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Bernard Lavilliers

With the body of a bouncer, the looks of a movie star, and a low, sensual voice, Bernard Lavilliers started as a left-wing singer following in the footsteps of Léo Ferré. This boxer-singer rose to stardom in France in the mid-'70s (other Francophone countries followed quickly) and became an icon of the free-thinking singer/songwriter, the conscience of the French bourgeoisie. A serious traveler and occasional reporter, Lavilliers has made long stays in many South American and African countries, always bringing back songs (and sometimes musicians) with him. He was one of the first French singers to make "world music."

Lavilliers (b. 1946) comes from a lower-class family. His father was a steel worker and unionist. Gifted with a solid frame and a resolute mind, the young Lavilliers was prompt to argue and fight -- he picked up boxing as a hobby at age 13. After spending a year in reformatory, he joined his father at the steel mill in 1962. Three years later, he'd had enough and took off to Brazil, working there as a jungle truck driver. Back in France in 1967, he was incarcerated for skipping his military service.

Back in his days at the factory, Lavilliers had begun to write songs. In prison he persevered and once out, started to perform in Paris' cabarets. Jean-Pierre Hébrard of Decca gave him a record contract in late 1967. The singer recorded two singles and an eponymous LP, his acoustic anarchist songs putting him very close to Ferré. He also tried other careers, going back to boxing for a moment, managing night clubs the next. In 1972, he released his second album, Les Poètes. Three years later, Le Stéphanois yielded the minor classic "San Salvador."

His big break came in 1976, at age 30. Signed by Barclay, he was presented with two musicians who would become his first solid backup players and invaluable contributors: Pascal Arroyo and François Bréant. Together they recorded Les Barbares, which propelled Lavilliers to the top. Political and severe in his judgments, the singer threw one hit off after another, up to 1979 when the dark and cold LP Pouvoirs chilled both media and public. Another South American trip later, he recorded O Gringo, which became his biggest seller, thanks to a return to exotic rhythms. The end of a torrid affair with the American body-building star Lisa Lyons is at the heart of État d'Urgence (1983), which included the song "Idées Noires." A hit-scorer and a touring dynamo, Lavilliers turned more and more to South American and African rhythms, as he investigated the situations in Nicaragua and Cuba. If (1988) yielded one of his biggest international hits to date, "On the Road Again," topped only by "Melody Tempo Harmony" in 1995. Slowing down his activities as he crossed the 50-year bar, he continued to release albums regularly and has made a couple of big tours in the late '90s. At the beginning and throughout the ‘00s, he released a plethora of albums, the highlights being 2005’s Escale Au Grand Rex and 2008’s Samedi Soir A Beyrouth. ~ François Couture
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Acoustique

