“Rêver un impossible rêve
Pour atteindre à s’en écarteler
Pour atteindre l’inaccessible étoile”
“Dream an impossible dream
And tear yourself apart
To reach the inaccessible star”
Jacques Brel: La quête/The quest
“Jacques Brel isn’t a singer”, a newspaper-review once stated, “he’s a force of nature”.
A brilliant, passioned singer/poët, electrifying performance on stage. At his birth in 1929 Jacques looked set for a completely opposite path. Youngest son in a dreary Flemish-Francophone bourgeois-family he was cut out to succeed his father at the head of a cardboard-factory. But it turned out a different destiny was written in the stars. In his early twenties Jacques breaks free from the beaten track and sets off to Paris, guitar in hand and a few scribbled songs, heading towards uncertainty but chasing his passion. It is the start of a life-long quest to “reach the impossible dream, the inaccessible star”. His first steps are hesitant, but gradually he breaks through towards fame and a dizzying spiral. Endless concert-tours all over France, Europe and beyond. Triumphs in “L’Olympia”, Paris’ most famous music-hall, sold out evening to evening. And an incessant stream of new album-releases. But then, in 1966 at the peak of his fame, another break with the beaten track. To everyone’s dismay Brel pulls the plug and decides to quit performing. Enough is enough, he refuses to get stuck, ever. His restless quest continues, towards a new horizon, which he literally finds at the other end of the world, on the Marquesas islands in the South-Pacific. Jacques releases a superb last album – “Les Marquises” – which turns out to be a farewell gift to his public. Hardly a year later, in October 1978, he dies of lung cancer, his body consumed by the intensity of his life.
But Jacques Brel lives on through his legacy. His timeless chansons of love and pain, indignation, sarcasm, mockery, friendship and tenderness. And the unsurpassed performance with which he brought them to life on stage. Brel didn’t sing his chansons, he embodied them. With total abandon.
In “Hommage à Jacques” MÉNESTREL takes you on a trip through Brel’s eventful life, with images, anecdotes and sixteen of his chansons, some of them “classics”, others less well-known but jewels alltogether. A journey of exploration in which we discover “grand Jacques” in all his intensity and complexity, in his quest of the inaccessible star.
Jacques Brel: “La Chanson des Vieux Amants”
Menestrel in the Hasselt Chapel in Tilburg.