Associations et autres

Quelques interprètes


Once it became clear that Georges Brassens was a major recording artist in their catalog, PHILIPS reissued all his albums, EPs and LPs as a collection (dubbed Fake Wood for their design) that spans 12 albums which cover chronologically everything Brassens released until his death. Nowadays there are many more options of course for those who want to add Brassens to their music collection, but these are the albums that I grew up with and they are my personal reference. In addition to the no non-sense presentation on the front, each album featured on the back descriptive blurbs about each song, penned by Brassens’ old friend and writer René Fallet. Rather than translating those, I offer to the English listener my own notes as a guide.

I (1952)
La mauvaise réputation Bad Rep
Le fossoyeur Gravedigger
Le gorille The Gorilla
Ballade des dames du temps jadis
Le parapluie The Umbrella
La marine L’amour marin
Corne d’Aurochs Beefalo Bill
Il suffit de passer le pont


The obvious starting point to discover Brassens. La mauvaise réputation indeed sealed his rep and Le gorille branded him forever. A fervent poetry lover, he also set selected poems to music: of special note, his homage to François Villon (Ballade des dames…) is masterful, while Le Petit Cheval is now sung by French children and, along with other adaptations, brought Paul Fort to everyone’s attention.

II (1953)
Les amoureux des bancs publics Park Bench Lovers
Brave Margot Margot The Milkmaid
Pauvre Martin Poor Ole Martin
La première fille The First Girl
Je suis un voyou A Rogue I Am
J’ai rendez-vous avec vous
Le vent
Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux There Is No Happy Love
La mauvaise herbe Tumbleweed
Le mauvais sujet repenti The Bottom Line
Putain de toi Ho Be Thee


An essential collection of songs that Brassens wrote in his lean years, as if his life depended on it. Well, it turned out it did. They’re gems. He unabashedly continues to raise eyebrows with Brave Margot and Putain de Toi. In turns funny, irreverent, rebellious and tender, these are songs for the ages, and they’re damn hummable.

III (1954)
Chanson pour l’Auvergnat Song For An Earth Angel
Les sabots d’Hélène Marcy’s Wooden Clogs
Marinette Brigit
Auprès de mon arbre
Le testament Last Will
Le nombril des femmes d’agents Ladycop’s Bellybutton
Les croquants Plutocrats


While still dipping into his backlog of songs, Brassens creates new ones as a now recognized recording artist. He pays loving tribute to his humble writing roots with Auprès de mon arbre, and Chanson pour l’Auvergnat – a beautiful ode that became a universal tribute to kind-heartedness. It remains to this day the Brassens song that surely everyone knows. Of poetic note is his reverend nod to Victor Hugo with two wonderful adaptations (La légende de la nonne & Gastibelza).

IV (1955-1957)
Je m’suis fait tout p’tit For A Little Doll
L’amandier The Cherry Tree
Oncle Archibald Uncle Archie
Les lilas
Au bois de mon cœur In My Heart’s Backyard
Celui qui a mal tourné One Bad Egg
Les Philistins


Brassens confirms his mastery of songwriting by perfecting the fine balance between texts and melodies that stand the test of time. Fifty years later, when I played Je m’suis fait tout petit (another song that most French speakers know) to unknowing English speaking audiences, their ears pricked up instantly at the music. There is a lovely flow to this album, which ends on a fitting note penned by little-known poet Jean Richepin.

V (1958-1960)
Le vieux Léon Ol’ Leon
À l’ombre du cœur de ma mie In The Shade Of A Maiden’s Love
Le pornographe The Pornophone
Le Père Noël et la petite fille Santa’s Girl
La femme d’Hector Victor’s Wife
Bonhomme Natural Mate
Les funérailles d’antan Funerals Of Yore
Comme une sœur Lotus Flower


The now well-established French star responds to prudish critics with the hilarious Le Pornographe. No less hilarious is his irreverent poke at death with Les funérailles d’antan. On a more serious note, he masters the short verse form with Le vieux Léon, while Bonhomme is what then equally famous Claude Nougaro will sing in homage at his funeral, many years later.

VI (1961)
La traîtresse Traitress
L’orage Thunderstorm
Le mécréant
Le verger du roi Louis
Le temps passé Days Of Yore
La fille à cent sous Two-Bit Love


Poetry takes center stage here, with no less than three Paul Fort poems that Brassens simply recites, which is touching but breaks the musical flow. That being said, the record holds classics like L’orage and Le mécréant, while the fair sex is beautifully served with paeans that range from tongue-in-cheek, tender, delicious to sublime (Pénélope).

