Alain Chamfort

Born : 2 /3 /1949 in Paris (France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Composer / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Chanson

In the course of his 30-year career Alain Chamfort has hidden behind an interesting variety of stage personas. In the 60's Chamfort played the role of 60's hipster, hanging out drinking and womanising with Jacques Dutronc. Then in the 70's Chamfort went on to adopt tight satin pant suits and blow-dried hair, remodelling himself as the camp-looking sidekick of French disco king Claude François. In the 80's Chamfort left the world of camp behind, however, to reinvent himself as a rather cold and aloof-looking dandy. And the 90's? Well, the 90's have heralded a new change of direction, a mature and relaxed-looking Chamfort having finally found the courage to experiment with a more authentic approach.

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    In the course of his 30-year career Alain Chamfort has hidden behind an interesting variety of stage personas. In the 60's Chamfort played the role of 60's hipster, hanging out drinking and womanising with Jacques Dutronc. Then in the 70's Chamfort went on to adopt tight satin pant suits and blow-dried hair, remodelling himself as the camp-looking sidekick of French disco king Claude François. In the 80's Chamfort left the world of camp behind, however, to reinvent himself as a rather cold and aloof-looking dandy. And the 90's? Well, the 90's have heralded a new change of direction, a mature and relaxed-looking Chamfort having finally found the courage to experiment with a more authentic approach.

    Alain Chamfort - real name Alain le Govic - was born in Paris on 2 March 1949. He grew up in the Paris suburbs, living with his father (a company director), his mother (a local shopkeeper) and his elder sister. Alain was surrounded by music at home and the talented youngster soon revealed himself to be something of a child prodigy, excelling at piano and dance lessons at the tender age of three. The gifted youngster would soon go on to take part in classical music contests, winning several prizes with the greatest of ease. Then when Alain was nearing his 13th birthday his father installed a small organ in the family home. Alain certainly appeared to be predestined for a career as a classical musician, but in his teenage years Alain's musical tastes changed dramatically and, instead of enrolling at the National Conservatoire, the young music fan began to develop a strong interest in jazz, rock and rhythm'n'blues (the new musical trends which were beginning to overtake the French music scene in the early 60's).

    Jacques Dutronc

    Alain went on to forge a career for himself as a keyboard player, performing with a number of hip 60's bands such as Les Dreamers, Les Shakers, Les Murators and Les Mods. While studying for a university degree in Paris, Alain remained closely in touch with the music scene, accompanying several well-known 60's singers including Herbert Léonard and Eric Charden. But one of the turning points in Alain's early career was his encounter with 60's mega-star Jacques Dutronc. The pair hit it off immediately and over the next two years, Alain would accompany Dutronc on tour, playing keyboards and generally sharing the star's flamboyantly rock'n'roll lifestyle. (Dutronc was notorious for his love of alcohol, women and all-night partying and the future Alain Chamfort needed little persuasion to adopt the same habits as his new mentor!)

    Yet Alain would eventually grow tired of playing second fiddle to singing stars and he soon began dreaming of launching his own career. Alain had already recorded two singles with Les Mods in 1966 and, after parting company with Dutronc in 1968 and spending three months in the United States, he returned to the recording studio and launched a solo career with a single written by Etienne Roda-Gil (Julien Clerc's famous songwriter). This first single failed to make any great impact on the French charts but Alain le Govic was not to be easily discouraged. The young hopeful returned to the studio and, between 1968 and 1969, he recorded another four singles. Unfortunately, these follow-up singles fared no better than the first and Alain le Govic's solo career failed to get out of the starting-blocks.

    Claude François

    But all was not lost. In the early 70's Alain le Govic would begin working with another major French star, Claude François. François, a 60's yéyé idol who was on the point of transforming himself into the legendary King of French Disco, was a notorious perfectionist and also a shrewd businessman. Recognising Alain le Govic's potential, François signed the young singer/musician to his "Flèche" label in 1971 and helped his new protégé reinvent himself completely. The first step in this process was a change of name - thanks to Claude François, Alain le Govic resurfaced on the French music scene in 1971 as Alain Chamfort.

