18 May 1913
Narbonne, Aude, Occitanie, France
19 February 2001 (aged 87)
Charles Trenet (May 18, 1913, Narbonne, France – February 19, 2001, Créteil, France) was a French singer and songwriter, most famous for his recordings from the late 1930s through the mid-1950s, though his career continued through the 1990s. In an era in which it was exceptional for a singer to write his or her own material, Trenet wrote prolifically and preferred to record his own songs.
Some of his best known songs include "Boum…!", "Y'A D'La Joie", "Que Reste-T-Il De Nos Amours?", "Ménilmontant", and "Douce France". His catalog of songs is enormous, numbering close to a thousand. While many of his songs mined relatively conventional topics such as love, Paris, and nostalgia for his younger days, what set Trenet's songs apart were their personal, poetic, sometimes quite eccentric qualities, often infused with a warm wit. Some of his songs had unconventional subject matter, with whimsical imagery bordering on the surreal. "Y'A D'La Joie" evokes "joy" through a series of disconnected (though all vaguely phallic) images, including that of a subway car shooting out of its tunnel into the air, the Eiffel Tower crossing the street and a baker making excellent bread. The lovers engaged in a minuet in "La Polka Du Roi" reveal themselves at length to be "no longer human": they are made of wax and trapped in the Musée Grévin. Many of his hits from the 1930s and 1940s effectively combine the melodic and verbal nuance of French song with American swing rhythms.
Other artists have had hits with some of Trenet's songs, such as the American Bobby Darin's success with "Beyond the Sea" ("La Mer"). Darin's version preserved the charming chording of Trenet's original which the author dashed off in about an hour in 1946 as an homage to the French coastline, once again free of battleships and the scars of World War II.
Other Trenet songs were recorded by such popular French singers as Maurice Chevalier, Jean Sablon, and Frehel.
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