Jacques Brel

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About Jacques Brel

Belgian singer Jacques Brel honed his theatrical delivery in the cabarets of Brussels, eventually elevating his lyric-driven, French-language song style to become a master of the modern chanson. ∙ Brel’s dramatic ability to embody the characters in his chansons deeply influenced the vocal delivery and stagecraft of such artists as David Bowie, Scott Walker, and Soft Cell’s Marc Almond. ∙ His first hit single, 1957’s “Quand on n’a que l’amour,” went Gold, and it was later covered by Céline Dion on her 2005 French-language compilation, On ne change pas. ∙ In 1961, Brel performed a series of career-defining concerts at the Olympia Hall in Paris, captured on his first live album, Enregistrement Public à l'Olympia 1961. ∙ After retiring from touring, he contributed most of the music and French lyrics to the internationally popular 1968 experimental musical revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. ∙ “Seasons in the Sun”—an English-language translation of Brel’s single “Le Moribund”—became a global smash for pop singer Terry Jacks in 1974, hitting No. 1 in more than a dozen countries. ∙ Brel was also an accomplished actor, director, and screenwriter, whose 1973 film, Le Far West, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. ∙ With more 25 million albums sold, he’s one of the best-selling Belgian artists of all time, and his songs were covered by such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, and Ray Charles.

Brussels, Belgium
April 8, 1929
French Pop
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