    This change of name certainly paid off, for the new-look Chamfort's solo career soon began to take off in a major way. Teaming up with an old music friend Michel Pelay, Chamfort set about composing a number of light, saccharine pop tunes, using lyrics by Jean-Michel Rivat ("Signe de vie signe d'amour"), Vline Buggy, Yves Dessca ("Dans les ruisseaux"), Claude François ("L'amour en France") and his own efforts ("Adieu mon bébé chanteur" which went rocketing to the top of the French charts in 1974). Chamfort scored a hit with all of these new singles and more - but his new-found success was perhaps not always to his taste.

    In reworking his image according to François's advice, Chamfort had certainly become a popular figure on the French music scene, but his popularity was largely fuelled by audiences of teenage girls. Wearing his blow-dried flicks down to his collar and sporting vividly-coloured satin suits on stage, Chamfort cultivated an image which was part teenage sex symbol, part effeminate dandy. Meanwhile, Chamfort's live appearances were generally limited to working as a warm-up act for the new French Disco King Claude François. While supporting François on tour in the early 70's, however, Chamfort kept busy in the studio (recording eight singles and a compilation album between 1972 and 1975). By the mid-70's Chamfort had undoubtedly established himself as a major player on the French music scene - the only problem was that Chamfort soon began to feel an increasing tension between his flamboyant stage image and his desire to branch out in a new artistic direction.

    Serge Gainsbourg

    Chamfort would inaugurate a whole new era in his career in 1976, leaving Claude François's disco/pop influence behind to explore his own musical tastes. After a rather unsure period in the mid-70's (which resulted in a mediocre, but radically different album, "Mariage à l'essai" in 1976) Chamfort met a new mentor, Serge Gainsbourg. The legendary singer/songwriter would not only help Chamfort kickstart his ailing career, he was also instrumental in building an entirely new repertoire for him.

    In 1977 Chamfort flew out to the States to record a new album in Los Angeles. "Rock'n'Roses" - the first album in Chamfort's career which could truly be considered as a personal work - featured music by Chamfort and his old friends Jean-Noël Chaléat and Michel Pelay, and lyrics by Serge Gainsbourg. Produced by the Porcaro brothers (who went on to form the chart-topping American group Toto), "Rock'n'Roses" also boasted a cover by the renowned fashion photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino. With Mondino's expert help Chamfort left his camp stage persona behind and took the first step towards creating a more mature and sophisticated image.

    Chamfort returned to the recording studio two years later to begin work on a follow-up album. "Poses", released in 1979, featured three new tracks by Gainsbourg including the moving "Manureva" (a tribute to French solo yachtsman Alain Colas who had perished at sea the previous year). "Manureva" went on to be a major hit on the French music scene, rocketing to the top of the charts and selling over 1 million copies. The album "Poses" proved to be a major turning-point in Chamfort's career and "Manureva" was just the first of a whole string of hits which dominated the French charts in the 80's.

    Chamfort Comes Into His Own

    Thanks to the success of "Poses" and "Manureva", Chamfort began to carve out a real niche for himself on the French music scene, forging an authentic style which was greatly appreciated by critics and public alike. Chamfort was back in the media spotlight in 1981 with an album which once again bore the inimitable touch of songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Predictably enough, the singles "Bambou", "Chasseur d'ivoire" and "Malaise en Malaisie", which all featured outstanding keyboards from the Beninois musician Wally Badarou, went on to become major hits and "Malaise en Malaisie" was even covered by the American group Manhattan Transfer (in 1983). The song "Géant", co-written with Chaléat and Pelay, also earned Chamfort much critical acclaim. ("Amour année zéro" failed to reach the smash hit status of "Manureva", however, selling a mere 50,000 copies).

