Michel Sardou

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Michel Sardou
Michel Sardou performing in Bercy in 1998
Background information
Born (1947-01-26) 26 January 1947 (age 68)
Paris, France
Genres French popular music
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Years active 1965–present
Labels Barclay Records, Tréma, Universal Music Group
Website www.michelsardou.net

Michel Sardou (French pronunciation: [miʃɛl saʁdu]) (born 26 January 1947) is a French singer, songwriter and occasional actor.

Sardou was born in Paris, the son of Fernand Sardou and Jackie Caron (Jackie Sardou). He is the grandson of the dramatist Victorien Sardou,[1] as well as father of the French novelist Romain Sardou and the actor Davy Sardou.

He is known not only for his love songs ("La Maladie d'Amour", "Je vais t'aimer"), but also for songs dealing with various social and political issues, such as the rights of women in Islamic countries ("Musulmanes"), clerical celibacy ("Le Curé"), colonialism ("Le Temps des colonies", "Ils ont le pétrole mais c'est tout") or the death penalty ("Je suis pour"). Another sometimes controversial theme found in some of his songs ("Les Ricains" and "Monsieur le Président de France" for example) is his respect and support for the culture and foreign policies of the United States of America. He has been accused of being a racist due to his 1976 song "Le Temps des colonies", where he sang positively about colonialism and slavery, but Sardou has always claimed the song was sarcastic.[2] He has concentrated on his homeland, rather than seeking an international audience, although his 1981 single "Les Lacs du Connemara" did manage to become a big international hit (especially in the Netherlands). A number of his hit songs were written in collaboration with Jacques Revaux and Pierre Delanoë, a few others (most notably "En Chantant") with Italian singer Toto Cutugno.

Even in the 21st century, Sardou remains quite popular in France, selling out eighteen consecutive dates at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in 2001, while his 2004 album Du plaisir went straight to the number one spot on the French album charts.

With a recording career of fifty years, Sardou has released 25 studio albums, 18 live albums and has recorded more than 340 songs (chiefly in French but also in Spanish, Italian or even English) and has sold nearly 90 million records.[3] Currently he is considered such as one of the most popular artists in the Francophone world and one of the most efficient, both in sales and in his shows.



He is the heir to a long family tradition of show-business. Indeed, his paternal grandparents were comic actors in Marseille and his grandmother was a dancer. When he was a child, he spent the most of his time in cabaret or on tour with his parents.

His education was not brilliant and he carried out a life behind the scene and in theatres, so he decided to stop his studies. In 1964, at the age of 17, he planned running away to Brazil to open a striptease club. His father caught him at the airport. Then Sardou announced to him his desire to work and to leave school. While he was a waiter in his father's cabaret, he was earning his spurs on stage, he met Michel Fugain and had an audition for Eddie Barclay.


The early stages (1965–1970)[edit]

In 1965, Sardou began his recording career with "Le Madras", co-written with Michel Fugain and Patrice Laffont. Thanks to this song, he made his first television appearance, but its follow-ups met with no commercial success.

In 1967, his career really picked up, thanks to censorship:[4] while France left NATO's military command and the Vietnam War was causing anti-American sentiment in France, Sardou released "Les Ricains" (The Yanks), a song which stated the debt of gratitude towards the USA for the liberation of France. Charles de Gaulle did not like the song and he advised against its broadcast on state radio and television. This gave the singer a new notoriety, and the song let him lay the foundations for his future artistic style. However from 1967 to 1970, he still found it difflcult to have big hits.

In view of the mitigated success of his singles, in 1969, Eddie Barclay decided to terminate his contract, estimating that Sardou was not cut out to be a singer. So, he founded the record label Tréma (which stands for Talar Revaux Éditions Musicales Associées), which would produce his records, with his friends Jacques Revaux (who will become his most loyal composer) and Régis Talar, a French record producer.

Success and controversies (1970–1980)[edit]

He really met true success in 1970, when he released his first studio album, J'habite en France. Three songs extracted from this work became hits : "J'habite en France" ("I live in France"), "Et mourir de plaisir" ("To die of pleasure") but mainly "Les Bals populaires" ("Popular Dances"),[4] which reached the top of the French chart.

From this album, the hits would be uninterrupted throughout the 1970s. The songs "Le Rire du sergent" ("The Sergeant's Laugh") (1971), "Le Surveillant général" ("The Superintendent") (1972) found favour with the public. But his success was sealed in 1973 with the album La Maladie d'amour. Its title track "La Maladie d'amour" ("The Disease of Love"), "Les Vieux mariés" (which translates as "The old married couple", but adapted in English under the title "It's not too late to start again") and "Les Villes de solitude" ("The Cities of loneliness") would eventually become great successes. However, this last song triggered a controversy as Sardou takes the role of a man who, tired of his monotonous daily routine, drunkenly expresses his brutal fantasies (of robbing a bank and raping women), but never acts on them. The feminist organisation MLF] objected.

