French singer Alain Bashung was born December 1, 1947. He had a complicated childhood, which involved a father he never knew from an obscure tribe from a mountainous region of Algeria known as Kayble. His mother re-married when he was only one and he was packed off to live with his new step-father’s family in the countryside outside of Strasbourg. He left home when he was 16 to play in a cover band. His big breakthrough came in 1981 with the number one album Pizza from which he had songs that went to number one and two in France, “Vertige de l’amour” and “Gaby Oh Gaby.” He had only middling success until the late 90s when had two number one albums in quick succession: Fantaisie Militaire (1998), L’Imprudence (also 1998), and then Bleu Pétrole hit number one in 2008. He also had an active acting career. He was named the French male performer of the year in 1993, 1999, and 2009. Bashung was noted for his powerful lyrics and the soulful harmonica playing he’d been working on since he was only 5.
He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007, but he made the decision to keep performing. In January 2009, he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur. Bashung performed live at the Victoires de la Musique (the French Grammy’s) where he won three awards, bringing his career-long total to a record-setting eleven. When he died two weeks later on March 14, 2009, there was a huge outpouring of emotion. His funeral at Saint-Germain-des-Prés was so well attended that the over-flow crowd had to follow the mass on a jumbo screen outside the church. French prime minister, François Fillon, said: “Audiences will remember Bashung as the gentleman rocker of French chanson.”
Today’s expression, décrocher une victoire (day-cro-shay oon veectwahr) means “to pull off a victory.” Décrocher normally means “to take down” or “to unhook.” Bashung’s off the hook career wasn’t always victorious, but he certainly finished on a series of high notes.