    Chamfort continued with his image makeover over the next couple of years and the cover of his next album "Secrets glacés", released in 1983, featured a portrait taken by the leading Japanese photographer Hideki Fujii. The cover of "Secrets glacés" showed a sophisticated and aloof-looking Chamfort swathed in an aura of cold mystery - a far cry from his old long-haired, satin-suited self! A series of new songs penned by Philippe Bourgoin also brought a touch of exoticism to Chamfort's "Secrets" album. The year after the release of this new album, Chamfort took to the stage to perform a series of concerts at the Casino de Paris. (Chamfort's live shows were a rare occurrence in the later stage of his career - it appears that his days as a warm-up act for Claude François had left a rather bad taste in his mouth!)

    Chamfort returned to the recording studio in 1986, but this time in the role of producer rather than artist, masterminding the production of his girlfriend Lio's hit single "Les brunes comptent pas pour des prunes". Later that year Chamfort redirected his attention to his own career, releasing a new album entitled "Tendres fièvres". This, the most sensual of Chamfort's albums to date, featured contributions from the singer's loyal team of collaborators (Jacques Duvall, who penned Lio's "Les brunes…" provided lyrics, Marc Moulin, composer of "Les brunes…" produced while Chamfort's old friend Wally Badarou looked after all the musical arrangements). Owing to outstanding tracks such as "Traces de toi", the album "Tendres fièvres" confirmed Chamfort as a leading figure on the French music scene.

    Encouraged by the success of this new album Chamfort embarked upon a major tour in 1987, coming into his own at last and performing with real style and confidence. Indeed, Chamfort's new concerts proved so successful that a live album recorded during the tour was released the following year. Meanwhile Chamfort spent the rest of 87 exploring a new direction, working as a producer/composer with the French duo A Cause des Garçons.

    Chamfort Reaches Maturity

    With each successive album Chamfort's image had been gradually changing as he moved towards a more sophisticated, mature style. After spending years hiding behind a false air of haughty coldness - adopted in order to disguise his natural timidity - Chamfort began to emerge into the open in the 90's, revealing more of his true personality. One thing's for sure, the pared-down style of Chamfort's work and image in the 90's would certainly bring his songwriting and composing talents to the fore.

    In 1990 Chamfort began work on a new album entitled "Troubles", moving between studios in New York, Brussels and London as he put the finishing touches to his new opus. The new album, written in conjunction with Marc Moulin and Jacques Duvall, proved to be a radical departure from Chamfort's usual style. Indeed, Chamfort even began experimenting with a touch of dance music on the track "Souris puisque c'est grave" (which, rather unfortunately, led to other more interesting tracks such as "Ce ne sera pas moi" being overlooked).

    In April 1993 Chamfort turned his attention to his live shows once more, performing at the Opéra Comique in Paris. The elegant minimalism of Chamfort's new concerts - the singer appeared on stage accompanied simply by the English pianist Steve Nieve (famed for his work with UK star Elvis Costello). Chamfort's new approach certainly appealed to his fans and the concerts at the Opéra Comique proved to be a resounding success, catapulting a more mature, authentic Chamfort back into the public eye.

    Six months later Chamfort returned to the forefront of the music scene with his ninth album, simply entitled "Neuf" (Nine). This album featured a much softer, more personally revealing repertoire in keeping with the single "L'ennemi dans la glace". The single was accompanied by a cutting-edge video clip, directed by hot fashion photographer JB Mondino, which showed Chamfort's face working through a series of hi-tech mutations (not unlike the artistic and physical mutations he had undergone in the course of his career, in fact!) A veritable milestone in the singer's career, "Neuf" celebrated the successful collaboration of the trio Chamfort-Duvall-Moulin.

    Chamfort returned to the stage on 23 November 93, performing at another beautiful old Parisian theatre, "Les Bouffes du Nord".

    No. 10

    After taking a four-year break from the recording studio, Chamfort returned to the French charts in 1997 with a new album entitled "Personne n'est parfait" (Nobody's Perfect). Considered by many critics to be the best album of his career, "Personne n'est parfait" was infused with Chamfort's usual elegance, charm and nonchalant wit. The first two single releases from the album - "Qu'est-ce que t'as fait d'mes idées noires?" and "Tombouctou" - also featured a new, deeper edge to Chamfort's voice.

