Sheila

Born : 16/08/1946 in Creteil (France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Female Artist
Style of music : Chanson

After a glorious twenty year career in French pop, "Jolie petite Sheila" (pretty little Sheila) hit hard times in the eighties. In forced retirement ever since, she has consoled herself with sculpture, writing and astrology between regular, not always successful, come-back attempts...

After a glorious twenty year career in French pop, "Jolie petite Sheila" (pretty little Sheila) hit hard times in the eighties. In forced retirement ever since, she has consoled herself with sculpture, writing and astrology between regular, not always successful, come-back attempts...

Annie Chancel was born in Créteil, in the Paris suburbs, on August 16th 1946. An only child, her parents sold sweets at the markets in the area. In her teens, she took up dance but problems with her heels prevented her from making a career of it. After leaving school she trained as an accountant for two years before finally going to work for her parents - hence her initial ‘girl in the sweet shop’ image. 

Claude Carrère

At the beginning of the sixties, Annie sang in a rock group, the Guitar Brothers, but she alone got a recording contract. It was Claude Carrère, still only an apprentice producer, who spotted the young woman and signed her on September 15th 1962. Completely inexperienced and now known as Sheila, she became an employee of Carrère under conditions which she was to denounce during a high-profile trial twenty years later. Carrère took the young singer in hand. As her agent, producer and mentor, he ran every aspect of her life and career. Only days after signing her contract, she recorded her first single, "Avec toi". 

In 1963, Sheila became a pop star overnight. At the height of the "yé-yé" trend (a fusion between American rock and French pop), her second single, "L'Ecole est finie", was a huge hit, achieving record sales of 1.5 million. The vogue at the time was to record French language versions of American hits and the record companies were signing young singers in droves, most of them forgotten within a week. The flops were numerous, the successes resounding. Sheila became a youth idol, but her repertoire was more grown-up, less rock and roll: her songs, although verging on the twist, had more traditional lyrics. Claude Carrère created an image of a trendy yet sensible girl. With her checked skirt and her hair in those famous bunches, Sheila was already a finely-tuned commercial product. 

From bunches to pony 

In 1967, now aged 21, Sheila was the heroine of her alleged autobiography, "Sheila by Sheila", which described her beginnings. Now a young woman, her bunches had given way to a hairstyle which was to remain unchanged for the next fifteen years. Teenage magazines reported her every move, each one deftly orchestrated by Claude Carrère, now head of a powerful record company. The tabloid press spotlighted each of her short-lived romances. In 1967, it was a certain Brett Hasley, whom she met on the set of the film, "Bang Bang", then, around 1970, it was Pierre Cohen, her tennis coach.  

In 1968, consolidated her star status with the hit, "Petite fille de français moyen". The single's title says it all! Since her début she had brought out six albums and nearly twenty four-track forty-fives, not counting foreign versions, all of which had sold well. Yet Sheila's career still lacked something. Adored by the public, Sheila could had undoubtedly have sung live to full houses but, strangely, Carrère organised no tour or live performance for her. She had to wait twenty years before appearing on stage in front of her fans.  

At the turn of the decade, Sheila was riding on the crest of a wave. Her contract was rewritten to her advantage and she even recorded a few of her own compositions. Her image was changing gradually but was still that of the docile young woman. She continued to release an album a year and her first hit of the seventies was the unforgettable "Les Rois Mages". 

Marriage, child, divorce

But the big event of the period came when she met Guy Bayle, alias Ringo Willy Cat then later simply Ringo. A romantic singer without much charisma, Ringo had a certain notoriety with the female public. His idyll with Sheila fuelled the tabloid press for several years, and reached its media paroxysm with their marriage in 1973. The ceremony took place on February 13th at 1 p.m. at the town hall of the 13th arrondissement in Paris. From town hall to church, in scenes more like a nightmare than a celebration, thousands of thronging fans followed the couple's every step. 

Apart from a hit duet, "les Gondoles à Venise", their marriage was a failure. Romance soured quickly to hatred. After the birth of their son, Ludovic, the couple divorced in 1975. Ringo continued to sing until the beginning of the eighties before disappearing from both show business and his son's life. Sheila, however, despite unflattering rumours (she adapted her son, she is in fact a man), remained in the limelight. 

