Mr One Hundred Thousand Volts has died

What’s important is the rose…

I am sorry because he was a good singer.

Gilbert Bécaud has just died of cancer. In the street, the people who have just heard this do not hide their feelings.

– Oh well, listen, that surprises me, that grieves me all right! But what age was he?

– He was 74.

– Oh dear, well that’s a surprise, that’s really my youth, right.

Quite a time ago in fact. Well before Bill Haley and a generation before the Sex Pistols, Bécaud brought an electrifying atmosphere to his concerts, having people showing emotions and passions generally restrained by the conventions of earlier times. He used to overflow with energy on stage, to the point that they nicknamed him Mr One Hundred Thousand Volts.

He knew how to inflame his audience. Form 1954, from his first appearance at Olympia [1], when the aroused spectators had broken their seats in their enthusiasm.

He was very expressive, and uh, well, he had a distinctive style, it was that which made everyone love him so much, right!

He had a style playing the piano which was incomparable, right, which was truly unique.

Oh well, I am touched because it is a time that I know well, it was that, well, now, we are well past that time. I saw him often on stage. It was great.

I think that I have children who are going to buy the discs perhaps, if they can, if they can still find them, because it seems that people have rushed out to get them of course. Oh yes, yes… but finally, well, we are all getting to that time when they are all passing on, one after another, so… it’s like that then.

After his childhood in Toulon and Nice, he performed on the Paris stage at Olympia more than 30 times then he never stopped travelling the world and spreading, in total, his 400 songs of which some had been taken up by the greatest stage performers.

Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and others took up “Et maintenant” under the name “What now my love”. Bob Dylan adapted “Je t’appartiens” which became “Let it be me”.

His relationship with America was important and significant. In fact, his real name being Franéois Gilbert Silly, he became Gilbert Bécaud whilst on tour in America with Edith Piaf [2], “Silly” meaning idiot in English [3].

To talk about Bécaud, Charles Aznavour himself moved to tears when learning the sad news of the death of his friend, said of his talent:

He was a great man of melody. Whilst everything today sounds mush as much, when you look at the work of Gilbert, you notice that no melody is similar to another.

Of his career, Bécaud used to like to say that it was based on seven notes from an infinite stave.

When Jules is playing the fiddle and Léon the accordion, you would have to have a wooden leg, not to dance the polka.

In his final lyrics, he sings “life is beautiful” as a curtain raiser. It is a pity that there will be no further performances. His rapport with life was, as they say, a love story, but lived to an undeniable rhythm. Simple accessible things, universal and popular, in all.

Ah Miss Lise, you must take back some of your sparkle, it bites and makes you lovable.

[1] Olympia – An important concert venue in Paris.

[2] Edith Piaf – The most famous French singer of her time.

[3] Translator’s note – Bécaud may be a corruption of the English because, hence Gilbert Because he was on longer Gilbert Silly!

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