Jacques Brel

1929 (Brussels) – 1978 (Bobigny, France)

Supreme figure in French-language chanson. When he was still struggling to make headway and had come next to last in a competition, Gréco (who described him as raw-boned and untamed) asked if she could sing one of his songs. Both subsequently quit their record labels to join Barclay’s; Barclay became a true friend. Brel acted in films by Carné and Lelouch, took part in a legendary radio interview with his friend Brassens and Ferré, and advised Gainsbourg to sing more himself. Aznavour, another friend, tried in vain to persuade him not to retire from singing.

Jacques Brel knew…