Salvatore Adamo

Born : 1943/11/01 in Comiso (Italy)
Country : Belgium
Language : French
Category : Composer / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Chanson

With his perennial image of the timid and slightly outdated young man, this Belgian of Sicilian origin is a genuine star of French music. Since his débuts in the sixties he has sold more than 90 million discs worldwide. The French may tend to look upon him with slightly mocking eyes, but the Japanese worship this exponent of a certain classical romantic French popular music.

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With his perennial image of the timid and slightly outdated young man, this Belgian of Sicilian origin is a genuine star of French music. Since his débuts in the sixties he has sold more than 90 million discs worldwide. The French may tend to look upon him with slightly mocking eyes, but the Japanese worship this exponent of a certain classical romantic French popular music.

Salvatore Adamo was born in Sicily on November 1st 1943, in the small commune of Comiso. He remained an only child until he was seven. His father, Antonio, was a well digger and his mother, Concetta, a housewife. In February 1947, Antonio went to work as a miner in Belgium. In June of that year, Concetta and her son emigrated in turn, joining Antonio in the town of Ghlin before moving to Jemappes. In 1950, Salvatore was bedridden for a year with meningitis. Salvatore's parents did not want their son to become a miner and made great sacrifices to give him a good education, in a strict Catholic school run by the Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes. Salvatore was a hard working, solitary student. By 1960, the number of Adamo children had grown to seven.


During his adolescence in the fifties, Salvatore revealed himself to be a gifted singer. At first his parents disapproved of their son's passion for music. Salvatore entered several local competitions without success until, in December 1959, Radio Luxembourg organised a big radio competition at the Théâtre Royal de Mons, not far from where he lived. He sang one of his own songs, "Si j'osais" and did not get further than the eliminatory rounds, but a member of the jury gave him a second chance and he went on to win the competition. For the anecdote, his youngest sister was born on the day the song was first broadcast on Radio Luxembourg, in January 1960.

Shortly afterwards Salvatore brought out his first single, without much success. Discouraged, the young man might gone back to his studies if it hadn't been for the stubborn persistence of Antonio, who had his own ideas about his his son's future. Together, they left for Paris, where they began doing the rounds of the music venues and record labels. After four singles that went unnoticed, Salvatore had his first hit in 63 with "Sans toi mamie", a very classical romantic number, completely divorced from the yéyé (a fusion of American rock and roll and French variety) trend that was all the rage at the time. From then on, everything began to happen very quickly. On his twentieth birthday, he performed live at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, following this up by doing support act for Cliff Richards and the Shadows at the famous Parisian music venue, L'Olympia.

Lift off

A year later, on January 12th 1965, he triumphed at Olympia as top of the bill artist, before returning in September for a one month stay at the famous Parisian music hall. Writing most of his material - unusual for a young artist in those days - he was by now a star whose singles sold thousands. His well-behaved young man image and the charm of his songs brought him the special status of appealing to all the family. Undeniably gifted as a songwriter, a good musician, and now known simply as Adamo, he had a string of hits: "Tombe la neige" in 63, "Vous permettez Monsieur" in 64, "Les filles du bord de mer" and "Mes Mains sur tes hanches" in 65. Also, his long tours abroad were an unprecedented success, especially in Japan, where he achieved idol status. The Land of the Rising Sun has remained ever-faithful to the singer who, every year, continues to do several recitals for his Japanese fans. His popularity there began spectacularly with the incredible success of "Tombe la neige", which remained at the top of the charts for 72 weeks. The song remains a great French standard, on a par with Claude Francois's "Comme d'habitude" or "Et maintenant" by Gilbert Bécaud. Around 500 cover versions have been recorded over the last thirty years.

Adamo travelled enormously and recorded his material in several languages, including English, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch. Tragically, however, it was at the height of his stardom that his father died by drowning on August 7th 1966.


Adamo's material was not exclusively romantic. When the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt broke out in 1967, he wrote a song about it. Often during his career, he wrote on sometimes controversial subjects (the Soviet Union, Spain under Franco, Lebanon, Bosnia, etc.).

At the end of the sixties, Adamo married his wife, Nicole. Their son, Anthony, was born in 1969.

A tireless worker, Adamo traversed trends and fashions without a hitch, touring constantly, sometimes filling huge auditoriums abroad. He has even had the privilege of singing several times at Carnegie Hall in New York. In 1971, he marked his début as a producer with Gilbert Montagné's first hit, "The Fool". Later, in 1975, "C'est ma vie", one of Montagné's biggest hits, was also written by Adamo.

