On Ecoute: Michel Polnareff

On Ecoute: Michel Polnareff

It would be easy to take one look at Michel Polnareff, with his trademark shock of blond hair and permanent shades, but to dismiss this rather quirky-looking, eccentric fellow as a cultural lightweight would be a mistake. For many of the country’s musical cognoscenti, he is up there with Gainsbourg among the leading figures in French songwriting.

Born in Nérac (Lot-et-Garonne) in 1944, he had quite the eclectic showbiz parentage – his mother was a Breton dancer and his father a Russian Jewish immigrant from Odessa who wrote songs for Édith Piaf. Polnareff’s first public-facing musical forays after learning the guitar were when busking on the steps of Sacré Coeur and by 1966 he had a record deal and a smash hit first single, La Poupée qui fait non (The Doll that Says No). Rock trivia fans may wish to know that two young session musicians played on the track-Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, later of Led Zeppelin. It kickstarted a long, rich and varied career, with plenty of ups and downs, health issues (the sunglasses are worn for medical reasons) and scandals. His canon is ripe for exploration and was added to in 2023 with the well-received live album La Tournée Historique (stream it on Spotify).

Read more articles in the On Écoute series:

Yael Naïm
Alain Souchon
Charles Aznavour
French Kiwi Juice
Erik Satie
Stuck in the Sound
Oliva Ruiz

From France Today Magazine

Lead photo credit : © OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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