French pop singer Michel Polnareff was born on July 3, 1944. He’s best known for his rather high singing voice and exotic appearance. For years he has cultivated a curly blond mop and worn huge white sunglasses with dark lenses, rain or shine. In commenting on Polnareff’s unique look, photographer Jean-Marie Périer said, “Il fabrique un autre, et se cache derrière” (eel fabreek uhn owetruh ay suh cash dairyair), which means “He creates another, and hides himself behind [it].”
But Polnareff is a legit musician, not just a gimmick. He started piano at age four and won first prize in singing at the Conservatoire de Paris when only eleven and a half. At 20, he took the bold step of leaving home to live on what he could earn playing the guitar on the steps of Sacré Coeur. The plaintive Love Me, Please Love Me is probably his most distinctive hit. One success followed another, until financial disaster struck.
In 1973, Polnareff discovered that his financial manager had totally cleaned him out. Not only did he actually own nothing in his own name, but he owed a fortune in unpaid taxes. He became an economic refugee in California while his lawyers embarked on a multi-year quest to clear his name. He moved back to France in the mid-80s, but became nearly blind from cataracts. Polnareff locked himself away in the hotel where he lived, as getting around in a strange place was so difficult for him and he didn’t want those beyond his immediate circle to know of his condition.
A double-cataract operation in the mid-90s got him back touring. In 2007, he toured in France for the first time in 35 years, selling over a million tickets and then performing before another million spectators at the big Bastille Day concert at the Champ-de-Mars at the request of then-President Sarkozy. Polnareff was awarded a Victoire de la Musique for his body of work and a Légion d’Honneur. The years of exile were certainly over.