VII (1962)
Jeanne Joan Of Heart
Dans l’eau de la claire fontaine In Forest Pond
La guerre de 14-18 WW I
Les amours d’antan
L’assassinat Manslaughter
La complainte des filles de joie Ladies Of Pleasure’s Lament


Brassens was totally in the limelight by this time – uncomfortably so to his taste – so he fired back at media and fame with the irresistible Les trompettes de la renommée. He also harkens back to his humble beginnings with the moving Jeanne – a suitable companion piece to his earlier Chanson pour l’auvergnat. Always defensive of being labelled a poet, he nevertheless pens a flawless poem with Dans l’eau de la claire Fontaine, and it’s only the beginning of a delightful album full of tenderness, humour and expletives.

VIII (1964)
Les copains d’abord Buddies All Aboard
Les Quat’z’arts
Le petit joueur de flûteau The Little Piper
La tondue Shear Terror
Le 22 septembre September 12
Les deux oncles
La route aux quatre chansons
Saturne Fall Flower


Brassens’ songwriting seems to only improve like a good wine with age. He fires off with an hymn to friendship that will quickly become an anthem for his fans and everyone else (Les copains d’abord) and then proceeds to get into hot water with Les Deux Oncles which tackles the troublesome heritage of WW II, pitting resistant against collaborator. An odd choice, and I won’t feed the polemic that rages on to this day but will simply remind the listener that Brassens goes on to confirm the hellish stupidity of that war with La tondue. As for the other songs, they’re all standouts.

IX (1966)
Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète Supplication To Be Buried On The Shores Of A Faraway Isle
Le fantôme Ghost Story
La fessée Spanking
Les quatre bacheliers Four Sophomores
Le bulletin de santé Bill of Health
La non-demande en mariage Non Proposal
Le grand chêne The Oak Tree
L’épave A Wreck
Le moyenâgeux Middle-Ages Crisis


My personal favourite, this is the album that I’d take to the proverbial desert island. Brassens is at his writing peak and from start to finish the songs absolutely shine. They are also perfectly served by the intimacy of their unique recording setting. No frills, just plain goodness. Mind you, this did not stop me from reinventing them my way

X (1969)
Misogynie à part Misogyny Aside
Bécassine Lucie Lassie
L’ancêtre Old-Timer
Rien à jeter Nothing To Throw Away
La religieuse


La supplique… (see IX above) was a tough act to follow and Brassens took his time. He delivers a musically rich collection that demonstrates his constant evolution as a tunesmith with gorgeous adaptations of poems by Lamartine (Pensées des morts) and again Jean Richepin (Les oiseaux de passage), while ‘non-poet’ Brassens offers a true fable for our ages (La rose, la bouteille et la poignée de main). Always on his creative mind, women get the sweet and sour treatment with the raucous Misogynie à Part and the loving Rien à Jeter (a fitting way to describe the whole album).

XI (1972)
Mourir pour des idées Dying For A Cause
Le Roi Tush
Quatre-vingt-quinze pour cent Nine Times Out Of Ten
Sauf le respect que je vous dois Pardon my French
Stances à un cambrioleur
La princesse et le croque-note
Fernande Eleanor
Les passantes


Ha ha Georges, now that’s a good one! He fires off the most fabulous rhyme in a French song that will find its way on every tongue (Fernande). He follows it up with a melancholy ditty from a totally unknown poet (Les passantes), that soon some will dub their favourite Brassens song ever. Add Quatre-vingt-quinze pour cent and Le blason and ladies are bound to relish the attention. For some obscure reason Mourir pour des idées which picks up where Les deux oncles left off still manages to stir some controversy… go figure!

XII (1976)
Les ricochets Skippin’ Stones
Don Juan Casanova
Cupidon s’en fout
Histoire de faussaire Blues for Martha
Mélanie Melanie


Originally released under the really imaginative title ‘New Songs’, the disc will sadly turn out to be Brassens’ last one and is to be treasured as such. The bittersweet opener Trompe la mort hits closer to the truth than we could then imagine. But then, the closer Mélanie is a riotous raspberry toward the studio executives who would repeatedly implore Brassens to please tone it down. It is a most fitting coda to a most extraordinary recording career.

Si seulement elle était jolie If only she were a-pretty
Le petit-fils d’Œdipe Œdipus’ Grandson

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


Brassens came to me in a wooden box. The kind of old-fashioned trunk that was once used to store old stuff up in an attic but that was eventually elevated to the status of furniture. When I was a kid, some time ago in a land far away, we had a trunk just like that in our living-room. It did not hide a bar, but records. In those days, records were big and made of vinyl. Most of the records were of the classical variety— belonging solely in a parental collection—with a few exceptions. There was a series of plain, nearly identical albums. They all looked like they were made of the wood that contained them. Their only distinguishing features were variations on the wood grain and a small picture of a guy with a thick mustache and sometimes a pipe. In big letters, titles held the promise of interesting stories.

