’En France, tout finit par des chansons’ is the well-known phrase which sums up the importance of chanson for the French. A song tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages and troubadours of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, chanson is part of the texture of everyday life in France - a part of the national identity and a barometer of popular taste. In this first study of chanson in English, Peter Hawkins examines the background to the genre and the difficulties in defining what is and what is not chanson. The focus then moves to the development of the singer-songwriter of chanson from 1880 to the present day. This period saw the emergence of national icons from Aristide Bruant at the end of the nineteenth century through to internationally recognized musicians such as Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. Each of these figures used chanson to express the particular moral dilemmas, tragic situations and moments of euphoria particular to themselves and their times. The book provides bibliographies, discographies and details of video recordings for each of the singer-songwriters that it discusses. It is both an essential reference guide to the genre and a useful case history of the adaptation of an ancient form to the demands of the modern mass media.
Table of Contents
Contents: Part I: A Little theory goes a long Way: What is chanson?; How do you write about chanson?; What is not chanson: some fine distinctions - poetry and Chanson, art song and chanson, musical comedy and chanson, chansonniers and chanson, folksong and chanson, folksong and chanson, chanson and the singer-songwriter; The gender of the genre - masculinities, Anne Sylvestre, Véronique Sanson, What happened to the women singer-songwriter?; The psycho-anthropology of everday chanson; The frenchness of chanson; Part II: Practice makes perfect: Precursors - Artistide Bruant, Georgius, Yvette Guilbert, Mireille, Edith Piaf; The charm of Charles Trenet; Charles Aznavour: a sentimental realist; Léo Ferré: creating a space for transgression; Georges Brassens: the appropriation for a literarcy heritage; Jacques Brel: the dramatic synthesis; Barbara: performing the feminine; Serge Gainsbourg: how to win by cheating; Part III: Innovation and renovation: the nouvelle chanson franÃ§aise: Bernard Lavilliers carrying world music on his shoulders; Renaud: the apotheosis of satire, parody and slang; Alain Souchon and Laurent Voulzy: Lennon and McCartney are alive and well and working in Paris; Michel Jonasz: a personal fusion; MC Solaar: a gardener of words; From one fin de siècle to another; General Miscellaneous bibliography and discography; Index.
"Well-researched, agreeable to read, modestly ambitious, this book should prove invaluable for those who already teach or study chanson and will very probably prompt others to do the same." Modern Language Review
"This affectionate [...] study by a Senior Researcher Fellow at the University of Bristol examines the modern chason realist, the mainstay of French popular music for well over a century." Opera Now