Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Behind The Brel: The Story Of A Musical Genius - 1. Episode 1

BBC Radio 6 Music broadcast: 16th May 2017

Marc Almond celebrates the music and unconventional life of the revered singer-songwriter Jacques Brel.

Relatively unknown in the English-speaking world (mainly due to him singing in French), Jacques Brel is rightly considered one of the great songwriters of the 20th Century, whose lyrical content is poetically introspective and startlingly honest.

Tackling subjects such as love, death and social issues, Brel's music has been translated by artists such as David Bowie, Scott Walker, Shirley Bassey, Joan Baez, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Rod McKuen, Terry Jacks, Nirvana and Vera Lynn.

Brel songs, which became major hits in the English-speaking world, include Ne Me Quitte Pas (If You Go Away), Seasons in the Sun, Jacky and Amsterdam. In this three part series, Marc Almond investigates why some Brel songs translated well and others didn't.

In the 1950s French society was heavily influenced by the philosophy espoused in Jean-Paul Sarte's existentialism and humanism and Marc examines how this had a direct impact on Brel's songwriting and unconventional lifestyle.

Dubbed "the eternal adolescent" we will hear how Brel lived alone in Paris, despite having a wife and three children in his home town of Brussels, in order to preserve his "artistic inspiration". A man incapable of living a "pipe and slippers" life-style, we discover how his sense of freedom was so strong he attempted to circumnavigate the globe on a sailing boat after sensationally quitting singing whilst at the peak of his career.

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