Hervé Vilard

Born : 24/7 /1946 in Paris ( France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Male Artist
Style of music : Chanson

After rocketing to fame in his teens with his début single "Capri, c'est fini," Hervé Vilard has managed to maintain widespread popularity both at home and abroad for four decades now. A faithful following of fans have turned out to see him in concert over the years and the singer has also maintained a notable presence on the recording front.

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After rocketing to fame in his teens with his début single "Capri, c'est fini," Hervé Vilard has managed to maintain widespread popularity both at home and abroad for four decades now. A faithful following of fans have turned out to see him in concert over the years and the singer has also maintained a notable presence on the recording front.

René Villard was born in Paris on 24 July 1946 in the most unexpected way. His mother Blanche went into labour while she was on her way to the hospital and baby René was thus born on the back seat of a taxi. René's troubles did not end there, either. His Corsican father abandoned his wife shortly after his birth and never met his son. Left practically penniless, Blanche was forced to turn her hand to a series of odd jobs, struggling to bring up her children alone. But in the late 40s, the family's situation was brought to the attention of the authorities and the children were taken away from Blanche and put into care. René was separated from his brothers and sisters and sent to the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul orphanage in Paris.

René found some stability later in his childhood when he left the orphanage to live with a couple of sharecroppers in the countryside in the Berry region. But this foster family did not last long. The subsequent years were traumatic as he moved between new adoptive families, running away many times in the process. Fate was kinder to him in the late 50s when he was placed at La Celette, in the Cher region, where the kindly Abbé Angrand took the young boy under his wing and taught him literature and music. (In 1991, the singer would buy the presbytery at La Celette in memory of these happy years and turn it into his home).

1965: "Capri, c'est fini"

In his teens, René decided to leave La Celette and try his luck in Paris. He soon crossed the path of Daniel Cordier, a former Resistance fighter and secretary to French Resistance hero Jean Moulin, who had become a gallery owner after the war. Cordier took a liking to the passionate young adolescent who appeared lost and bewildered after his arrival in the French capital. In 1962, he became René's legal guardian which meant the young teenager was able to officially get out of care. René went on to find his first job, working in a record store on the Champs-Élysées. Motivated by an increasing passion for music, René also began taking singing lessons and his talent was soon spotted by an artistic director from the Mercury label. His fortunes were to change dramatically at this point.

Adopting the stage name, Hervé Vilard –ultimately more suave and sophisticated than René! – the young singer went into the studio to record his first single. "Capri c'est fini" (which Hervé co-wrote with Marcel Hurten) was released in June 1965 and proved to be an instant hit. Indeed, the single enjoyed phenomenal success, selling 3.3 million copies worldwide and turning the young teenager into an overnight star.

Meanwhile, Hervé enjoyed a happy event in his personal life. A French journalist managed to track down his mother, Blanche, and organised a reunion between mother and his son. (Needless to say, owing to Hervé's new star status, the reunion received extensive coverage in the French press). Hervé remained busy on the recording front, putting out a string of singles including "Fais-la rire", "Mourir ou vivre" and "Pedro" – but none of them ever echoed the phenomenal success of "Capri."

In November 1965, Hervé – who was barely 19 at this point – hit the road for the, embarking his first tour with Claude François. By the following year, his success had spread beyond French frontiers and Hervé found himself performing a non-stop concert schedule which included dates in Spain, Germany and Turkey. Meanwhile, his début album, released in both a French and a European version, hit record stores and went on to sell 450,000 copies. By the mid-60s, Hervé Vilard had established himself as a major French star abroad. In 1967, he embarked upon a two-year mega-tour of Latin America (where he remains a popular figure today), performing in major music venues and stadiums packed with 250,000 screaming fans.

1969-1979: From Buenos Aires to Colombia via Mexico!

Hervé Vilard returned to France in 1969, rocketing up the charts with another hit, "Sayonara." (The single went on to sell 550,000 copies). Vilard went on to establish an impressive track record in France between 1970 and 1978, releasing some 30 singles and a dozen albums (most of them compilations). The majority of these were released on the Tréma label. But it was in Latin America that his career really exploded during this period. Vilard ended up moving to Buenos Aires in 1970. Meanwhile, over in Mexico (where the singer had signed a ten-year contract in 1966) fans were treated to seven albums and some 20  singles. Vilard also conquered audiences further afield, amassing phenomenal record sales all the way from Korea and Turkey to Japan, Chile and Colombia.

