Beloved French singer, songwriter, and guitar-player Henri Gabriel Salvador was born on July 18, 1917 in French Guiana, one of the Départments d’outre mer. (A DOM is a former French colony that is part of France. Those who live there are French, with all of the same rights, privileges, and responsibilites as if they lived in la France métropolitaine, or mainland France.) Salvador started off as a jazz musician in the 30s, but his career really took off in the post-war years when he started singing his own compositions.
Salvador’s mother was half Arawak Indian, a Caribbean tribe that is basically extinct today. His whole family moved to Le Havre when Salvador was only 12, but his deep love for his Caribbean roots is often evident in his songs. He accompanied the world-famous guitarist Django Reinhardt. Salvador toured extensively in South-America during the war years where he helped spread the bossa nova craze.
If you listen to one of his live performances, you’ll be struck by the exceptional rapport between Salvador and the audience. His impish smile and idiosyncratic laugh/cackle endeared him to his fans of all ages. One of his most famous songs has two titles, you’ll hear it refered to as either « Une Chanson douce » (oon shansohn doose) (A Sweet Song) or “La biche, le loup, et le chavalier” (The Doe, the Wolf, and the Knight), a lullaby about a knight who saves a doe who is being hunted by a wolf and who is then transformed into a beautiful princess. You may know the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” but here’s the original version by Salvador with the stronger title “Le Lion est mort ce soir” (The Lion is dead tonight). You may also recognize his voice as Sébastien the crab in the French version of The Little Mermaid (La Petite Sirène), just one of his Disney collaborations.
Salvador died on Februay 13, 2008, at age 90, just 3 days after his last TV special aired. He released 25 albums during his life (one additional album, Reverence, was posthumous). He is buried at Père Lachaise cemetery.
- La folie douce (onequalitythefinest.com)