Faithful since almost the beginning, the singer returns to La Rochelle this year to defend his latest album.
This will be his 11th participation in the Francofolies. Absolute record. Bernard Lavilliers remembers his “madnessat the festival, like singing from the top of the ramparts of La Rochelle or with 1789 children. It is one of those images that made the legend of the “Francos”. Edition 1989: Lavilliers, white shirt and acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder, climbs to the top of the walls of the port of La Rochelle. He sings there Chuck’s lamenta traditional song about an 18th century smuggler with a Robin Hood style.
“Everyone’s afraid I’ll break my ass but I’m a kind of Belmondo, I love to climb everywhere“, remembers for AFP the artist, contacted by telephone before his visit to the Francofolies on Friday. “Singing from the top of the ramparts, I had been thinking about it for a long time. It was a sporty thing but it was worth it“. It is not the only one of hismadness“, as he says, at the Charente-Maritime festival. It must be said that Lavilliers is encouraged in his follies at the “Francos” by the creator of the event, a relative, Jean-Louis Foulquier (disappeared in 2013). “It was Jean-Louis’ madness that allowed this festival, it was a colossal gamble when he created it in 1985“, insists the singer-adventurer.
The two men are behind an insane spectacle, still in 1989, the bicentenary of the French Revolution. Lavilliers sings one of his pieces, Black and whiteaccompanied by 1789 “kidsfrom several French-speaking countries, in the courtyard of the Elysée in the presence of the President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, then the next day at the Francofolies. “From any country, from any color / Music is a cry that comes from within“So resounds first at the presidential palace. “Mitterrand asks me: Do you have another one?. I answer him: We talked about a single song. He tells me: give it back. We sing it again, with him beating the beat backwards (laughs)“. “Then to go to La Rochelle, all the kids took the train, quickly transformed with them into a disco, Jean-Louis told me», reports the one who reissues part of his discography on vinyl (starting with Les Barbares and 15th round August 5).
Lavilliers, 75 years old today, is not from the first edition of the festival but from the second, in 1986.Jean-Louis told me: I leave you the keys one evening, you will do your program. It was nice“says the artist. The night vibrates to Caribbean, African and Brazilian rhythms with Malavoi, Mory Kanté, Les Etoiles and Manu Dibango. “The Stars were two Brazilians disguised as women who sang magnificently. I had known them in a small Parisian cabaret, the Discophage, and there they were on the big stage of the Francos“, rewinds Lavilliers. “They were a bit stuffed. It’s a shame but everyone was a bit drunk at the Francos in those years (laughs)“.
He only has good memories of La Rochelle. Except perhaps in 1987. The festival celebrates Léo Ferré in his presence. “It was I who introduced Ferré, my friend, to Foulquier: I didn’t go to this evening because singers took part in it who I didn’t like but I was mad at myself afterwards“. In La Rochelle, Lavilliers remains attentive. In recent years, he discovered artists like Pauline Croze or Feu! Chatterton. And can always surprise, as in 2016 with a rereading of his album Powers of 1979. Why? “Everyone talks about this album but nobody bought it“, he says mockingly. He is at the Francos as at home, anyway. “He’s been part of the family long before me.“, agrees with AFP the current boss of the festival, Gérard Pont. Who also programs it for its topicality: “He comes back with elegance and he has a young group that sends“. Lavilliers defends on stage a last album with the title-reflection of global warming, Under a huge sun.