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Remembering Bashung in Memphis

by David  Page

Article published on the 2009-03-20 Latest update 2009-03-22 12:11 TU

Alain Bashung at the Victoires de la musique (Photo: E. Sadaka/RFI)

Alain Bashung at the Victoires de la musique
(Photo: E. Sadaka/RFI)

Alain Bashung, who died on 14 March, was a class act. Oddly enough, I never met him in France.  The one time I met him was in Memphis in 1990 when he was recording his best album at Ardent Sound studios on Madison Avenue.

Less legendary than the Stax  Studios or Cotton Row, Ardent had become hot in the 80s and 90s. Many major recording artists such as ZZ Top would create there.

Ardent also produced top quality videos for ZZ Top and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, among others. 

Bashung came to Memphis with a concept album that was unique including what are now two of his trademark songs, “Madame Rêve” and “Osez Josephine”. 

His songs always had an eerie surreal effect incorporating in most instances violin and cello with traditional rock instruments:. electric guitar, bass, keyboards and drums.

In 1994 he released a very prophetic album which featured the hit “Ma Petite Entreprise” 

The lyrics include the refrain “Ma petite Entreprise ne connaît pas la crise” (My Small Business is not in crisis) - rather prophetic, n’est-ce pas

The song goes on to demonstrate how a small businessman is working so much that he never has and never will have the time to enjoy life.

Bashung had an elegance on stage that was unique. Perhaps lesser known internationally than other great popular French language songwriters such as Jacques Brel, Leo Ferré, Charles Aznavour or Serge Gainsbourg, Bashung produced less, perhaps because he was a perfectionist. 

One of his last great songs released just before his death is entitled “Residents de la République”, as opposed to Président de la République, which in a very subtle way indicates that perhaps the latter should think more about the former, but without any political editorialising, which Bashung always avoided. 

Bashung was a great French artist.

On 22 March, Club 9516 pays tribute to the singer. In the meantime, you can visit Bashung's official site (in French), or check out RFI's French service's tribute to Bashung.