You may never have heard of Philippe Pagès, born December 28, 1953 in Paris, but you have almost certainly heard of Richard Clayderman. He was accepted into the super-prestigious Conservatoire de Paris as a pianist when he was only 12, but he had to drop out due to financial difficulties. Pagès worked as a bank clerk by day and an accompanist to various bands and singers by night, including Johnny Hallyday and Michel Sardou.
His life took a major upward turn in 1976. Along with 20 other pianists, he was auditioned to perform a ballad. Pagès was selected for his technique and good looks. He adopted the new name (his great-grandmother’s) because Pagès is so prone to mispronunciation (Feeleep Pasjes in French). The result was “Ballade pour Adeline,” which sold 22 million copies. This led to what is reputed to be over 100 million records sold, mostly in a popular or light classical mode, with 290 Gold albums and 90 Platinum. Clayderman keeps a rigorous concert schedule, especially in Asia where he is particularly popular. The Guinness Book of World Records refers to him as the “most successful pianist in the world.” His hobbies are horse racing and collecting modern art – I think he can afford his little indulgences. And everyone says dropouts will never get on in life.
Today’s expression, un nom à coucher dehors (uhn nohm ah kooshay duhor) literally means “a name to sleep outside.” Figuratively, it means a name that’s really hard to pronounce and retain. We could have had 100 million chances to practice pronouncing Pagès correctly since 1976 if Clayderman hadn’t changed it.