At the beginning of the eighties, Benjamin and then Amélie were born. Nevertheless, Adamo continued to work at a frenetic pace. Although no longer as popular, his live appearances continued to draw large audiences. From May 2nd to 13th 1983, he performed for the tenth time a l'Olympia. In addition, his tours abroad drawed much larger crowds than in Europe. In Chile, he sang in front of 30.000 people, and in Japan he remained as popular as ever. His records sold millions. Nevertheless, the singer's frenetic work rhythm eventually cost him dearly. In May 1984, he suffered a serious heart attack. In July of that year, he underwent a coronary bypass operation which forced him to stop work completely for several months.


Following his health problems and long periods on tour abroad, Adamo returned to the forefront of the French musical scene at the end of the eighties, on the crest of a wave of 60s and 70s nostalgia. Countless CD compilations flooded the market and pulverised sales records. An album of Adamo's greatest hits was released and rapidly became a golden disc (100.000 sales). This success resulted in a season at the Casino de Paris in April 1990.

In 92, he released the album, "Rêveur de fond". Adamo has never stopped writing and releasing albums. The critics appreciate the variety of his themes and polish of the ensemble of his work. He remains an obsessively hard worker, a quality to which he doubtless owes his perennial success. In 1993, he returned to the Casino de Paris, and then to the venue where he made his début, in Mons in Belgium. In November 1994, the commercial success of "C'est ma vie", the live compilation from that unique concert, proved that Adamo was still just as popular as at his début, despite his rather unfashionable and outdated image.

In 1993, he became a voluntary ambassador for UNICEF. Two years later, he recorded a duet with fellow Belgian, Maurane, for a compilation in aid of this international childrens' charity organisation. Now in his fifties, Adamo devoted himself more and more to passions other than music. In 95, he published a collection of poems, "Les mots de l'âme", and took up painting, an activity which he finds particularly relaxing.

In October 1995, he brought out a new album, recorded in Brussels and Milan, "La vie comme elle passe", in which he looks back on his career and life with a certain detachment. Adamo was backed on the album by an Italian team which included arranger and producer Mauro Paoluzzi. Then, from December 12th to 17th he celebrated his thirty years of appearances at the Olympia. The tour which followed was a triumph and included appearances in Japan and nine nights at Carnegie Hall in New York in May.

Now solidly installed back in the limelight, Adamo makes frequent media appearances. The proliferation of golden oldies programmes partially explains this media comeback, but, nevertheless, his fans have gone on buying his albums and going to his concerts rain or shine. With his new album, "Regards", released in 98, Adamo proved his talent for blending tenderness and lucidity yet again.

In the autumn of '99, just as he was celebrating phenomenal record sales - 90 million albums sold worldwide! - Adamo made a major comeback on the live circuit, kicking off his first French tour in ten years on October 2nd. In fact, this tour is due to be performed in two different parts - the first part in the autumn of '99, the second in the autumn of 2000 - and the grand finale consists of a week's concerts at the Olympia.

In Times Like These

Adamo's new album, "Par les temps qui courent" (In Times Like These), was released in the spring of 2001. Shortly afterwards the singer embarked upon a major world tour, playing dates in France, Quebec, Belgium, Germany and much further afield.

In fact, Adamo’s world tour lasted right through until the spring of 2002.

Meanwhile, the singer ventured into another branch of the arts, penning "Le souvenir du bonheur est encore du bonheur." This novel, liberally sprinkled with autobiographical references, was published in France, by Albin Michel, at the end of 2001.

Adamo began working on songs for a new album in 2003. His record company suggested he should work with an arranger who wanted to give his songs a predominantly 60s sound. But Adamo had other ideas. The singer preferred to make an up-to-date album with more of an acoustic feel, which would include a brass section and accordion. This artistic difference led to Adamo terminating his contract with his label and moving to Polydor instead. His new album, "Zanzibar", was finally released at the end of 2003. The release coincided with the appearance of a 3-CD compilation featuring a number of Adamo’s old hits as well as rare out-takes and foreign-language versions of his songs (including a memorable adaptation of "Tombe la neige" in Japanese!)

Adamo made a live comeback at the Casino de Paris (7 - 9 November 2003), then set off on tour. The singer was supposed to embark upon another leg of this tour in June 2004, but owing to blood pressure problems, he was forced to cancel his concerts and his appearances at the ‘Vieilles Charrues’ festival and the ‘Francofolies’ in La Rochelle this summer.

