On January 26, 2011, French chanteuse Mireille Mathieu was made an Officer of the Legion d’Honneur. In a career spanning four decades, she has recorded 1,200 songs and sold 120 million albums. She was the oldest of fourteen children, born to an impoverished stone-mason and his (tired) wife. She made her singing debut at age four and was paid one lollipop. Dyslexia made school a difficult place, and she left at age fourteen to work in a factory. There, she entertained her co-workers by singing on breaks. She gave part of her salary to help support her family and kept part for singing lessons. In 1964, she won a singing contest in her hometown of Avignon, belting out the Edith Piaf classic La Vie en Rose, a singer with whom she is often identified.
Next stop, was a televised talent show in Paris, where she left dispirited, having been mocked by the audience for her provincial accent and her habit of scrambling words. A year later, her fortunes turned when she met her manager Johnny Stark. Under his guidance, she won the same Paris talent show in 1966 and was a household name by 1968. Her first major purchases were a truck for her father’s business, and a large home for her family, equipped with a phone so that they would no longer have to use the public phone in the local pharmacy to talk to her. In her tour of the United States, she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Danny Kaye Show and sang with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. Her French chanson style was deemed passé after the advent of rock and roll, but she has maintained an active performing and recording career right up to the present. She is apparently enormously popular in Russia. Wherever she goes, she has a reputation of treating her fans well.
Today’s expression, si ça vous chante, (see sa voo shahnt) literally means “if it sings to you.” Figuratively, it means “if you’d like to” or “if that would please you.” It was the favorite expression of one of my hostesses when I was studying in France. She was always proposing seconds of something delicious to eat or an excursion “si ça vous chante.” The idea of various proposals singing to me never failed to delight my ear, much the way Mireille Mathieu’s songs have delighted millions. Félicitations to a very gracious lady.