Yves Duteil

Born : 24/07/1949 in Neuilly-sur-Seine (France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Composer / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Chanson

Few artists have achieved such a balance between the number of their fans and their detractors. Since his débuts, Yves Duteil has been appreciated and much loved by a large section of the French public. Yet, at the same time, he has never ceased to be a subject of mockery and criticism. Sentimental and reactionary for some, poet and exemplary for others… You choose.

Few artists have achieved such a balance between the number of their fans and their detractors. Since his débuts, Yves Duteil has been appreciated and much loved by a large section of the French public. Yet, at the same time, he has never ceased to be a subject of mockery and criticism. Sentimental and reactionary for some, poet and exemplary for others… You choose.

Yves Duteil was born on July 24th 1949 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, an inner Parisian suburb. His father, an office worker, and his mother, a jeweller, gave him a very traditional upbringing. For ten years he played the piano and the organ in his school orchestra until, at fifteen, he discovered his real musical passions, the guitar and singing.  

After the baccalauréat, to please his family, he enrolled at the science faculty, but soon gave up his university studies for music. He got out of doing his military service and earned money and gained experience by playing at the Club Méditerranée and in Parisian cabarets. At the same time he studied at the Petit Conservatoire run by the singer, Mireille, a legendary figure in French music. 

First steps 

It was with a romantic song, "Virages", that he began his recording career in 1972. The single met with some success, unlike the next two. However, in 1973, Yves was chosen as support act for the singer, Régine, at Bobino, and Juliette Gréco at L’Olympia, even following this up with a concert in New York.  

But it was not until 1974, that Yves Duteil hit the big time. Competing in the Spa festival in Belgium, he went away with the Prix du Public, the Best Song prize and rave press reviews. His first album, "L’écritoire", came out the same year, followed, two years later, by the second, which was awarded the "Jeune Chanson" prize by the Haute Comité de la Langue Française. Already, Yves Duteil had become a symbol of the defence of the French language, a badge he continues to wear today. 

1977: "La Tarentelle" 

His first hit came in 1977. The album "La Tarentelle" received the prestigious Académie Charles-Cros Award and the Sécretariat de la Culture Prize. The disc contained three of his most popular songs, "La Tarentelle", "le Petit pont de bois" and, above all, "Prendre un enfant par la main". The album sold more than a million and the three singles more than 500.000 each. For three months they were in the hit parades on all the radio stations. 

That year he made triumphal appearances at the Théâtre de la Ville and at L’Olympia. In 1978, he had become such a star that after a long French tour, he gave a recital at the prestigious classical music venue, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. After the success of this one-off concert, he gave a series of ten performances there in 1979. On this occasion, the radio station RTL rated his "Prendre un enfant par la main" in the top ten most beautiful songs of the decade.

Prizes, prizes, prizes… 

If the seventies ended in triumph, the eighties began slowly but surely with a return tot the Théâtre de la Ville in central Paris for a two-week season in 1980. 

In 1981 he released an album for children illustrated with watercolours by Martine Delerm. The disc was awarded the Grand Prix for the most outstanding artistic creation of the year at the Tokyo Art festival. He was a huge success in Japan and returned there in 1982 for a long tour.  

Also in 1982, a three-week season at L’Olympia gave rise to the release in March of a triple live album containing forty songs. 

From January 2nd to 22nd 1984, on the release of his album "Statue d’Ivoire", Yves Duteil returned to L’Olympia for a four-week stay. Now a major figure in French music - despite his not always flattering "nice guy singer" image – Yves Duteil was made a Knight of Arts and Letters by President François Mitterrand. In 1985, the release of his seventh album, "La Langue de chez nous", confirmed his status as a defender of the French language. In 1986 the album’s title song won the Silver Medal of the principal institution of the French Language, The Académie Française and the Oscar for Best French Song by the SACEM (Society of Authors and Composers). 

With now a total of 40 million sales since his début, Duteil received his 40th golden disc in 85. Again that year, Japan, Korea and Quebec were tour destinations. 

The song of the century 

In 1987, he released the album "Ton absence", a golden disc in only three weeks. In 87 and 88, Yves Duteil continued to received innumerable awards. The song "Prendre un enfant" continued to be a huge success: it was elected favourite song by listeners to the radio station Europe 1 in 87, and the best song of the century by the magazine for old people, "Notre Temps". In 88, the song was also elected best song of the century by a poll organised by the SACEM, the radio station RTL and the TV channel Canal+. 

Quebec dished out the prizes too, with the Gold medal of the Order of American French Speakers. His Canadian popularity was confirmed the following year with a concert to an audience of 20.000 at the Montreal Summer Festival. 

Nothing could stop him. In 1989, he received a diamond disc for the album "La Tarentelle" which, twelve years after its release, had reached sales of 1 million. But it was in only one year that his "best of" album, "Vos préférences" reached the 100.000 mark. 

