Line Renaud

Born : 02/07/1928 in Nieppe (France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Female Artist
Style of music : Chanson

Who would have imagined the young Mademoiselle from Armentières would go on to become the doyenne of French music-hall? Taking her career from the mists of northern France to the glittering lights of Las Vegas, Line Renaud has proved her talents as the ultimate showbizz professional for half a century now.

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  • Who would have imagined the young Mademoiselle from Armentières would go on to become the doyenne of French music-hall? Taking her career from the mists of northern France to the glittering lights of Las Vegas, Line Renaud has proved her talents as the ultimate showbizz professional for half a century now.

    Line Renaud began life as Jacqueline Enté. Born in Nieppe, a small town near Armentières in the north of France, on 2 July 1928, Jacqueline grew up in a modest working-class family. Her early life was not without musical influence, however, as her father worked as a lorry driver during the week, but played the trumpet in the local brass band in his spare time. Jacqueline soon displayed musical talent herself, proving to have a good singing voice. Indeed, she went on to win an amateur singing contest at the tender age of seven. 

    Family life was soon disrupted by the distant rumbling of war. When Jacqueline's father was called up for the army, where he would spend the next five years, his wife moved in with her mother who ran a small café-bar. Jacqueline, a pretty young girl with golden hair, became an instant favourite with the clientele, who were mostly servicemen from the Allied forces stationed in the surrounding region. 

    Jacqueline showed little interest in her school studies, preferring to devote her time and energy to music instead. At the age of 14 she turned up for an audition at the Lille Conservatoire, unaware that the music institute only admitted classical singers. This mistake turned out in her favour, however, bringing her into contact with the director of the regional radio station who was looking for a "chanteuse populaire" for one of his shows. Jacqueline promptly launched into a rendition of two songs by Loulou Gasté, a popular composer of the day – and was signed up for her first contract! 

    A Pygmalion called Loulou 

    Once the war had finished Jacqueline began to dream of leaving her native region and making a name for herself in the capital. She managed to get an audition with Edith Piaf's manager in 1945 and as a result ended up with a job at the famous Parisian cabaret "Les Folies-Belleville." Thanks to the star in the revue, the aspiring young singer got to meet her childhood idol, Loulou Gasté. The composer was a good deal older than Jacqueline but, in spite of the 21-year age gap, they fell head over heels in love. And the partnership turned out to be successful both on the personal and professional front. Loulou imposed a strict working regime, training his young protégée up for stardom. He also updated her wardrobe and invented a new stage personality and name for her. From now on Jacqueline would be known as Line Renaud (taking her maternal grandmother's surname in place of the less glamorous Enté). 

    Following this transformation, Line Renaud was signed up for a Sunday programme on Radio-Luxembourg. And she soon went on to sign her first recording contract with Pathé-Marconi, later winning the "Grand Prix du disque" for Ma cabane au Canada. Hailed as the best new act of 1949, Line was soon supporting Yves Montand at the Théâtre de l’Etoile in Paris. 

    Line went on to launch a headlining career in her own right with a series of adaptations of American hits. "Ma petite folie", "Etoile des neiges" and "Le chien dans la vitrine" seemed to be on everyone's lips in 1950. Following this string of chart-toppers, Line embarked upon her first major tour, playing dates across Europe and then Africa. On her return she brought the house down in Paris at the legendary A.B.C. music-hall. At the end of the year Line walked down the aisle and became Madame Loulou Gasté. 

    Line's songs proved to be an export success story too, particularly in the U.K. And in 1951 the French chanteuse was in great demand on radio and TV shows across the Channel. Film directors also succumbed to the young blonde's charms and over the following years she was signed up to star in several musical films such as "Ils sont dans les vignes", "Paris chante toujours" and "La route du bonheur". 

    Line goes international 

    1954 proved to be a major highlight in Line's career as she performed a sell-out run of shows at Le Moulin-Rouge – for no less than four months! The renowned American comedian Bob Hope discovered her there one night and invited her to the States to make five guest appearances on his prime time TV show. Following her very first appearance on the show, Line was offered a spot as in-house singer at New York luxury hotel The Waldorf Astoria which she eventually left when she was offered another contract at The Coconut Grove in Los Angeles. During her year in America Line met all the big-name stars and even ended up recording a duet ("Relaxez-vous") with the legendary crooner Dean Martin. 

    On her return to France, Line garnered further acclaim, winning the coveted "Prix du Prestige de la France" for her performance in Jean Boyer's film La Madelon. Meanwhile, Line Renaud fever was spreading to Europe. After receiving rapturous applause at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, the French chanteuse went on to present the weekly radio show Paris-Picadilly in the U.K. and doors in Spain and Portugal soon swung open for her, too. Line eventually returned to France, though, where she performed for the first time with her "boys."The singer then left her French fans and jetted off for another trip to the United States and Canada. 

    Line went on to score another string of hits in France with "Mister Banjo", "Tes yeux bleus", "Où vas-tu Basile" and "Printemps d'Alsace", returning to the stage at the Moulin-Rouge in 1958. The following year, Henri Varna, one of the Parisian 'kings' of the night, offered Line the position of leading lady at the Casino de Paris. She accepted and the show, "Plaisirs de Paris", proved a huge success, running for the next four years.