Disco

In 1977, when the Disco wave hit France, Carrère jumped at the chance to remodel Sheila’s image and appearance. After one more hit in French, "l’Arche de Noé", she branched into a very different, above all in English repertoire. "Love me baby", and a revival of "Singing in the Rain" launched Sheila as disco artist, now backed by B Devotion, a trio of American singers and dancers. Gone were the seventies style dresses, now replaced by more sexy outfits: shiny shorts and leather boots. Her disco numbers were re-mixed, lengthened and were big successes in the clubs. 

After her first disco album in 1977, Sheila began the eighties with another in the same vein, "Spacer", which sold more than half a million. She even made a name for herself in America, where she lived for 18 months. But disco went out of fashion, and the first signs of friction between Sheila and Carrère began to appear. In 80, she brought out an album in French, "Pilote sur les ondes", then one in English in 81, "Little Darlin". But as her relationship with Carrère went to pieces, so did her career. Her 1982 hit, "Gloria Gloria", was probably the last of her career.  

Trials and tribulations 

For Sheila, a long period of difficulties had begun. In 1983, with her new partner, Yves Martin, she produced her own album, "Tangue au", for the first time. Recorded in a top studio in the Bahamas, the songs were written by Gérard Presgurvic, Yves Martin and Philippe Abitbol. She cut her hair short and commissioned couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier, then hardly known, to change her image. Carrère had by now disappeared from her entourage. 

The album did not sell very well and, inexorably, Sheila appearedon television and featured in the music press less and less. Completely managed from the beginning, she seemed to be finding it difficult to forge a new career on her own. In 1984, she released "Le film à l’envers". The album was a flop. 

A serious set-back came in 1985 when she decided to sing for a month at the brand new, 7000-seat Zenith auditorium, then the largest venue in Paris – an incredible risk for an artist who, despite her 20 year career, had never performed live on stage. Billed from February 22nd to March 24th, the concerts were a relative failure. Her repertoire was no longer fashionable and relied on her past hits and the show attracted far less box office than forecast. The revues were not bad, but her fans were no longer as enthusiastic and the Zenith season had to be cut short. 

It was a time of personal and professional trail for Sheila. She released no album in 86 and only two singles in 87. In 86, Chilean film director Raoul Ruiz cast her in "L’Ile au trésor", but the film was not released until 1994… 

Finally, in 1987, Sheila contracted peritonitis. Her weight went down to only 45 kilos and it took her several months to recover.  

Come-backs and farewells

In 1988, Sheila was 42. Having disappeared from the music scene entirely for almost two years, she attempted a come-back with the album, "Tendances", with songs penned by Didier Barbelivien, Julien Lepers, Jean-Paul Dréau and Yves Martin. "Le Tam Tam du vent" was the only number to make even a small impact. 

And so she decided to give a serious of farewell performances. For this she chose l’Olympia, the most prestigious of the Paris music venues which, with its 2800 seats, was a more reasonable size, given her waning popularity. The season of concerts, from October 3rd to 15th 1989, was a triumph with Sheila proving she still had a faithful following. On the last night, in tears, she closed the show with Serge Gainsbourg’s "Je suis venue te dire que je m’en vais". The Olympia concerts resulted in her one and only live album. 

After these farewell performances, she again disappeared from the limelight, retiring to a house in the Yvelines which she had bought in the seventies to devote herself to sculpture and writing. In 1992, a remix of "Spacer" was brought out and a hitherto unreleased number, "On s’dit plus rien", was released as a single. However, her first book, published in May 1993, sold better than her records. Entitled "Chemin de lumière", it revealed her new centres of interest, Oriental philosophy and astrology. 

Her next book, "Et si c’était vrai", published in 1995, made more noise. Now definitively and officially sacked by Carrère’s company, Sheila set out a long and virulent list of grievances against her previous employer. One thing led to another and inevitably led to a trial with front page press coverage. Sheila reproached Carrère for having paid her only an infinitely small percentage of sales over a twenty year period, and also for having signed songs not written by him. The trial turned out to be a lengthy and highly complicated affair - indeed, the verdict has not yet been officially announced.

In August 1997, her third book and first novel, "la Captive", was published. That summer, she also presented a television series on the sixties. Like numerous stars of that period, Sheila released a compilation which sold quite well. Her hits were re-mixed and were again popular in the clubs. The neo-sixties wave enabled certain more or less forgotten artists to make a brief commercial comeback.  