After suffering a serious brain haemorrhage, Adamo spent almost an entire year convalescing, resting up in his home in Brussels. In May 2005, he made a major comeback on the live circuit, launching proceedings with a concert in Mons (the Belgian town where he kickstarted his career, winning his first radio talent contest in 1959). Overcome by emotion on his first night in Mons, Adamo actually left the stage at the start of the show but he eventually re-emerged from the wings and launched into a moving rendition of "Si j'osais", the song with which he had triumphed at the talent contest back in 1959.

2007: "La Part de l'Ange"

In January 2007, Adamo made a comeback on the recording front, too, with a new album, "La Part de l'Ange", released on Polydor. The cover featured a colourful portrait of Adamo in Ragusa, in his native Sicily - an image perfectly in keeping with his new album's vibrant Latin influences and romantic edge. Musically speaking, "La Part de l'Ange" included everything from swing beats, Cape Verdean melodies, brass, acoustic and electric guitars and accordion. At the age of 63, Adamo – the multi-lingual singer with record sales of 80 million to his credit – tackled a range of themes including love ("Fleur", "La Part de l'Ange"), the nature of ephemeral things ("La Couleur du Vent"), nostalgia ("Mille Ans Déjà") and jealousy ("Ce George (s)"). The latter, a humorous dig at the American actor George Clooney, was a duet with hot new talent Olivia Ruiz.

Ruiz was not the only representative of the young generation on Adamo's album. Two talented young producers: Fabrice Ravel-Chapuis (Bénabar) and Alain Cluzeau (Paris Combo, Olivia Ruiz) were also recruited. Meanwhile Edith Fambuena, best known for her work with Alain Bashung, Etienne Daho and Pauline Croze, joined Adamo in the studio to play electric guitar. Adamo took to the stage at Le Bataclan, in Paris, to present his new material to fans in March 2007.

Adamo presented his new songs to fans on an international tour after that, playing dates across France, Quebec, Belgium, Spain and even in Chile in February 2008.

In October 2008, Salvatore Adamo released "Le bal des gens bien", an album featuring covers of his old classics reworked as duets with a number of major French music stars including Bénabar, Cali, Calogero, Julien Doré, Raphael, Alain Souchon, Yves Simon and Thomas Dutronc. The album received rave reviews from the critics and proved to be a big hit with record-buyers, too.

Salvatore Adamo set off on a tour that took him to Quebec in the autumn of 2009, the Paris Olympia in February 2010, and then to Cairo, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Japan over the following months.

On 29 November 2010, he brought out “De toi à moi”, the twenty-second album of his career. Despite his promise to stop doing duets immediately after “Le Bal des gens bien”, the singer hadn’t kept his word. The new album contained no less than five: with the singer Christophe (the opening track, “Jours de lumière”), the actress-director Chantal Lauby, his daughter Amélie, the cantatrice Anne-Catherine Gillet, and an astonishing “featuring” from the rapper Oxmo Puccino. The stuff of his new songs was his favourite malleable matter, love: “De toi à moi”, which was produced by Dominique Blanc-Francard, became a gold record four months after its release. 

Salvatore Adamo was back performing live for his fans in May 2011. He made his first appearance at the Grand Rex in Paris on 28 and 29 May.

In the run-up to his fiftieth anniversary in the music business, in November 2012 Adamo released "La grande roue" featuring twelve new songs recorded under the direction of producer François Delabrière. The tracks blend romantic love with major existential questions: personal themes that provide the perfect terrain for the singer-songwriter.

He set off on tour to present the album in 2013 and gave two concerts at the Olympia on 26 and 27 March. Salvatore Adamo played to a full house and an enraptured audience.

2014: "Adamo chante Bécaud"

He had been mulling over the idea since 2011, but it wasn’t until 10 November 2014 that Adamo released a tribute album to Gilbert Bécaud entitled "Adamo chante Bécaud". His interpretation of songs by “Monsieur 100,000 volts” is particularly tender. Despite their very different characters, the exceptional musician’s personality made a strong impact on Adamo, inspiring cover versions of tracks like "Et maintenant", Seul sur son étoile", "L'important c'est la rose", etc.

Salvatore Adamo gave several concerts in France and Belgium throughout 2014 and 2015. On 7 March 2015 he performed at the Grand Rex in Paris.

March 2015

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