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French Music: Charles Trenet

Charles trenetLouis Charles Auguste Claude Trenet, known as Charles Trenet was born 18 May, 1913 and is one of the most famous French singers of the 20th Century.

Charles Trenet was a prolific recording artist with more than a thousand songs in his catalogue. Famous for songs such as “Boum!” and “La Mer” he wrote and recorded only his own songs in a career that spanned until the 1990s though he was at his most popular from the late 1930s to mid-1950s. “La Mer” is probably his best known song outside of France, known as “Beyond the Sea” and a huge hit for Bobby Darin in the 1960s and used in lots of films including The Dreamers, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and even Mr Bean’s Holiday!

Born in Narbonne, Languedoc-Roussilon, he studied art in Berlin and France and arrived in Paris in the 1930s where he worked in a film studio as a props handler. During this time he also teamed up with Swiss pianist Johnny Hess and together they performed live and recorded several songs as well as being featured on radio broadcasts.  He was called for National Service in 1936 and shaved his head and started to wear a monocle. He was a man who loved to perform but also suffered from stage fright and so he hid his apprehension behind his appearance – often wearing a hat and fooling around to help combat nerves. When he completed his service, he returned to performing and the press gave him the nick name “Le Fou Chantant” (“The Singing Madman”).

Trenet went on to form a solo career and his music was known for its artistic qualities.  He loved to paint and write poetry and this creative talent was often reflected in the words of the songs – poetic and occasionally eccentric, warm, witty and clever.

After World War II Trenet moved to the United States where he was a success – making friends with Hollywood stars and musicians and appearing in films himself. He returned to Paris in 1951 and continued to be incredibly popular with the public. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Trenet declared he would retire from music but was persuaded to perform or make a record many more times and in 1999 he produced a new album and returned to live performances which were never without a standing ovation.

Charles Trenet died on 19 February 2001.  The house where he was born has been turned into a museum.

”Boum!” Probably one of the greatest hits of the “Grand Charles” this is an extract  from the 1938 movie “La Route Enchantée” which was also a big success and which propelled this bubbly tune to the French listening public’s attention and stardom for the singer (see the lyrics below).

Lyrics to “Boum!”

La pendule fait tic-tac-tic-tic
Les oiseaux du lac pic-pac-pic-pic
Glou-glou-glou font tous les dindons
Et la jolie cloche ding-dang-dong
Mais… boum!
Quand notre coeur fait boum
Tout avec lui dit boum
Et c’est l’amour qui s’éveille
Il chante «Love in Bloom»
Au rythme de ce boum
Qui redit boum à l’oreille
Tout a changé depuis hier et la rue
A des yeux qui regardent aux fenêtres
Y’a du lilas et y’a des mains tendues
Sur la mer le soleil va paraître
L’astre du jour fait boum
Tout avec lui dit boum
Quand notre coeur fait boum-boum
Le vent dans les bois fait hou-hou
La biche aux abois fait mê-ê-ê
La vaisselle cassée fait fric-fric-frac
Et les pieds mouillés font flic-flic-flac
Mais… boum!
Quand notre coeur fait boum
Tout avec lui dit boum
L’oiseau dit boum, c’est l’orage
L’éclair qui, lui, fait boum
Et le bon Dieu dit boum
Dans son fauteuil de nuages
Car mon amour est plus vif que l’éclair
Plus léger qu’un oiseau, qu’une abeille
Et s’il fait boum, s’il se met en colère
Il entraîne avec lui des merveilles
Le monde entier fait boum
Tout avec lui dit boum
Quand notre coeur fait boum-boum
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