Jacques Dutronc was born in Paris's 9th arrondissement
(neighborhood), la Trinité
and it was there that he met Hadi Kalafate as well as John Philip Smet, the future Johnny Hallyday. Dutronc and Kalafate would play together during the early sixties in the band El Toro et les Cyclones who recorded several EPs with Vogue Records. But just as the band had begun to break through with a recording contract, Jacques was called off for military duty.
After his return, Dutronc played guitar for other artists (Vince Taylor and Eddie Mitchel) at venues like Le Golf Drouot. Several years later Dutronc's father wrote a letter to Jacques Wolfsohn who was the artistic director of Vogue Records (he signed Johnny Hallyday, Françoise Hardy, and Antoine). The letter asked Wolfsohn if he might have a job for his son. Wolfsohn was familiar with Dutronc through El Toro et les Cyclones and took him and Hadi Kalafate on as his assistants in 1965. Dutronc made and performed the musical arrangements for various other singers for Vogue.
It was during this time that Antoine's Elucubrations...
was released to overwhelming success. Vogue tried to follow the long-hair-beatnik-vibe as a recipe for future pop stars with Benjamin, for whom Dutronc made the arrangements, but to no avail.
One day, Dutronc and Wolfsohn encountered Antoine in the elevator. Antoine was not too polite and the interaction led to a scheme to get back at Antoine. Vogue had recently acquired the talents of a new lyricist named Jacques Lanzman. Lanzman wrote some songs and Dutronc set them to music and got a couple artists as well as himself to make demos of the songs for Wolfsohn to choose from.
Fortunately for us, Wolfsohn thought that Dutronc's versions were the best. Thus one of the biggest hits and one of the most memorable songs of 60s French pop history was born: Et moi, et moi, et moi
Sept cent millions de chinois
Et moi, et moi, et moi
Avec ma vie, mon petit chez-moi
Mon mal de tête, mon point au foie
J'y pense et puis j'oublie
C'est la vie, c'est la vie
The song is a parody of Antoine's narcissist lyrics. Comparing the millions of other people in the world, and their problems, to the singers life, his little house, his head ache and his ultimate conclusion - c'est la vie
. The parody was so dead-on that some people mistook it as a new single by Antoine.
It was the birth of the periods most charismatic musical super star. Dutronc has been compared to Brit Ray Davies of The Kinks and the comparison is apt. Like Davis, he was a contrarian, a pop-culture-classicist who smoked cigars and wore three-piece suits. In a follow-up hit Mini, mini, mini
he laments the dimunization of culture - maxi-skirts over mini-skirts and the word play is exquisite - maxistère over ministère.
It's important to acknowledge Jacques Lanzman's witty and charming lyrics as one half of the Jacques Dutronc character. It was certainly this silent partner's skill that assisted with the string of hits that followed: Les Playboys
, J'aime les filles
, Les cactus
and the ethereal Il est cinq heures Paris s'èveille
featuring Jean-Pierre Rampal on flute!
What makes Dutronc great for many non-French speakers is the driving psychedelic sound of his rockin' tunes. The driving buzz saw guitar of Les gens sont fous les temps sont flous
strips down The Kinks' You Really Got Me
riff to a bare one note minimum with maxi affect. KALX DJ Roscoe 2000 claims that it is the beat that makes Dutronc a hit on the dance floor.
But Dutronc is not a musical one trick pony, his 60s oeuvre is quite diverse with the African chant of La compapade
, the piano bar of J'aime les filles
and the un-ironic, beautiful mellow vibe of Amours, toujours, tendresse, caresse
Dutronc is a whole package the lyrics are great, the music 1st class, his croon easy on non-francophonic ears, the girls swoon at his visage and the boys think he is cool. Anybody who says that the French never made any significant contribution to rock-n-roll obviously have never heard Dutronc. If there is one cause that we have here at Bardot A Go Go it is to get Dutronc put into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
In the early 1970s, Dutronc started a career in acting
which has lasted until today and has superceded his musical career. His most famous role was as Vincent Van Gogh for which he one the French equivalent of an Oscar.
Though he stopped working with Lanzman in the mid '70s, the old dynamic duo collaborated again on a few songs on his most recent album. Other artist Dutronc has worked with include Gainsbourg, Françis Lai, Pierre Boutayre, Françoise Hardy and Etienne Daho.
He currently lives in Corsica with 30 some odd cats.