This was $2.00. Seemed interesting enough. At the time, I was hard pressed to find records by French chicks. For the most part, I still am, especially under $5.00.
Aristide Bruant was a singer, songwriter, nightclub owner, and an embodiment of the Paris/ Montmartre night life of the 1900’s. Born into a respectful family with good roots in 1851, he became one of the centers of the Bohemian scene. Known for a quick wit, stinging insults, and being rude to customers (a rude Frenchman? Who would have thunk it?), his songs reflected the seedy underbelly of the Paris streets. He would die in 1924. He is probably best known today by the art work of Toulouse Lautrec, who captured him in his trademark black hat and red muffler.
Bruant’s Wiki Page
Henriette Ragon, better known as Patachou, has a different story. Born in Paris in 1918, she worked a variety of odd jobs until 1948, when she and her husband took over a Montmartre cabaret. She began to sing in the bistro and as she began to gain fame, critics called her Patachou, which was the name of the cabaret. I do not know is she invented this or not but she used to cut the neckties off of customers who would not join in the singing. Based on her cabaret success, records, acting gigs, and awards would follow. She died this year at the ripe old age of 96.
The songs on this album are ok. I would probably like them better if I knew the words. Very Moulin Rouge-esque, they reflect the gritty subject matter such as thieves, pimps, whores, and underdogs of the streets. This style of realistic song is known as Chanson realiste. Bruant is generally credited as the father of this style. In turn, Patachou is a fine singer with roots in Montmartre style. She does a good job with this material. Oddly enough, the Chanson realiste genre is mostly female driven. Highlights include “La Binette”, “A Grenelle”, “La Belle-soeur a Eloi”,and “Nini Peau d’chien”.
For samples, I went with two songs. “Aux Frais de la Princesse” was a song written during Bruant’s failed campaign for public office. It is a biting commentary on government officials of the day. The official in the song wants to live like a king at the public’s expense but needs more money to do so. That is why the official will vote himself a raise of 6,000 francs. Kind of sounds familiar today. The other song is “Rue St Vincent” It is about a poor girl named Rose who was beautiful and smelled of roses. After working in the snow, she met Jules who was nice to her. They made love near the old cemetery. However, Jules was a pimp and asked Rose to go with other men. When she refused, Jules stabbed her to death. The gravediggers remarked how small and white she was. This was typical of the songs Bruant performed in the nightclubs.