In the autumn on 97, in the TV Show compered by Michel Drucker, Sheila announced that she had a new disc ready but no record company to release it. The Arcade label promptly came forward and in 98 brought out a compilation enriched with 3 previously unreleased numbers. The disc’s release at the beginning of the year was promoted by a concert at Queen, the famous gay nightclub on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. 

1998: Olympia

During the summer of 98 Sheila began preparing a new show, which she would go on to perform at the legendary Paris music venue, L'Olympia, at the end of September. Sheila's week-long run at the Olympia proved to be a huge success, thousands of loyal fans turning out to see their idol. The audience went wild as Sheila broke into her new dance routine, leaping around the stage with a group of young dancers and a cordless microphone, just like in the good old days of "Spacer". Needless to say, the crowd sang along at the top of their voices as Sheila broke into a spirited run-through of her greatest hits! Following the success of her "Best of" compilation "Le Meilleur de Sheila" (which went gold shortly after its release), the French superstar went on to perform an extensive national tour in the autumn of 98, returning to the Olympia for three extra concerts at the end of February '99.

With total sales of sixty million, Sheila has established herself as one of France's favourite female music stars - although, it must be said, her career has been through a series of dramatic ups and downs and her fame has been put to the test several times. Critics point out that Sheila has spent too much of her 20-year career under Claude Carrère’s wing, which means the singer has not been able to assume creative control of her own career. But this does not stop thousands of fans up and down the country worshipping the woman who once sang "Spacer"!

It is now on the road that the singer is pursuing her artistic career; and she is carrying on with gala performances around France. Knowing that her popularity can only go downhill, Sheila is enjoying every minute she spends in the limelight.

In 2001, almost forty years after Sheila’s first hit, a double compilation featuring the greatest moments of her career came out.

In August of that year, Sheila underwent a difficult period in her personal life, losing both her parents within weeks of each other. These tragic events did not hold up the release of "Seulement pour toi", a new 7-track CD featuring a number of old hits (including "Le Tam Tam du Vent" written by Didier Barbelivien) and a series of recent songs (many of them composed by her partner, Yves Martin). In the winter of 2002, Sheila took to the stage at the legendary Olympia, in Paris, with a special show celebrating her 40th year in show business (1 - 9 November).

Sheila's anniversary show at the legendary Paris music-hall was an absolute triumph and in May 2003 those who missed the grand event were treated to a double live album, "Olympia jamais deux sans toi". The spring of 2003 also saw the publication of "Ne vous fiez pas aux apparences", a book of interviews with the French journalist Didier Varrod, in which Sheila looked back over the highs and lows of her career and settled certain scores with the showbiz world.

Over the ensuing years, Sheila regularly took to the stage with a troupe of musicians and dancers, touring across France. The revival of her greatest hits, presented as an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular, delighted fans up and down the country.

In 2006, a new contract with Warner Music France meant many of Sheila's old albums were re-released together with her entire studio recordings (366 songs in all released as 18 CDs). Meanwhile, working in collaboration with her partner Yves Martin, Sheila began laying plans for a new show that proved to be much more intimate and low-key than her usual stage extravaganzas. Between 19 and 30 December 2006, the singer took to the stage at Le Cabaret Sauvage in Paris, accompanied by just three musicians and two backing singers, performing a selection of her greatest hits re-arranged 'piano-bar' style.

Sheila was back on stage at the Olympia on 21 September 2007 and 4 March 2008 before starting her "Âge tendre et tête de bois" tour, which ran for two seasons from March 2009 to February 2011. Playing alongside other stars from the sixties to the eighties, like Isabelle Aubret, Hervé Vilard, Michèle Torr, Compagnie Créole and Patrick Juvet, Sheila’s show was a triumph, and took her to venues round France playing to crowds of nostalgic fans. 

2012 marked fifty years in the trade, and Sheila celebrated at the Olympia on 21, 22 and 23 September. The 67-year-old artist teamed up with six musicians and six dancers to produce an energetic live show, interpreting for the first time on stage some of her older tracks and re-orchestrated hits (with the notable absence of the emblematic "Les Rois mages" and "L'Ecole est finie"), along with new numbers from a forthcoming album.

The new collection, her twenty-sixth, was released in December 2012 with the title “Solide”. The album was produced by her partner, Yves Martin, who also wrote the catchy “Mon Eldorado”. Other songwriters, like Jacques Veneruso, Gilles Morvan and Nina Bouraoui produced the lyrics for the ten-track album.

May 2013

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