A crooner for all time: Salvador back on stage at 90

6th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 6, 2007 (AFP) - He first went on stage in the cabarets of pre-war Paris and played guitar with Django Reinhardt; he inspired the invention of bossa nova in Brazil; he helped introduce France to rock'n'roll, and was a pioneer of the music video.

PARIS, July 6, 2007 (AFP) - He first went on stage in the cabarets of pre-war Paris and played guitar with Django Reinhardt; he inspired the invention of bossa nova in Brazil; he helped introduce France to rock'n'roll, and was a pioneer of the music video.

French crooner Henri Salvador is a living compendium of 20th-century music. He turns 90 this month, seems 20 years younger, and is about to embark on a series of concerts which he promises this time really will be his last.

"Sometimes I say to myself -- 'Bloody hell, you're nearly 90!' Luckily my wife is on hand to remind me that I've never looked my age," he says with a characteristic guffaw.

"But I want to leave the stage while I am still fit enough to perform. After the Salle Pleyel in Paris in December, it's over .... probably." He throws his head back and lets out another cackle.

Born in French Guiana in 1917, Salvador has spent an extraordinary 73 years pleasing the public with his mix of hoofing, goofing and jazz-inspired chanson, so he can be forgiven a certain reluctance to stop.

"It's like a drug. I remember one of the first times I went on a really big stage was in Brazil in the war, when I had to perform before tens of thousands of American soldiers.

"I did my first gag, and suddenly there was this roar" -- he roars -- "coming from the audience. It hit me like a wave of pleasure, and I remember thinking, so that's what its like," he says.

"And I remember when my father died, I was about to go on stage when I got the telegram. But as soon as I was in front of the audience I forgot everything. When I came off, that was when I cried. But on stage -- it just takes you over."

Salvador's love-affair with the audience began in 1933 when as a young musician-cum-funnyman he got his first slots on the Paris nightclub scene. He was spotted by jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt who took him on as an accompanist, and he then joined the black American jazz violinist Eddie South.

In World War II, Salvador found himself on the French Riviera where he was recruited by band-leader Ray Ventura. Ventura was Jewish and Salvador was black so their decision to leave Vichy France, the wartime regime that collaborated with the Nazis, was opportune.

Later Salvador established himself in Paris as a songwriter and performer, and in 1956 crossed the Atlantic for an engagement on the Ed Sullivan show, the hugely popular US TV variety series. Inspired by the new sounds sweeping the United States, he teamed up with French cult writer Boris Vian to make some of France's first rock'n'roll hits.

Around this time his song "Dans mon Ile" (In my island) inspired the Brazilian musician Tom Jobin, regarded as the inventor of bossa nova. Jobin later told Salvador that hearing the song gave him the idea of slowing down the samba beat and introducing more melody.

In the 1960s Salvador had a series of novelty hits such as "Juanita Banana," "Twist SNCF" and "Minnie Petite Souris" (Minnie the little mouse), all of them accompanied by humorous film-clips that were the precursor of today's music videos -- and are now easy to view on the Internet.

And since then he has never been far from the public eye, with television variety shows, concerts and new albums -- the latest, "Reverence" (Final bow), came out last year.

For his farewell tour he begins in Monaco on his birthday, July 18, with further dates in Italy, France and Japan.  

Salvador puts his longevity down to an innately sunny temperament. "When you are a little baby, everything is beautiful. Luckily with me that never changed," he says. Spry as a bird, his elbows keep twitching out as if at the start of some old song'n'dance routine.

"Maurice Chevalier died at 84, Charles Trenet died at 86," he says in reference to two other great French crooners.

"Here am I still at it, at nearly 90. So maybe it's time to stop. I won't miss it. I love my bed too much." Guffaw. "And the petanque of course." Boules is his great passion. "The only problem -- I find the balls are getting heavier". More head-back laughter.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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