In 89, Yves Duteil became mayor of his commune, Précy-sur-Marne, in the greater Paris area. Another inhabitant of the commune was a major artist of French music, Barbara, who lived there until her death at the end of 97. Although very active politically, Duteil has always avoided mixing politics and music.

The Olympic Games 

The nineties began with a new album, his first for three years, "Blessures d’enfance". Childhood is a dominant theme in Yves Duteil’s work. In this album alone, there are at least three songs on the subject: "Blessures d’enfance", "Retour d’Asie" and "Bébé soleil". 1990, he was back on stage in Paris at the Zenith where he played to 3.000 fans nightly for ten days. 

In February 1992, the town of Albertville in the French Alps hosted the winter Olympics. For the occasion, the French Olympic Committee, whose president, Michel Barnier, is a friend of Duteil’s, chose the song "La fleur de l’impossible" to represent France. 

Also that year, Duteil left on a huge international tour which took him to fifteen countries, including returns to Korea and Japan. 

He brought out a new album in 93 and followed this up with shows at the Casino de Paris in September. Only a few months later, he brought out an album of duos with French singers as different as Liane Foly, Enzo Enzo, Véronique Sanson and even actress Jeanne Moreau, for who he wrote the title song of the film "L’Adolescente" in 1979. 

Politically correct 

After receiving a Marianne, a prize awarded to the best mayors of France, in 1992, Yves Duteil was re-elected mayor of his commune in 95. In addition to this, the Ministry of Culture invited him to chair an advisory board on ways of revitalising French music. Often criticised for his political views, Duteil nevertheless retained enormous credibility with his fans. 

In his album "Touché", released in 97, Yves Duteil sings about several of today’s burning issues, including the Tibet, and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. But, above all, the album made the news for one song, "Dreyfus". In it, Duteil talks about his great great uncle, Colonel Dreyfus, wrongly accused at the end of the 19th century in a murky affair of espionage mingled with anti-Semitism, and imprisoned in a penal colony in French Guyana. In fact, descendant of Dreyfus or not, what continued to motivate Duteil, was the defence of the innocent and the victims of this world. And it is this which he is often criticised for: a sort of all-purpose sentimentalism. 

 From November 11th to 16 th Duteil promoted the album on stage at the Casino de Paris.

The 90’s were not a very favourable decade to the singer. His popularity was to shrink a little bit and he withdrew from the limelight. Blaming the media as well as a lengthy legal imbroglio with his production company EMI for the decrease of his public success, Duteil did not stop performing all the same. He gave a few intimate shows, accompanied by Michel Precastelli, the piano-player that had worked with Barbara.

Duteil celebrates his 30th anniversary

In November 2001, he released his thirteenth album, entitled "Vivre sans Vivre". Posing as a craftsman of singing-song-writing, Duteil penned a very unsophisticated album with a discreet orchestration. Two musicians contributed to the production, bringing along new influences and enlarging Duteil’s usual repertoire: Gerard Bikialo, Francis Cabrel’s bass-player, and the Brazilian singer, Bia, who covered with Duteil "Samba em preludio", one of Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes’ co-productions. Translated into French, "Samba em Preludio" became "Vivre sans Vivre".

After completing an extensive tour in the spring of 2002, Duteil celebrated 30 years in showbizz with a special show at the Olympia in Paris on 5 June.

There were no new albums from Yves Duteil over the following years, but the singer did assure a live comeback, performing an intensive concert schedule that took him right across France. Meanwhile, Duteil continued his impressive output on the literary  front. In  2004, he published "Dans l'air des mots - 30 ans de chansons en images", a commemorative book, illustrated with numerous photographs, featuring the lyrics of 102 songs he had written in the course of his thirty-year career.

In 2006, Les Editions de l'Archipel published "Les choses qu'on ne dit pas", a collection of letters written to real people including Duteil's wife Noelle, the late great French 'chanson' star Barbara and the Dalai Lama. "Les choses qu'on ne dit pas" also included letters written to imaginary recipients such as the Earth, Politics, Chocolate and the Music Profession as well as a letter addressed to Duteil's great uncle, Captain Alfred Dreyfus.

2008: "(fr)agiles"

Yves Duteil finally re-emerged on the recording front on 14 April 2008 with a new album entitled "(fr)agiles." Duteil penned half of the twelve songs on this new album himself, tapping into his favourite themes: love, childhood and nature. On this new album he called in Alain Cluzeau (famous for his work with Bénabar, Olivia Ruiz and Bratsch) as producer and Fabrice Ravel-Chapuis (Adamo, Jean Guidoni) as arranger. The Toulousan musician Art Mengo guested on two tracks and Véronique Sanson, a close friend of Duteil's for many years, contributed piano and vocals on another.

On 7 April 2008, Duteil performed a concert at L'Européen, in Paris, before kicking off another extensive tour of France. He returned to Paris in the autumn of 2008 to perform at the Théâtre Dejazet (3 - 19 October).

October 2008

© RFI Musique
Any reproduction of this website - either whole or partial - is strictly prohibited without the agreement of the authors.

 
 
Close