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“Discovering” Jacques Brel

As I perused our station’s labyrinth of a record collection in search for some “European” music a couple of days ago, I found a record from an artist with a name that rang a bell, but with a track-list that truly seemed foreign. I soon remembered that I had heard the name “Jacques Brel” in Amanda Palmer’s song “Ukelele Anthem”, explaining the slight sense of familiarity; other than that, I had no clue who he was. But I figured, if one of my favorite singers digs his music, it should be decent, right? So I played it and listened to “La Valse À Mille Temps”, which I chose at random.

This tune was stuck in my head for the rest of the evening, and as I naturally do after listening to such an exceptionally incredible piece of music, I immediately read Brel’s biography (on Wikipedia, of course) while listening to his most popular songs on Spotify. Not only was Brel a singer in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, but this godfather of French chanson also starred in various French films. Additionally, he was the original mastermind behind the classic “Ne Me Quitte Pas”, which has been covered by Dusty Springfield, Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand, and literally countless other artists.

Of course, through all my internet-searching I learned one main thing; that this so-called “discovery” of mine was far overdue, and I (and everyone else, in my opinion..) need to listen to his music whenever possible.

Something about Jacques Brel’s work truly stands out. I am familiar with the more modern side of French music – also known as nouvelle chanson – and while I’ve always enjoyed it, something has always felt missing. Nothing ever beats the classics, I suppose! (Even Amanda Palmer’s cover of “Amsterdam” didn’t click with me…but I digress.)

I found his music on the 9th of this month, exactly 34 years after his death. There is no doubt in my mind that his music has left an impact on the world that transcends age and time, and that it will never leave us.