The controversies reached their peak in 1976, with the album La Vieille (The Old Woman). The first single from it, "Le France" ("SS France"), released on November 1975, was a message of indignation addressed to the President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who had just sold the ocean liner SS France. The controversial song was welcomed by the trade unions and the Communist Party even though Sardou was seen, because of several other songs, as an archetypal reactionary singer. Even after the album was a real triumph (more than a million copies sold), other extracts, like "J'accuse'" ("I charge men of...") or "Le Temps des colonies" ("The Days of Empire") are about a singer who defends old conservative values. He was even accused of being a racist and an apologist for colonialism, but he has always insisted that the song is written in character rather than being an expression of his own views. The song "Je suis pour..." ("I am in favour of ...") puts Sardou in the role of a man in favour of the death penalty because his own son has been killed. In the wake of this, and other political positions expressed by him, Anti-Sardou campaigns were started; their demonstrations regualrly disrupted the singer's tours, although other left-wingers felt that Sardou was entitled to his freedom of speech.[5]

The next year, in 1977, Sardou moved away from politics. His next album, La Java de Broadway, contained famous songs, such as "La Java de Broadway" ("The Java of Broadway"), "Dix ans plus tôt" ("Ten years earlier") and a revival of the Claude François hit "Comme d'habitude" (the tune of which is best known to English-speaking audiences as "My way"). The album was a huge success, exactly like the next Je vole (1978), which gave him one of his biggest hits, "En chantant" ("Singing"), written together with the Italian singer Toto Cutugno.

At the end of the 1970s, Sardou was one of the biggest stars in France, alongside Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan and Serge Lama.

A legend in motion (1981–2001)[edit]

The 1980s began under good omens for the singer, with the album Les Lacs du Connemara from which came two songs considered important to the entire canon of French popular music: "Les Lacs du Connemara" ("The Lakes of Connemara") and "Être une femme" ("Being a woman").

Throughout the decade, Sardou had a lot of success : "Afrique adieu" ("Farewell, Africa") in 1982, "Il était là" ("He was here") in 1982, "Rouge" ("Red") in 1984, "Chanteur de jazz" ("Jazz Singer") in 1985, "La même eau qui coule" ("The same water flowing") in 1988...[citation needed] because his sales did not slow down, whereas a lot of his contemporaries had been forgotten during the disco boom.

However he didn't shy away from controversial songs, and even had success with several of them : "Vladimir Ilitch", in 1983, which both pays tribute to the ideas of Lenin and denounces the drift of the Soviet Union away from them; "Les Deux écoles" ("The Two Schools"), in 1984, which recalls the opposition between the free school and the private school with a defence of private schools ; "Musulmanes" ("Muslim women"), in 1986, which casts a pessimistic and bitter look at the rights of women in Islamic countries but which also pays a tribute to Arabic culture.

At the end of the 1980s, Sardou received the recognition of his peers by being awarded a Music Victory for "Musulmanes" as the best song of the year.

In the 1990s, the run of hit singles dried up, even if his four albums had very good sales. Sardou chose, for his shows in Paris, at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in 1989, 1991, 1993, 1998 and 2001, and managed to fill this small stadium for a total of 88 times after his tour in 2001,[6] each time with more than 17,000 spectators. He also holds the record of attendances and performances for this stadium.

He received, in 1990 and in 1999, the Music Victory for the biggest number of spectators gathered at the end of a tour (in 1998, nearly 580,000 people have come to see him on stage.[4])

After the album Français (2001) and its promotional tour, Sardou announced his retirement from singing.

The renewal (2004–2013)[edit]

Michel Sardou at the Palais des Sports in 2005.

Sardou left the music scene to devote himself to acting and to his Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin.

But Sardou also proved that he had not given up his singer career. In 2004 he signed a contract with the record label Universal Music France for a new album entitled Du plaisir, he participated in the French television show Star Academy and he organised an international tour in 2004 and 2005, visiting France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada.

On 13 November 2006, the double album Hors Format was released. This album includes twenty-three new songs, one of whom is a duet with Chimène Badi, "Le Chant des hommes" ("The Song of Men"). "Hors Format" has reached 400,000 copies sold and is a double platinum. In 2007, he started another tour, visiting venues like the Olympia and the Zénith de Paris.

He released the album Être une femme (2010) on 30 August 2010. Tracks include a electronic style remix by the DJ Laurent Wolf of his own 1980s hit "Être une femme", and a duet with Céline Dion, "Voler" ("To Fly").[5] The subsequent tour meets with further success.

