Jacques Brel

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Jacques Romain Georges Brel

Jacques Brel
Born 8 April 1929
Schaarbeek, Belgium
Died 9 October 1978 (aged 49)
Bobigny, France
Cause of death lung cancer
Resting place Calvary Cemetery, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands
Nationality Belgian
Religion Atheist (Lapsed Catholic)[citation needed]
Spouse Thérèse Michielsen
Children Chantal Brel, France Brel, Isabelle Brel
Jacques Brel (born Jacques Brel; 1929-1978) - Belgium (French-speaking), poet, singer, actor and director.


Jacques Brel was born April 8, 1929 in Sharbeke, the Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium.
At school not too brilliantly, but from an early age took part in amateur theatricals. Father Jacques forced to join the family business, which he harbors no affection.
In 1951, Brel married Teresa Mihilsen (Mishelsen [1]), in the same year they had a daughter Chantal.
Since 1952, Jacques composes songs that he performs in the family circle or at a party in Brussels cabaret. In 1953 he published the first record at Jacques Brel - Forever 78 rpm - waiting for her failure. Shortly thereafter, Brel went to Paris at the invitation of the famous cultural figure of Jacques Canetti, who discovered the talent of the young Belgian. In 1955, his wife and children moved to Jacques in France.
In February 1954 Brel writes a record of 8 songs in the studio "Phillips", but neither commercial nor artistic success it brings. In the same year Canetti sends the singer on tour: Brel acts in different cities of Belgium and France, Amsterdam, Lausanne, North Africa. Due to touring, he finally becomes popular.
In 1956, Brel started working with a pianist, accompanist and orkestrovschikom Francois Robert, in 1957, he has a second accompanist, Gerard Zhuannest - for concert performances. At the same time his next album gets the Grand Prix of the Academy Charles Cros. From 1958 Brel actively spoken Jacques Brel in the prestigious halls of the "Olympia" and "Reels", "Alhambra".
In October 1965, Brel toured the Soviet Union: in his tour includes Moscow, Leningrad, Tbilisi, Yerevan and Baku.
At the peak of success in 1966, Brel singing and decides to leave the scene. May 16, 1967 in Roubaix held his last concert.
In 1967, Brel debut as actor in the film, Andre Kaiata "professional risk" in the role of the teacher, who was out of revenge student accused of rape. In 1968 - as an actor in a theatrical play "Man of La Mancha," Dale Wasserman, in which she plays two Jacques Brel - Le Colonel roles at once: Don Quixote and Cervantes. In 1971, Marcel Carné removes Brel in his painting "The killers called the order", where he was assigned the role of minister of justice, which comes to the fight against criminals by police. Edouard Molinaro used his undoubted gift of comedy in their belts, "My Uncle Benjamin" (1969) and "bore" (1973) and Claude Lelouch - a burlesque role in the film "adventure - an adventure" (1972). Brel also delivered two films ("France", 1971, and "Wild West", 1973) as a director. In 1973, Brel, and parted with cinema.
Brel died Oct. 9, 1978 in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, after a long illness. He was buried in the Marquesas Islands - next to Paul Gauguin.
Platelets (discography)

1953: The first single, recorded in Brussels: La Foire / Il ya
1954: First album: Jacques Brel et ses chansons
1957: Quand on n'a que l'amour, Heureux Pardons, ...
1958: Je ne sais pas, Au printemps, ...
1958: The disc for the magazine Marie-Claire, which includes L'introduction à la Nativité and L'Évangile selon saint Luc
1959: La valse à mille temps, Ne me quitte pas, Je t'aime, Isabelle, La mort, ...
1961: Marieke, Le moribond, ...
1962: Record of a concert in Olympia, October 1961
1963: Les Bigotes, Les vieux, La Fanette, ...
1964: Jef, Les bonbons, Mathilde, ...
1964: Concert at the Olympia 1964
1965: Ces gens-là, Fernand, ...
1967: 67 comprenant Mon enfance, À jeun, ...
1968: Vesoul, L'éclusier, ...
1970: L'Homme de la Mancha
1972: New recordings of old songs
1977: Les Marquises
1988: Jacques Brel - l'intégrale (1910 CD)
2003: Jacques Brel - l'intégrale (1915 CD)
Movies (filmography)

1968: Professional Risk / Les risques du métier Andre Kayatta
1968: Banda Bonneau / La bande à Bonnot Philip Furaste
1969: My Uncle Benjamin / Mon oncle Benjamin Edouard Molinaro
1970: Mont-Dragon / Mont-Dragon Jean Valera
1971: The killers in the name of the order / Les assassins de l'ordre Marcel Carné
1971: Franz / Franz (Director - Jacques Brel)
1972: Adventure is Adventure / L'aventure c'est l'aventure Claude Lelouch
1972: A Bar at the fork / Le bar de la Fourche Alan Levan
1972: Wild West / Le Far-West (director - Jacques Brel)
1973: bore / L'emmerdeur Edouard Molinaro
Famous Songs

