Pierre de Gaillande plays Brassens

Pierre de Gaillande

From the 1950’s through the late 70’s, the late George Brassens redefined French Chanson. He was an anarchist bard whose songs were sometimes raunchy, sometimes polemic, often poignant, and always steeped in classic French poetry – from Françcois Villon to Apollinaire and Aragon.

George Brassens went on to become one the most emblematic French singer of the 20th century, setting a new standard for every French songwriter that came after him, including Serge Gainsbourg and of course, Jacques Brel, his peer and close friend. Unlike Brel or Gainsbourg however, his songs never became known outside of France, mostly because of the literary aspect of his lyrics.

Franco-American singer and composer Pierre de Gaillande grew up in Paris and Southern California, listening, among other things, to his dad’s extensive Brassens collection. Pierre went on to play in American indie bands – He moved to NY and played bass with the Morning Glories, played guitar with Vic Chestnut and toured Russia with his own band, Melomane. He has also worked as a film composer.

In the past couple of years, Pierre also rediscovered his dad’s record collection and developed a mild obsession with George Brassens. He has taken on the impossible task of translating Brassens’ songs, to pretty astonishing results. He has stuck to the rhyming scheme and verse length of the original songs, thus matching the melodies perfectly. He has re-arranged the music with a cinematic sensibility, using a combination of guitars, clarinets, lapsteel and charango.

What he has come up with sounds nothing like a translated work. He has managed the impossible – to translate not only the style, content and wit of the original, but he has also managed to somehow translate the musicality of the original recordings with completely different arrangements. The best way to describe the project would be to compare it to the perfect movie adaptation of a book classic. Think Stanley Kubrick or Raoul Ruiz.

 Listen to Pierre on NPR’s Weekend Edition

Listen to Pierre on PRI’s The World