Francis Lai (1932-2018)

From this discreet man, who had erased himself from public life, we will remember the melodies he wrote. For the cinema, of course, but also for many singers. Francis Lai died at the age of 86. It was Christian Estrosi, mayor of his hometown, Nice, who announced it, adding: “I will soon be proposing to his family that they give their name to an emblematic place in our city”.

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It was with Claude Lelouch that this son of a horticulturist had approached film music, from 1965. The two men had met through Pierre Barouh, himself a musician. With the latter, Lai had composed a few songs, notably Love is much stronger than us.

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A theme that Lelouch liked so much that he asked to be able to use it for his next film. This film will be A man and a woman. This feature film , which gave a large place to music, would reveal the three men. For Francis Lai, it was the start of a meteoric career.

Four years after the release of Chabadabada, the Niçois would win the Grail: an Oscar. Awarded in Hollywood for his work on the film Love Story, in 1970. Thereafter, he would return to compose for his favorite director, signing no less than 33 scores for the cinema of Claude Lelouch. “He tells me the story in such detail that I can see the footage. In the end, it leaves a lot more freedom,” he explained.

One of the most beautiful alliances between filmmaker and composer

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Like the duos Nino Rota-Federico Fellini, Ennio Morricone-Sergio Leone or Michel Legrand-Jacques Demy, it was with the director of Itinerary of a spoiled child that he formed one of the most beautiful alliances between filmmaker and composer.

“It was with him that I had the greatest complicity,” he said willingly. He nevertheless found the time to work with many other directors. Claude Zidi, Henri Verneuil, René Clément, Dino Risi, Philippe de Broca or Georges Lautner called on his services.

Francis Lai loved the song format and lamented that he hadn’t devoted himself more to it. His greatest success in the field remains À vélo , which had delighted Yves Montand, to the words of his unfailing friend Pierre Barouh. He had composed for many female singers.

We remember Nicole Croisille, his favorite interpreter. But it was also sung by Edith Piaf, Mireille Mathieu, Isabelle Aubret, Petula Clark or Jacqueline Dulac. He often worked with Quebec performers Fabienne Thibeault, Ginette Reno, Nicole Martin and Martine Chevrier. In addition, he composed the musical background for the FR3 television channel for its launch in 1974. This gave him the opportunity to study electronic instruments: ondes Martenot, analog synths, electronic accordions.

In April 2016, the fiftieth anniversary of the recording of A Man and a Woman was celebrated with the release of an anthology of his works on 7 CDs. An invaluable legacy for a musician who until the end remained in love with melodies.

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Track List:

00:00:00 Scene D’amour 00:03:55 Emmauelle 2 00:08:00 Seduction 00:10:54 Bilitis 00:14:20 A Love Theme 00:18:37 Emotion 00:23:21 Love Story 00:27:16 Madly 00:30:25 Widow’s Nest 00:34:38 Child Under a Leaf 00:37:14 Le Petit Matin 00:40:48 Concerto Pour La Fin D’un Amour

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