, but still performed "Résidents de la République." He won the Best male artist of the year, Best album and Best tour awards.

Bashung died in Paris on 14 March 2009 from lung cancer at the age of 61 at the Hôpital Saint-Joseph in Paris. After a religious ceremony at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, he was buried on 20 March 2009 in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Posthumous events[edit]

On 12 November 2009, the opening of a ballet using a rerecording of L'Homme à tête de chou, a 1976 Serge Gainsbourg album, by Bashung as the soundtrack, occurred at the Maison de la Culture de Grenoble, with a choreography by Jean-Claude Gallotta who approached him in 2007 to adapt the work.[14][15]

On 27 November 2009, a box set called À perte de vue, which contained the entire output of Bashung so far (on 27 discs), was released. The box set features his twelve solo albums so far, his five live albums, his two duet albums with Chloé Mons, two albums of instrumentals and three albums of covers, duets and rarities. Alongside this box set a double live album documenting his last tour, called Dimanches à l'Élysée and recorded at the Élysée Montmartre on 14 December 2008, was released on 16 November. That same day, a live video recorded at the Olympia 10 and 15 June 2008 was released. This DVD was awarded the 2010 Victoires de la musique award for best musical DVD of the year. At the same Victoires ceremony, French singer Benjamin Biolay, who was awarded the Best male artist of the year award, paid tribute to Bashung.[citation needed]

He can be heard singing La nuit je mens in the closing scenes of the final episode of the French television series Les Bleus: premiers pas dans la police (2006–10). On 26 April 2011, a tribute album called Tels Alain Bashung was released. It features twelve covers of Bashung songs by various artists and bands, with a documentary called Alain Bashung - Faisons envie directed by Thierry Villeneuve. On 7 November 2011, his rerecording of L'Homme à tête de chou was released on Barclay Records.[citation needed]


A multi-platinum artist, Bashung received three awards during the ceremony at the Paris Zenith, including best male artist, best album for "Bleu Pétrole" (Barclay/Universal) and best live show. He spent his career singing a pop-chanson repertoire. With 12 trophies won since 1993, he was the most awarded artist in the history of the Victoires de la Musique. Bashung, who had cancer, had to postpone several dates of his last tour. While receiving his award, he said he hoped that record companies would "remain in a human dimension by making people happy with records."

In February 2010, the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine placed six of his albums in their list "100 disques essentiels du rock français" (100 Essential French Rock Albums) with two albums in the top 10, Osez Joséphine at number one, and Fantaisie militaire at number nine.[16]


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Charts
1977 Roman-photos - - - - -
1979 Roulette russe 13 - - - -
1981 Pizza 1 - - - -
1982 Play blessures - - - - -
1983 Figure imposée - - - - -
1986 Passé le Rio Grande - - - - -
1989 Novice - - - - -
1991 Osez Joséphine 14 - - - -
1994 Chatterton 6 - - - -
1998 Fantaisie militaire 1 - 15 - -
2002 L'Imprudence 1 - 2 46 -
Cantique des cantiques
with Chloé Mons
- - - - -
2006 La Ballade de Calamity Jane
with Chloé Mons and Rodolphe Burger
- - - - -
2008 Bleu pétrole 1 20 4 11 14
2011 L'Homme à tête de chou - - - - -
2018 En amont - - 8 5 -


Year Single Charts
1966 "Pourquoi rêvez-vous des États-Unis?" - -
1967 "T'as qu'à dire Yeah" - -
"Tu es une petite enfant qui fait la belle" - -
1968 "Chère petite chose" 66 -
"Les romantiques" - -
1969 "Lise" - -
"La rivière" - -
"Simplement quelques jours" - -
"Ho gli occhi chuisi" - -
1970 "Un jour viendra" - -
1971 "Du feu dans les veines" - -
1973 "Bois de santal" - -
1977 "Roman Photos" 71 -
"C'est la faute à Dylan" - -
1979 "Je fume pour oublier que tu bois" - -
1980 "Gaby oh Gaby" 2 -
1981 "Vertige de l'amour" 1 -
"Rebel" 19 -
"C'est comment qu'on freine?" 45 -
1983 "Elégance" - -
1984 "S.O.S. Amor" 36 -
1985 "Tu touches pas à mon pote" - -
"Hey Joe" 59 -
1986 "L'arrivée du Tour" 44 -
"Malédiction" 36 -
1989 "Bombez!" 76 -
"Pyromanes" 94 -
"Etrange été" - -
1991 "Osez Joséphine" 14 -
"J'écume" - -
1992 "Madame rêve" - -
1994 "Ma petite entreprise" 61 -
"J'passe pour une caravane" 31 -
1998 "La nuit je mens" 12 -
"Sommes-nous" 24 -
"Aucun express" 39 -
2003 "La ficelle" - -
2008 "Résidents de la République" 49 32
2008 "Je t'ai manqué" 33 -
2009 "Sur un trapèze" - -
2013 "La nuit je mens" - -

Live albums[edit]






  1. ^ Bush, John. "Alain Bashung biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  2. ^ O'Connor, Patrick (12 May 2009). "Obituary: Alain Bashung". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Alain Bashung died Saturday early afternoon at Saint-Joseph Hospital in Paris, after a 2-year fight against a lung cancer. - purple DIARY". Purple (in French). 15 March 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  4. ^ Abecassis, Michaël (11 June 2018). An Anthology of French and Francophone Singers from A to Z: "Singin' in French". Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 49. ISBN 9781527512054.
  5. ^ French pop hero Alain Bashung dies Archived 21 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  6. ^ Alain Bashung, rocker en équilibre dans Le Monde du 25 mars 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Alain Bashung, sur les cimes de la chanson française dans Le Monde du 16 mars 2009
  8. ^ Michka Assayas (sous la direction de). Dictionnaire du rock, Robert Laffont, coll. Bouquins, 2000, p. 102
  9. ^ "Alain Bashung Les romantiques".
  10. ^ Benjamin Locoge (22 May 2008). "Alain Bashung : La musique a toujours été pour moi une révolution permanente". Paris Match. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  11. ^ "Alain Bashung SOS amor".
  12. ^ a b Entretien avec Jean Fauque dans Le Parisien du 10 juin 2008
  13. ^ "Décret du 31 décembre 2008 portant promotion et nomination". JORF. 2009 (1): 15. 1 January 2009. PREX0828237D. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  14. ^ Avant de mourir, Bashung a enregistré du Gainsbourg, Le Soir, 20 March 2009 [ Archived 26 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Pour L'Homme à tête de chou, Bashung s'est coulé dans la peau de Gainsbourg". Le Monde (in French). 13 November 2009.
  16. ^ Rolling Stone, No. 18, February 2010, p. 29, ISSN 1764-1071
  17. ^ "Alain Bashung – En amont". Retrieved 5 December 2018.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Victoires de la Musique
Male artist of the year

Succeeded by
Preceded by Victoires de la Musique
Male artist of the year

Succeeded by
Preceded by Victoires de la Musique
Male group or artist of the year

Succeeded by