Ne me quitte pas (1959)
Bruxelles (1962)
Les bonbons (1962)
Amsterdam (1964)
Ces gens-là (1966)


Jacques Romain Georges Brel (French pronunciation: [ʒak bʁɛl]; 8 April 1929 – 9 October 1978) was a Belgian singer-songwriter. Brel composed and recorded his songs almost exclusively in French, although he recorded a number of songs in.



Brel was born in Schaarbeek, Belgium, a district of Brussels, but lived half of his life in Paris. He died in Bobigny in the suburbs of Paris, of lung cancer, and is buried in the Marquesas Islands.

Although his family did speak French, they were of Flemish descent, with some of the family originating from Zandvoorde, near Ieper. Brel came to consider himself a francophone Fleming.[3] Brel's father was co-owner of a cardboard factory and Brel started his working life there, apparently destined to follow his father's footsteps. However, he had no interest in it and showed an interest in culture instead, joining the Catholic-humanist youth organisation Franche Cordée, where he sang and acted. At Franche Cordée he met Thérèse Michielsen ('Miche'). They married in 1950.

Brel (left) with Flemish entertainer Bobbejaan Schoepen, 1955

In the early 1950s Brel achieved minor success in Belgium singing his own songs. A 78rpm record (La foire/Il y a) was released as a result. From 1954 Brel pursued an international singing career. He quit his job and moved to Paris, where he stayed at the Hotel Stevens and gave guitar lessons to artist-dancer Francesco Frediani to pay his rent. Jean Villard Gilles recognized his talent and hired him immediately for his cabaret "Chez Gilles". (Later, Gilles' successful song / poem La Venoge inspired Brel to write Le Plat Pays.) Frediani witnessed his first show at the Olympia as an "ouverture de rideau" act (i.e., while the public was entering and being seated). Brel had to change behind the bar. Bruno Coquatrix, the owner, invited him to come back. He carried on writing music and singing in the city's cabarets and music-halls, where on stage he delivered his songs with great energy. In January 1955 he supported in the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels the performances of the Belgian pop and variety pioneer Bobbejaan Schoepen. After some success his wife and daughters joined him from Belgium. By 1956 he was touring Europe and he recorded the song Quand on n'a que l'amour that brought him his first major recognition. He appeared in a show with Maurice Chevalier and Michel Legrand.

...in a man's life, there are two important dates : his birth and his death. Everything we do in between is not very important.
- Jacques Brel

By the end of the 1950s Miche and Brel's three daughters had returned to Brussels. From then on, he and his family led separate lives. Under the influence of his friend Georges Pasquier ('Jojo') and pianists Gérard Jouannest and Francois Rauber, Brel's style changed. He was no longer a Catholic-humanist troubadour, but sang grimmer songs about love, death, and the struggle that is life. The music became more complex and his themes more diverse, exploring love (Je t'aime, Litanies pour un Retour), society (Les Singes, Les Bourgeois, Jaurès), and spiritual concerns (Le Bon Dieu, Dites, Si c'était Vrai, Fernand). His work was not limited to one style. He was as proficient in funny compositions (Le Lion, Comment Tuer l'Amant de sa Femme...) as in more emotional ones (Voir un Ami Pleurer, Fils de..., Jojo).

But he occasionally included parts in Dutch as in "'Marieke", and also recorded Dutch versions of a few songs such as Le Plat Pays (Mijn vlakke land), Ne me quitte pas (Laat Me Niet Alleen), Rosa, Les Bourgeois (De Burgerij) and Les paumés du petit matin (De Nuttelozen van de Nacht). A rather obscure single was uncovered only a few years ago having Brel singing in Dutch De apen (Les singes) and Men vergeet niets (On n'oublie rien). These two were included in the 16 CD box Boîte à Bonbons. Since his own command of Dutch was poor, most of his later Dutch interpretations were translated by Ernst van Altena, but De Apen by Eric Franssen, Men vergeet niets by well known Flemish artist Will Ferdy and Marieke was translated by Brel himself.

He goes to the limit of his strength because, through his singing, he expresses his reason for living and each line hits you in the face and leaves you dazed.
- Édith Piaf

He starred in the musical L'Homme de la Mancha (Man of La Mancha) which he also translated into French and directed. As an actor he gained fame playing opposite Lino Ventura in L'Emmerdeur and L'aventure, c'est l'aventure. In 1969 he took the lead role opposite Claude Jade in. Le Far West, a comedy which he directed, co-wrote and appeared in, competed for the Palme d'Or at thein 1973.

