Brel, Jacques

Brel, Jacques, 1929–1978, Belgian singer and songwriter. His literate and theatrical songs made him one of the 20th cent.'s most influential French-language songwriters and performers. He first sang on radio in 1952, moved to Paris in 1953 and began singing in its cafes, released his first single in 1955, and won widespread popularity with his song “Quand on n'a que l'amour” in 1956. In 1959 he recorded “Ne me quitte pas,” his most famous song, widely covered in French and in translation (as were many other songs). He sang in Parisian music venues and made concerts tours (until 1967), selling more than 25 million recordings worldwide. Brel also toured (1968–69) in the musical Man of La Mancha, and appeared (1967–73) in a number of French films, two of which he wrote and directed. In the English-speaking world he became widely known through the revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Living in Paris (1968, film 1975).

See biography by A. Clayson (new ed. 2010); studies by S. Poole (2004) and C. Tinker (2006).

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