Georges Brassens

Georges Brassens is a cultural icon in his native France. Long after his death, he is universally recognized as one of the greatest songwriter in a country that reveres l’Art de la chanson. Even though Brassens could speak with impish delight of whores and assholes, peppered his repertoire with the French equivalent of four-letter words, he did it with such grace, such style, such wit and such perfection that the incorrigible anarchist has found his place in the hallowed halls of academia. Today, Brassens is taught in French schools, alongside French literary greats. Brassens stretched French to the limits of the language. He mixed classic forms of poetry with colourful language. He was a consummate wordsmith who lived to and by his word, and perfectly set it to music.

Yet, Brassens remains a virtual unknown to anglophone ears. Even though he became France’s most celebrated singer during his lifetime, Brassens did not particularly relish the attention and he had little interest in achieving international fame. Brassens was also as French as they come and at times words cannot translate the cultural roots of his poetry. But that is hardly a reason to stop there.

Over a three decades long career, Brassens retained a level of creative integrity that is unparalleled in popular music. He was a true individualist with a poetic and challenging eye on the outside world. He was, above all, an extraordinary craftsman whose work is as relevant today to international audiences, as it was and still is to French ears.

Brassens’ repertoire is quirky and timeless. Musically, it stands as fresh as when it was written, as far back as 70 years ago. One of all-time great songwriters, Brassens perfected songs that hold the test of time. It was high time to them to put them to the test of the English language, on a brand new continent, which I set out to do in 2001.

“…he is the greatest songwriter in the world, bar none. He is head, shoulders, chest, knees above anybody else I can think of. Nothing he does is poor. In France he is not just a household word, he is a household paragraph.”
Jake Thackray, poet and songwriter

“A few years ago, in the course of a literary discussion, someone asked who was the best poet at the moment in France. I responded without hesitation: Georges Brassens.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Nobel Prize for Literature 1981
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“Je n’ai pas réussi à écrire. Mes chansons ne sont pas des poèmes. Je ne suis pas un chanteur non plus… Ce que je suis? Un chansonnier… oui, un chansonnier. Je ne suis pas un poète…”
G. Brassens

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