In 1973 he embarked in a yacht, planning to sail around the world. When he reached the Canary Islands, Brel, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He returned to Paris for treatment and later continued his ocean voyage. He was also a keen pilot and owned several small planes, including the eponymous 'Jojo'.

Brel's grave in Atuona


Translations of his work

Brel songs have been recorded by musicians in many languages. English versions of his songs have been recorded by a huge variety of artists too, most frequently using the translations by Mort Shuman and Eric Blau. Rod McKuen was one of the first American artists to discover and translate Brel. Canadian Terry Jacks' version of "Seasons in the Sun" became a global pop hit in 1974, topping the charts internationally. McKuen and Brel formed a close friendship, upon Brel's death, McKuen said "When news of Jacques' death came, I stayed locked in my bedroom and drank for a week."[4]

However, his most frequently recorded song isrecorded the song for her 2009 album "Love Is The Answer".

English translations of Brel's songs, in particular also "Ne me quitte pas" translations, have been subject to criticism and are regarded by some as being stripped of their original lyricism.[original research?] For example, Brel's "Ne me quitte pas" evocatively states, "Moi, je t'offrirai / Des perles de pluie / Venues de pays / Où il ne pleut pas" [As for me, I'll offer you pearls of rain that come from countries where rain never falls]. However, Rod McKuen’s English translation replaces that imagery with "But if you stay / I'll make you a day / Like no day has been / or will be again."

In 1986 Momus and more recently Barb Jungr recorded new English translations of "Ne me quitte pas" which are much nearer to the original. Jungr used a translation called "Don't leave me now" by Des de Moor. Momus translated and recorded "Don't Leave" because he felt "Mc Kuen's version was highly sentimentalised and Shuman's translation really Americanised" [5]. Nevertheless it is Rod McKuen’s English translation that is most performed.

Other examples of critique include songs like "Jef", as translated by Mort Shuman and Eric Blau, bearing little resemblance to the original. Terry Jacks intended to "lighten up" "Seasons in the Sun" and thereby completely removed the cynical gist of Brel's "Le Moribond", which perhaps explains why this version became such a global pop hit in 1974.

Tom Robinson has performed and released live recordings of "Les Bourgeois" in both the original French and his own English translation adaptation, entitled "Yuppie Scum."

On their 2009 CD "Troubadours," American duo the Black Veils performed their own "poetic and faithful" [6] English translations of Brel's "Ne me quitte pas" ("Don't Leave Me"), "Jaurès," "Il neige sur Liège" ("Snowfall on Liège"), and "Mai 40."

Translations to other languages, e.g. German, have also come in for much criticism. However, Ernst van Altena's Dutch early translations, partly done in cooperation with Brel himself, are generally considered to be relatively true to the original as well as poetic.

Brel's widow said that Arnold Johnston, a professor at Western Michigan University, translated Brel's work more accurately than Blau and Shuman, and eventually gave Dr. Johnston exclusive rights to translate Brel's work into English. Dr. Johnston recorded I'm Here! a collection of twenty songs, using a grant from the university.

An American musical revue of his songs, , which debuted in 1968, has played around the world since. The opening song of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is "Les Flamandes", translated by Shuman and Blau as "Marathon", which is a charming encapsulation of the United States in the 20th century (mentioning, among others, Charles Lindbergh and Sacco and Vanzetti) but it bears no relationship to the original French lyrics of the song, a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the Flemish.

Scott Walker's first three solo albums, titled Scott, Scott 2, and Scott 3, each contain three of the Blau/Shuman translations. Several of the original songs on this album, and on the later Scott 4, can be seen as heavily influenced by Brel.



Assembling a comprehensive Jacques Brel discography is difficult, because his recordings have been released in so many different permutations, in different countries and different formats. Furthermore, releases of Brel's recordings are sometimes known by different titles.

This discography is restricted to Brel's original albums, as collected and reissued on 23 September 2003 in the sixteen CD box set of his work Boîte à Bonbons; plus the additional album Chansons ou Versions Inédites de Jeunesse, which was released for the first time as part of this box set. The titles ascribed to each album are the titles used in the box set.

To mark the 25th anniversary of Brel's death, Barclay Records issued Comme quand il était beau (2003), a 3 volume DVD collection of Brel interviews and live performances as well as the compilation album Infiniment (2004). Both releases include five previously unpublished songs that Brel wrote in 1977: "La Cathédrale", "L'amour est mort", "Mai 40", "Avec Élégance" and "Sans Exigences".