Sunday, March 29, 2020

Hair to the throne

As the present is rather stuck at home and future on hold, it is an ideal time to delve into some nostalgia, in particular on something not related to “it”. Watching the program Samedi d’en rire on France 3, which presents delightful old clips of French singers and comedians, I was struck by one amazing change in the Gallic entertainment scene that occurred in the mid 1960’s. Very simply, the male singers magically grew full heads of hair and became handsome, even pretty.

To explain, if you look at the kings of French music before 1967 or so, in retrospect, two characteristics stand out. They had wonderful voices and limited hair. Charles Aznavour, France’s Frank Sinatra, recorded more than 1200 songs and wrote some 1000 songs. One of his most famous hits is La Bohėme. Notwithstanding his extraordinary talent, he was far from a sex symbol, already starting to shed hair when he was young. Likewise, Jacques Brel, my favorite, Belgium by origin, added an incredible emotional touch to all his songs, with Ne me quitte pas being one of his most famous. His vulnerability may have been helped by the fact that he looked rather ragged and without much of a coif. Yves Montand is the leading stars of French chanson but kept his hair short even in his youth, as was the fashion. See him singing BellaCiao, a partisan song, in his native Italian. These singers are a pleasure for the ear but not so much for the eye.

By contrast, by the late 1960, hair was in fashion and, apparently, de rigeur. First and foremost, Johnny Halliday, the French Elvis Presley, entered the scene and remained there for almost 60 years, selling some 110 million records. He was always plentifully and impeccably coiffed, as you can see him in this duet with Julio Inglesias, who has also captured some hearts in his time. JoeDassin has a short career, dying in 1980, but had the ideal head of hair, at least for his era. Mike Brant also had a brilliant but short career. His hair would make women jealous even today. These are just a sample of the male full-haired heart-throbbers of the period.

Music and fashion have changed many times since then.  The days of the full coif seem long ago, as distant as those of the earlier ugly duckling days. Yet, as a person that enjoys music and sports a wide highway on the top of my head, I prefer voice over hair if I have to choose. Maybe, there has been no full heir to the 1960 throne of the French chanson. In any case, revisiting the music of yesteryear brought a smile to my face (and hopefully to yours), which is a good thing at any time.

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