Back home in France, Hervé Vilard’s popularity soared in 1978 following the release of a new single, "Nous" (which went on to sell a staggering 2 million copies). At the age of 36, the singer embarked on a new series of French tours and gala performances. On 31 December 1979, Vilard appeared as the headlining act at the prestigious Parisian venue L’Olympia for the first time in his career. His show tapped into an old-fashioned music-hall vein with jugglers and magicians preceding him on stage and scored a huge hit with the public (running through until 6 January 1980). A live album was released in March 1980.

From this point onwards, Hervé Vilard scarcely set foot outside France again and his packed concert schedule throughout the 80s proved his ongoing popularity with French fans. In June 1980, Vilard rocketed to the top of the charts once again with his single "Reviens", which went on to become the summer hit of that year, selling nearly a million copies. He went on to make a triumphant comeback at the Olympia in January 1981 and September 1982.

In 1984, Vilard reappeared in the French album charts with "Ensemble." This was followed in 1985 by "Les Chansons que j'aime" and "P'tit brun" in 1987. At this point in his career, Vilard was constantly in the French media and on the road, indefatigably touring up and down the country.

The only dark cloud on the horizon was the death of his mother, Blanche, in 1981.

1990-2004: From French "variété" to Aragon and Duras

In 1990, Hervé Vilard re-emerged on the French music scene with a new album, entitled "L'Amour défendu." On 15 and 16 May 1991, the singer took to the stage at the Olympia again, this time for two special concerts of 60s nostalgia. The highlight of Vilard’s career the following year was when he appeared at the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris, in a show directed by the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (9 -19 January 1992). Belmondo came on stage at the end of the show to present Vilard with a prestigious French honour, the “Ordre national du mérite.”

 Vilard returned to the Olympia in 1996 for a triumphant performance which generated rave reviews in the media and rapturous applause from the public. The following year, he performed at a tribute concert organised to honour the legendary Parisian venue before its demolition (and eventual reconstruction). While continuing his concerts at major Parisian venues, Vilard also found time to see his fans in the provinces, alternating gala performances with visits to local associations and orphanages.

In the spring of ’98, Hervé Vilard performed another memorable run in Paris in the beautiful old circus space, Le Cirque d’Hiver (26 February - 8 March 1998). A few days earlier, the singer had released a new CD entitled "Tout simplement." Meanwhile, Vilard continued a hectic round of gala performances and summer tours and was invited to perform concerts for provincial communes and local radio stations. In August 2002, Vilard gave a memorable performance at a ‘tribute to the 80s’ gala in Liévin, in northern France, appearing on stage alongside other veteran stars such as Patrick Juvet, Rose Laurens, Dave, Jean-Pierre Mader and Belgian punk Plastic Bertrand.

2004 proved to be a busy year for Vilard. In January, he presided over the official inauguration of a venue named after him in Berry (the region where he had spent most of his childhood). The, in February of that year, a new CD "Cri du coeur" hit record stores. This album found Vilard developing a whole new repertoire of new songs for which the lyrics had been written by a number of prestigious authors such as Marguerite Duras ("India Song"), Bernard Dimey, Aragon ("Les Yeux d'Elsa"), Maurice Fanon, Brecht and Weil ("Alabama Song"), Pablo Neruda ("Cuerpo de mujer") and Jean Genet ("Le Condamné à mort"). At the beginning of February Vilard took to the stage at the Théâtre de Dix Heures in Paris (3 February - 21 March) to perform his new songs.

"Cri du coeur" marked a radical turning-point in Vilard's career which had, up until this point, been largely conducted under the "French variété" banner. But this more serious poetic album actually provided an interesting glimpse into the real Hervé Vilard, the cultivated lover of art and literature, close friend of Marguerite Duras and Delphine Seyrig, who had been unwittingly catapulted to mainstream chart fame in his teens. Following the release of "Cri du coeur," Vilard appeared on a number of prominent television programmes and serious newspapers such as Libération, which had previously ignored him completely, began to devote lengthy articles to him. In July 2004, fans turned out to see Vilard in force when he performed at the "Francofolies" music festival in La Rochelle in July.

December 2004

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