Bernard Lavilliers, so many “crazy days” at the Francofolies

published on Thursday, July 14, 2022 at 08:44

This will be his 11th participation in the Francofolies, an absolute record: Bernard Lavilliers remembers his “crazy days” at the festival, like singing from the top of the ramparts of La Rochelle or with 1,789 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. There he sings “La lamente de Mandrin”, a traditional song about an 18th century smuggler with a Robin Hood style.

“Everyone is afraid that I will break my face but I am a kind of Belmondo, I love to climb everywhere”, remembers for AFP the artist, reached 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 sporting thing but it was worth it”. This is not the only one of his “crazy days”, 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 made this festival possible, it was a colossal challenge when he created it in 1985”, insists the singer-adventurer.

– “I leave you the keys” –

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 White”, accompanied by 1,789 “kids” from 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”, therefore resounds first at the presidential palace. “Mitterrand asks me: + Do you have another one? +. I answer him: + We had talked about a single song +. He says to me: + Give it back +. We sing it again, with him beating time at the ‘upside down (laughs)’.

“Then to go to La Rochelle, all the kids took the train, quickly transformed with them into a discotheque Jean-Louis told me”, reports the one who reissues part of his discography on vinyl (starting with “Les barbares” and “15th round” on August 5).

Lavilliers, 75 today, is not from the first edition of the festival but from the second, in 1986.

“Jean-Louis told me: + I’ll leave you the keys one evening, you’re going to 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.

– “A little drunk” –

“Les Etoiles 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 + Francos +”, rewinds Lavilliers.

“They were a little drunk. It’s a shame but everyone was a little drunk at + 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 did not go to this evening because singers participated in it who I did not 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 1979 album “Pouvoirs”.

Why ? “Everyone is talking about this album but no one has bought it,” he quips mockingly.

He is at the “Francos” as at home, anyway. “He is part of the family long before me,” agrees with AFP the current boss of the festival, Gérard Pont. Who also programs him for his news: “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”.

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