Picture book: Olaf Sally talks about the history of chanson | NDR.de – Culture

Status: 05/08/2022 09:34 AM

Even as a teenager, Olaf Sally fell in love with the art of singing songs. Now he also conveys his passion in book form: he has written a comprehensive and rich history of chanson.

by Katya Wise

You don’t want to leave this book aside at all. The numerous (vertical) images invite you on a pedestrian journey through a century of French chanson, complemented by deceptive commentaries and stories by Olaf Sally.

It tells about Barbara, who came to Göttingen for her first concert in 1964 and wrote a song there, deeply moved by the enthusiasm of the audience. An image showing the small, narrow-faced woman, seeming a little lost, in the garden of the “Junges Theater” under a tree – where the “Göttingen” was created.

Johnny Hallyday: French James Dean

Johnny Hallyday is very different: He’s casually leaning on a tree stump, western boots, skinny jeans, his muscles showing under his shirt. Frenchman James Dean, hardly known in Germany. He released his first single when he was 17 years old, and he was set to have more than 1,000 tracks to follow. When he died in 2017, President Emmanuel Macron spoke to great mourners in Paris: “Johnny was part of us, Johnny was part of France.” He combined American rock and roll with French chanson.

On stage, Jacques Brel exhausted himself like a few. Olaf Sly believes: “His works are among the best that French chansons can offer, and they became part of school reading material in France and Belgium when he was still alive.”

What is chanson?

Salé sketches, classifies, and attempts to explain: What is a chanson?

Chanson can be tango, waltz, blues, jazz, swing, rock or hip-hop. The gift of eventually absorbing all the musical styles of the world and creating a completely unique cultural technique from them is a feature of chanson.
reading sample

It is clearly a “French affair”, as many newcomers such as Brill, Yves Montand, Georges Moustaki, Dalida and Jane Birkin were accepted into the family without any problems.

From Josephine Baker to Zaz

Sally navigates the story: We see Aristide Bruant, a strong man with a square face, next to his famous Toulouse-Lautrec poster from 1892, Brunt in a red hat and scarf at Josephine Baker’s “cabaret,” for the first time in a banana skirt, with an elaborate blue feather headdress and matching eye shadows.

Several pages later, Zaz laughs at the camera—the microphone in his outstretched hand. She is one of the “composers-composers-translators”, that is, those who write, compose and interpret – such as Georges Brassens, Serge Ginsburg, Françoise Hardy, and Barbara. “La chanson c’est surtout le texte” – “The chanson is above all text” – Charles Aznavour briefly explained. In 2014, when he was quite old, he sang with Zaz.

Not only for chanson fans

Time and time again, Sala emphasizes the close bond between generations. The book closes with artists like Vincent Delerm and 26-year-old Angèle: a delicate woman with heavy eyeliner like Barbara once did, but a light blue coat with little white clouds clearly coming from another time. “Passion, gloom and joy of life” – the subtitle of the book does not promise much. Highly recommended not only for fans of chanson. Wonderful! Hellas! Oh!

Song. Passion, gloom and joy of life from France

by Olaf Sally

page number:
240 pages
picture book
Order number:
50 euro

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Culture NDR | 08.05.2022 | 5:40 pm

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