1. Saint-Etienne

2. Petit

3. Les Mains D’or

4. Idées Noires

5. Noir Et Blanc

6. La Grande Marée

7. Les Barbares

8. Fensch Vallée

9. Traffic

10. Betty

11. On The Road Again

12. Manila Hotel

13. Attention Fragile

14. Melody Tempo Harmony

x

Track List: CD Story

1. Funambule

2. San Salvador

3. Les Barbares

4. 15° Round

5. La Promenade Des Anglais

6. Pigalle La Blanche

7. Le Clan Mongol

8. La Fleur Du Mal

9. Extérieur Nuit

10. On The Road Again

11. R & B (Rouge Baiser)

12. Faits Divers

13. Stand The Ghetto

14. Melody Tempo Harmony (Feat. Jimmy Cliff) (Radio Mix)

15. Le Venin

16. Les Mains D'Or

17. Y'a Peut-Être Un Ailleurs

x

Track List: Carnets De Bord / Arrêt Sur Image

Disc 1

1. Voyageur

2. Elle Chante

3. L'Eté

4. Guitar Song

5. Etat Des Lieux

6. Silences

7. Question De Peau

8. La Mort Du Che

9. Messageries Maritimes

10. Brooklyn

11. Marin

Disc 2

1. L'Or Des Fous

2. Iracema

3. Les Mains D'Or

4. Fleur Pourpre

5. Saudade

6. L'Empire Du Milieu

7. Délinquance

8. Les Tricheurs

9. Octobre A New York

10. La Dernière Femme

11. Solidaritude

12. Les Feuilles Mortes

13. Jamaïca

14. La Peur (Nouvelle Version)

x

Track List: Escale Au Grand Rex

Disc 1

1. Voyageur

4. Noir Et Blanc

5. La Mort Du Che

6. Troisièmes Couteaux

7. Traffic

8. On The Road Again

9. Betty

10. O Gringo

Disc 2

1. Pigalle La Blanche

4. Etat Des Lieux

5. La Peur

6. Chanson Dada

7. Les Mains D'Or

8. La Salsa

9. Le Bal

10. Marin...

11. Stand The Ghetto

12. Attention Fragile

x

Track List: Carnets De Bord

1. Voyageur

2. Elle Chante (Feat. Cesária Évora)

3. L'Eté

4. Guitar Song

5. Etat Des Lieux

6. Silences

7. Question De Peau

8. La Mort Du Che

9. Messageries Maritimes

10. Brooklyn

11. Marin

x

Track List: Arrêt Sur Image

1. L'Or Des Fous

2. Iracema

3. Les Mains D'Or

4. Fleur Pourpre

5. Saudade

6. L'Empire Du Milieu

7. Délinquance

8. Les Tricheurs

9. Octobre A New York

10. La Dernière Femme

11. Solidaritude

12. Les Feuilles Mortes

13. Jamaïca

14. La Peur (Nouvelle Version)

x

Track List: Master Serie

1. Stand The Ghetto

2. La Salsa

3. Betty

4. Juke Box

5. Kingston

6. Frères De La Côte

7. San Salvador

8. Pigalle La Blanche

9. Saignée

10. Fortaleza

11. Traffic

12. Y'a Peut-Être Un Ailleurs

13. Les Barbares

14. Le Bal

x

Track List: Histoires

Disc 1

1. Y'a Peut-Être Un Ailleurs

2. 15° Round

3. Fortaleza

4. Sertao

5. Les Barbares

6. Idées Noires

7. Carmencita

8. L'Amour Et La Mort

9. La Fleur Du Mal

10. Ecoute

11. La Danseuse Du Sud

12. Tango

13. A Suivre

14. Betty

15. Attention Fragile

16. Night Bird

17. Le Venin

Disc 2

1. La Malédiction Du Voyageur

2. San Salvador

3. La Salsa

4. Melody Tempo Harmony (Feat. Jimmy Cliff)

5. Pigalle La Blanche

6. Traffic

7. Gentilshommes De Fortune

8. La Frontière

9. Noir Et Blanc

10. On The Road Again

11. Eldorado

12. Mister H.

13. New York Juillet

14. Kingston

15. Stand The Ghetto

16. Est-Ce Ainsi Que Les Hommes Vivent?

x

Track List: Etat D'Urgence

1. Etat D'Urgence

2. Q.H.S.

3. A Suivre

4. Idees Noires

5. Le Clan Mongol

6. New York Juillet

7. Vegas

8. Saignee

x

Track List: Voleur De Feu

1. Tango

2. La Frontière

3. Voleur De Feu

4. East Side Story

5. Midnight Shadows

6. Noir Et Blanc

7. Extérieur Nuit

8. Funambule

9. Gentilshommes De Fortune

10. Borinqueno

11. La Haine

12. Seigneur De Guerre

x

Track List: Clair Obscur

1. Preface

2. Audit

3. Le Venin

4. Capitaine Des Sables

5. Exil

6. Romeo Machado

7. La Machine

8. Chiens De Guerre

9. Vou Embora

10. Road Movie

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