Les Grands moments (The Great Moments), a compilation album of his greatest hits, was released 22 October 2012. In 2012 and 2013 Sardou gave a show of the same name, showcasing his material all the way back to the mid-1960s. The show was staged at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy for three dates in December 2012 and five dates at the Olympia in June 2013. But medical issues forced Sardou to cancel the twelve last dates.

In September 2014, he began playing the lead role in a play written especially for him by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Si on recommençait ? (If we begin again ?).

Several of Sardou's songs also feature prominently in the French comedy film "La Famille Bélier", released in 2014.

Personal life[edit]

Sardou married Françoise Pettré, a dancer, in 1965. They have two daughters : Sandrine (born on 15 January 1970) and Cynthia (born on 4 December 1973). They divorced in 1977.

He married his second wife, Elizabeth Haas, called "Babette", in October 1977. They have two sons : Romain, writer (born on 6 January 1974) and Davy, actor (born on 1 June 1978). They divorced in June 1999.

Most recently, he married Anne-Marie Périer, the daughter of the actor François Périer and the sister of the photographer Jean-Marie Périer, on 11 October 1999. She is the former editor-in-chief of Elle magazine. They were married in Neuilly-sur-Seine by the former mayor Nicolas Sarkozy (a great friend of Michel Sardou) who is also the former President of France (2007–2012).



Year Album Chart Positions
1968 Petit – Les Ricains 8
1970 J'habite en France 2
1971 Olympia 71
1972 Danton 2
1973 La Maladie d'amour 1
1975 Olympia 75 1
1976 La Vieille 1
Olympia 76 4
1977 La Java de Broadway 2
1978 Je vole 1
1979 Palais des Congrès 78 34
Verdun 10
1980 Victoria 18
1981 Palais des Congrès 81
Les Lacs du Connemara 1
1982 Il était là 2
1983 Vivant 83 2
Vladimir Ilitch 4
1984 Io Domenico 1
1985 Concert 85
Chanteur de jazz 5
1987 Musulmanes 1
Concert 87 8
1988 Le Successeur 2
1989 Bercy 89 5
Sardou 66
1990 Le Privilège 2
1991 Bercy 91 9
1992 Le Bac G 1
1993 Bercy 93 6
1994 Selon que vous serez, etc., etc. 1
1995 Olympia 95 3
1997 Salut 1
1998 Bercy 98 5
2000 Français 1
2001 Bercy 2001 5
2004 Du plaisir 1
2005 Live 2005 au Palais des sports 11
2006 Hors format 1
2007 mon zizi est sarkoziste 1
2008 Zénith 2007
2010 Être une femme 2010 2
2011 Confidences et retrouvailles - Live 2011 8
2013 Les Grands Moments – Live 2013 23

Emblematic songs[edit]

  • "Les Bals populaires" ("Popular Balls"), released in 1970. The song deals with the popular village dance parties which were fashionable in the 1970s.
  • "La Maladie d'amour" ("The Disease of Love"), released in 1973. It is certainly Michel Sardou's most famous song and stayed at the top of the charts for 11 weeks. Michel drew his inspiration for this song from Pachelbel's Canon. A few bars from the Beatles' Let it Be can also be heard in the song.
  • "Le France" ("SS France"), released in 1975. Sardou resents the selling of the liner SS France by the President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. A very controversial song, it was welcomed by the French Communist Party despite their view of Sardou as being a reactionary due to other songs of his.
  • "Être une femme" ("Being a woman"), released in 1981. A satirical view on the evolution of women's solcial status. Sardou makes a list of different jobs expected to be occupied by women (police officer, whore, President of France...) but specifies that whatever they do, they still retain their femininity.
  • "Les Lacs du Connemara" ("The Lakes of Connemar"), released in 1981. A lyrical evocation of Ireland and another one of his most popular songs, it is very often sung at the end of French student parties and at weddings in Flanders.[citation needed]
  • "Musulmanes" ("Muslim women"), released in 1986. Sardou casts a pessimistic gaze on the status of women in Arabic countries. The song received, in 1987, the Music Victory for the best song of the year.
  • "La Rivière de notre enfance" ("The River of our childhood"), released in 2004. Performed in duet with the Canadian singer Garou, the song nostalgically evokes the traces of our childhood which persist in our lives. This song, extracted from his album Du plaisir, also marked his comeback after three years of inactivity.

Other activities[edit]

Theatre manager[edit]

In 2001, he bought the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, with his producer Jean-Claude Camus. In 2005, he resold his shares to his associate.

Theatre actor[edit]

Film actor[edit]

TV actor[edit]


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Laurent Voulzy
Song of the year
1987 – "Musulmanes"
Succeeded by
Maxime Le Forestier
Preceded by
Award for the biggest number of spectators
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Francis Cabrel
Male artist of the year
Succeeded by
Patrick Bruel
Preceded by
Award for the biggest number of spectators
Succeeded by