Very important French cultural knowledge

You might recognise this song from the first few beats. Keep listening for the big surprise:

Yes, everyone’s favourite wedding song, Oh What a Night by The Four Seasons was also a hit in France, but with French words seemingly dubbed over the same music. But this is merely the start of it. Claude François, the man singing this number, covered an eclectic array of songs, from Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe and Don McLean’s American Pie right through to Peter, Paul and Mary’s Puff the Magic Dragon.

This guy shot to fame with Frenchified hits from elsewhere, but he maintained that fame through his own hard work and talent. For example, he’s partly responsible for Frank Sinatra’s hit My Way, which started off as a French song that he and a partner penned together. He reinvented himself regularly, he started a modelling agency, he produced albums for others, he raised money for charity, and he introduced Les Claudettes — a group of dancers who you can see behind him in the music video above. They were rather racy for their time, apparently.

He died a rather untimely death, reputedly trying to fix the lighting above his bathtub filled with water, which he was standing in at the time. Yes, he was electrocuted. He died on 11 March 1978, leaving a massive stamp on the French music industry. One particular legacy remains. Unfortunately, it’s France’s love of Les Claudettes. You may remember when I wrote about the singer Philippe Katerine who had bananas hurled at him from the appreciative (no, really) audience last summer. His backing singers were Les Katerinettes in homage to Claude François.

But it doesn’t stop there. To honour the fiftieth anniversary of Monsieur François’ first big hit, Belles Belles Belles (originally “Made to Love” by the Everly Brothers), French TV station W9 are holding a competition to find the new Claude François, complete with his troup of Les Claudettes. The video on the W9 web page has some alarmingly kitcsh images of some aging men in sequins fronting groups of glitzy girls. Will I be watching the show on TV? Yes. And I’ll be adorned with a sparkly outfit and my dancing shoes on.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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6 comments on “Very important French cultural knowledge
  1. Ron Rundle says:

    That’s grouse, Wen. Claude looks like so many Australian “entertainers’ from the same era.
    You’ll be wearing a sparkly outfit and dancing shoes?
    Oh, stop it1 You know what that does to me!! 😉

  2. Wendy says:

    I know, but checking some of those Michael Jackson-like moves, I doubt I’ll be able to keep up with the dancers on the TV. I may end up on the couch. With chocolate. 😀

  3. Ron Rundle says:

    Yep, groovy moves, non.
    Couch and chocolate, oui!

  4. Wow! Fascinating story! I’ve heard the French version of My Way on the radio but never knew it was originally a French song! Thanks for the history lesson.

  5. Wendy says:

    Ashley, I’ve only told his story briefly. I’ve left out that he’s also known as “Cloclo” (shortened form of “Claude”, twice, as the French love to do with names) and that he covered an amazing number of songs (partial list here).

  6. Wendy says:

    UPDATE: TV channel W9 will be screening the talent quest on 28th February 2012! Make sure you tune in to see some weirdness if you’ve got access to French TV!

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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