    Line's name up in lights  

    Impressed by the verve and on-stage charisma of the French chanteuse, the director of one of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas invited her to take the starring role in a six-month show. The show proved to be a bigger hit than even the most optimistic predictions foresaw and Line ended up staying in America's gambling capital for more than two years, proudly watching her name go up in lights alongside those of Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. She continued to travel back and forth between America and Europe throughout the 60s. 

    In 1966 Line returned to France to star in Désirs, a new revue at the Casino de Paris. She also went on to record an album which spawned the hit "Cours, cours, regarde et vois", which remained at the top of the French charts for an entire season. In 1968 Line headed back to Las Vegas where she produced and directed a new show (with herself as the star). Needless to say, this proved to be another big hit with the American public. Recognised as a true showbizz professional, Line was soon producing a whole string of shows such as Flesh 69 (at the Bonanza Hotel) and "Flesh 70" (at Caesar's Palace). After producing "Love" in Reno in 1971, followed by "Fantaisie of Love" in Miami, Line returned to France once again. 

    Line had always been popular on French television and in 1973 she began hosting her own variety show, punningly entitled "Line Direct". Meanwhile, she devoted precious time and energy to rehearsing a new show for the French stage. The American-style extravaganza proved a big hit and she went on to tour it up and down the country over the next two years.

    The next big challenge in Line's career came when the Casino de Paris was threatened with closure in the mid-70s. Line came to the rescue in 1976 with a new revue entitled "Paris-Line". The show, which was originally scheduled for two years, ended up running until 1980. And Line brought the house down with a final show celebrating thirty years in showbizz which attracted "le tout Paris". 

    France's top ambassadress went on to promote France abroad once again when a famous American TV show asked her to be their guide for a programme presenting a week in Paris. After recording another series of hits in both French and English, Line was soon to embark upon another exciting chapter in her career. 

    Line Renaud, actress, writer and campaigner 

    In the early 80s Line took to the stage as an actress playing the lead in the boulevard comedy "Folle Amanda". Leading French newspaper France-Soir acclaimed her performance in 1982, announcing, "A great actress is born!" After winning an award for her performance in "Folle Amanda", Line went on to adapt the play for the U.S. where she was still in great demand. 

    Meanwhile, far from the showbizz spotlights Line was busy getting involved in another worthy cause, setting up the "Association des Artistes Contre le Sida" (Artists Against AIDS). She threw herself into the association body and soul, organising TV shows and fund-raising concerts and donating all proceeds to scientific research in France. 

    To mark the anniversary of her 40th year in showbizz Line put pen to paper and wrote her autobiography. "Les brumes d'où je viens" went on to become one of the best-selling books of 1989. Line was soon back on the music front, too, performing at celebrations for the Bicentenary of the French Revolution in Japan, where she appeared in no less than eleven towns, meeting with a rapturous reception at each and every show. 

    Since the 90s, Line has devoted an increasing amount of time to her acting career, appearing in French movies such as "Ripoux contre ripoux", "Belle-Maman" and "Chaos". She has also starred in a number of television films including "Polly West" and "La Grande Béké". Meanwhile, Line continues her theatre work, performing in classic stage plays such as "La Visite de la Vieille Dame" (1995) and new dramas ("Poste restante" with Jean-Claude Brialy in 2002). 

    A great period of sadness entered Line's life when Loulou Gasté, her husband and mentor of 45 years, died in January 1995. Line threw herself into her artistic work and campaigning activities with a vengeance. In 1999 Loulou's death was followed by that of her mother, to whom Line had remained extremely close throughout her life (expressing her love in the book, Maman, three years earlier). In 2002 Line went on to publish another book, "Loulou, envoie-moi un arc-en-ciel". She then went on to gather a host of music stars including Charles Aznavour, Pascal Obispo and Garou together for a final tribute album to her late husband entitled "Feelings". In November 2003 Line devoted her time and energy to her campaigning work, taking part in "Ensemble contre le Sida" to raise funds and send anti-retroviral drugs to AIDS victims in Africa. 

    Over the next few years, Line became increasingly involved in the combat against AIDS while continuing to act, juggling theatre, television and cinema. She appeared for example in Danny Boon’s 2008 huge box-office hit, “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis”. In 2009, she was made a Grand officier de l'Ordre national du Mérite by the French president.

    2010: "Rue Washington"

    But in 2010, Line Renaud surprised everyone by making a singing comeback. Her most recent disk had been in 1983, with a tribute to her husband, aptly entitled “Loulou”.

    This time she was back in the studio, managing for the first time without Loulou Gasté, who had always partnered her musical career. For the event, she got hold of some of the big names in French chanson, like Julien Clerc, Alain Chamfort, Adamo, Michel Delpech, Jean-Loup Dabadie, Christophe Maé and Grand Corps Malade, who all wrote and composed for the new album, “Rue Washington”, released in November.

    Line even performed two duets, one with Johnny Hallyday, her godson, on a French version of “What a Wonderful World”, and another more unexpected performance with Mylène Farmer on a composition by Mylène and Laurent Boutonnat (“C'est pas l'heure”). All managed to harness the energy and joie de vivre of the Mademoiselle from Armentières, and it comes across in this warm, jazzy album, in the great French tradition.

    January 2011

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