I started listening, systematically, and I discovered songs that you don’t hear on the radio. Songs that challenged my budding literary fibers. Songs that made me chuckle and songs that made me run for the dictionary. This guy with the pipe and mustache was in a class of his own. His records and I became close friends. And then one day I could not contain anymore an urge to sing and share them with others.

Now, my anglophone friend, I share them with you, because there is way more to these songs than just being French. Besides, they show no signs of aging, which is more than I, and maybe you, can say.

Stances à un auteur-compositeur

Ma lettre de présentation à Brassens en quelque sorte, dans des mots qui lui font écho.

Prince des mots en vers et de la gaudriole
Toi dont j’ai visité la tombe et la maison
Cependant qu’au-delà tu fais des cabrioles
En ton nom en anglais je refais tes chansons.

Sache que j’apprécie à leur valeur du reste
Les mots que tu égrèn’s dans un français d’antan
La langue de Molièr’ te sied comme une veste
Mais elle n’en est qu’une, faut vivre avec son temps.

La contrée de mon choix en est une il s’avère
Où notre franc parler n’a qu’une piètre emprise
Il devint nécessaire de traduire tes vers
Tes gauloiseries valaient bien d’être comprises.

Séquelle d’un bourgeon qui éclot sur le tard
Si dès mes dix-huit ans j’ai mis ailleurs le cap
Tes chansons languissaient dans mes cœur et guitare
Je les ressors au loin dans une ultime étape.

Pour toutes ces raisons, vois-tu, je te fredonne
Dans la langue de mon Nord, et des américains
Ce que tu m’as offert, à d’autres je le donne
Ça aurait pu tomber en de bien pires mains.

D’ailleurs, moi qui me gratte avec tes chansonnettes
Si je devais un jour rencontrer le succès
Je n’en finirais pas de tirer ta sonnette
Je deviendrais un peu ton complice, qui sait ?

Foi de ce que tu dis avecques tant de charme
Au plus profond de moi résonne d’un soupir
Dans le parler barbar’ je raffûte ton arme
Et je bats la campagne au nom de ton empire.

Mots-en-vers, mon ami, que ton bien me profite
Que ta muse m’accorde une honnête pension
Sans remords, toi et moi jamais ne serons quittes
Je te devrai toujours cent-dix-neuf(e) chansons.

Post-scriptum, si Mariann’ est cell’ que tu préfères
Sache qu’on apprécie ailleurs le calendo’
Alors outre-Atlantique, chante avec moi tes vers
Tandis que l’hexagon’ se tape des MacDo’.

D. Delahaye, 2013

Stances à un cambrioleur

Prince des monte-en-l’air et de la cambriole
Toi qui eus le bon goût de choisir ma maison
Cependant que je colportais mes gaudrioles
En ton honneur j’ai composé cette chanson.

Sache que j’apprécie à sa valeur le geste
Qui te fit bien fermer la porte en repartant
De peur que des rôdeurs n’emportassent le reste
Des voleurs comme il faut c’est rare de ce temps.

Tu ne m’as dérobé que le stricte nécessaire
Délaissant dédaigneux l’exécrable portrait
Que l’on m’avait offert à mon anniversaire
Quel bon critique d’art mon salaud tu ferais.

Autre signe indiquant toute absence de tare
Respectueux du brave travailleur tu n’as
Pas cru décent de me priver de ma guitare
Solidarité sainte de l’artisanat.

Pour toutes ces raisons vois-tu, je te pardonne
Sans arrière-pensée après mûr examen
Ce que tu m’as volé, mon vieux, je te le donne
Ça pouvait pas tomber en de meilleures mains.

D’ailleurs moi qui te parle, avec mes chansonnettes
Si je n’avais pas dû rencontrer le succès
J’aurais tout comme toi, pu virer malhonnête
Je serais devenu ton complice, qui sait.

En vendant ton butin, prends garde au marchandage
Ne vas pas tout lâcher en solde au receleurs
Tiens leur la dragée haute en évoquant l’adage
Qui dit que ces gens-là sont pis que les voleurs.

Fort de ce que je n’ai pas sonné les gendarmes
Ne te crois pas du tout tenu de revenir
Ta moindre récidive abolirait le charme
Laisse-moi je t’en prie, sur un bon souvenir.

Monte-en-l’air, mon ami, que mon bien te profite
Que Mercure te préserve de la prison
Et pas trop de remords, d’ailleurs nous sommes quittes
Après tout ne te dois-je pas une chanson.

Post-scriptum, si le vol est l’art que tu préfères
Ta seule vocation, ton unique talent
Prends donc pignon sur rue, mets-toi dans les affaires
Et tu auras les flics même comme chalands.

G. Brassens, 1972