    Chamfort made a rare live appearance in 2000, participating in a special Serge Gainsbourg tribute at the Montreux Festival. Later that same year the singer went on to release a compilation, rather modestly entitled "Ce n'est que moi" (It's Only Me!) This included the special bonus track "Ça ne fait rien".

    In 2001 Bertrand Burgalat paid his own musical tribute to Alain Chamfort, presenting his own reworkings of the Chamfort classics at a one-off concert in Brussels in September 2001 (where he shared the stage with Chamfort himself). Then, in February 2002, Chamfort and Burgalat brought the house down again with another joint concert at the "Cité de la Musique" in Paris. 

    With pleasure

    The artist’s latest album "Personne n'est parfait" did not sell as expected, and the contract that tied Chamfort to Sony came to a close after the 2000 compilation "Ce N’Est Que Moi". During the period that followed, Alain Chamfort continued being productive but did not release any new record. His career was prematurely said to have stopped short.


    Yet, as he was about to be classified in the souvenir section of the shops, Chamfort released a new album in September 2003, entitled "Le Plaisir" and distributed by Delabel. Marc Di Domenico (well-known for his collaboration on Salvador’s "Un Jardin D’Hiver"). Musicians such as Albin de la Simone (keyboard), Regis Ceccarelli (drums), and Sébastien Martel (guitar) also took part in the recording. American singer April March from the "Spécialistes" lent her voice on some of the tracks. The lyrics were penned by songwriter Jacques Duvall and well-known author Michel Houellebecq.


    His following production was a pop record that was very faithful to the British tradition, mixing light, entertaining tunes ("Fuyons") with slow-tempoed melancholic ones ("L’Hotel des Insomnies"). The first single was entitled "Le Grand Retour".

    Going independent

    Chamfort also made a major comeback on the live circuit. After kicking things off with a gig at Le Bataclan (30 November 2003), the singer went on to embark upon an extensive national tour which included two more memorable dates in Paris at La Cigale (24 & 25 March 2005). One month later, however, his record label dropped him, claiming his album sales were inadequate.

    Chamfort carried on regardless, releasing "Les Beaux yeux de Laure", a new single from his last album "Le Plaisir." And he shot a special video clip for the occasion which showed him, Bob Dylan-style, holding up messages scribbled on cardboard signs that recounted the story of his sacking. (The signs read "Nice, clean, well brought-up artist / Who wrote 'Manureva'/ Looking for a new home.") This innovative approach won him an award for Best Video Clip of the Year at the "Victoires de la Musique" Awards in March 2005.

    As his tour drew to an end, Chamfort treated fans to an impromptu concert in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris (7 May 2005). A few months later, the singer went on to sign to the independent label XIII bis record which released a recording of the free concert (on a double CD/DVD called "Impromptu dans les jardins du Luxembourg") in November that year.

    On 29 March 2006, Chamfort celebrated thirty years in the music business. He marked the occasion by performing at the Olympia in Paris where ticket prices were exceptionally priced at 5 euros – a bargain for a concert in a legendary music venue! Needless to say, the concert was sold out weeks in advance.

    In February 2007, Alain Chamfort released a box set of his complete works, entitled "Ce qui reste, c'est l'air…"

    The singer gave concerts throughout 2008 and 2009, mostly accompanied by Alain Lanty on piano. He was at the Alhambra in Paris from 26-29 November 2008 for a song recital of his works entitled "Chansons en trompe l'œil".

    2010: "Une vie Saint-Laurent"

    In late 2007, Pierre-Dominique Burgaud, author along with Louis Chédid of the musical, "le Soldat rose", asked Alain Chamfort to work with him on a biography of the fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent. Charting the designer’s personal and professional life from his early days at Christian Dior through to his death, "Une vie Saint-Laurent" comprises sixteen lyrics put to music and sung by Chamfort in a jazz-pop mode. Released in February 2010, the album was self-produced and distributed, with record labels uneasy about the atypical nature of the project.

    An accompanying book was published by Albin Michel, including the album, lyrics, score, new photos and biography of the fashion designer.

    March 2010

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