Man in France 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Even though most Francophones are drooling over the planned October return to
Israel of the French Elvis, Johnny Hallyday, another French legend will be
landing here much sooner.
Michel Jonasz has been a steady force on the
French music scene for as long as Hallyday, with his sophisticated blend of
crooning nostalgic pop, jazz and r&b. And the 65-year-old
composer-songwriter, singer and actor, who will be appearing on March 25 at the
Tel Aviv Opera House, evidently has forged a strong following in Israel as well.
He’s appeared here twice before – in 2006 with a greatest hits show, and two
years ago performing his musical play, Abraham, dedicated to his grandfather, a
cantor at a Hungarian synagogue who perished at Auschwitz.
The show was
showcased for eight months through April 2010 at the Théâtre de la
Gaîté-Montparnasse in Paris, where Jonasz would alternate heartfelt dialogue
with equally emotive music that recalled the traditional Hungarian Gypsy music
his family would play while he was growing up in Darcy, France.
drawn toward music, theater and art, Jonasz left school at the age of 15 to
pursue a career in the arts.
Influenced by Frenchmen Georges Brassens,
Léo Ferré and Jacques Brel, as well as Ray Charles and Eddy Mitchell, he
initially formed three bands, including The King Set, before launching his solo
career in 1968 under the name Michel Kingset. But it took until 1974, under his
own name, for him to begin to reach a wide audience with hits “Dites-Moi” and
The next year, his second album, Changez Tout
, saw Jonasz
develop as a songwriter and produce his first signature tune, “Les vacances au
bord de la mer.” The rest of the decade saw his popularity skyrocket, and by
1981 he had released his seventh album – La Nouvelle Vie
– which earned him his
first gold record.
The success continued through the 1980s, including his
1985 blockbuster Unis Vers and its hit singles “La Boîte de Jazz,” “La Bossa,”
and “La FM Qui S’est Spécialisée Funky.”
Acting roles – like Le Testament
du Poete Juif Assassiné
(based on an Elie Wiesel novel) – also raised Jonasz’s
profile, making him one of France’s most recognizable and popular
stars. He combined singing and acting in 1987 with the stage show “La
Fabuleuse Histoire de Mister Swing,” telling the tale of a musician’s traumatic
double life on and off the stage.
As Jonasz transitioned into the elder
statesman of French pop, his popularity and output stagnated in the 1990s and
early 2000s, but by 2005 he was ready for a comeback album, which brought him
back into the spotlight. Two years later, he further cemented his reputation by
recording an album of his favorite songs by other artists, including Brel’s “La
Chanson des Vieux Amants” and Edith Piaf’s “La Foule.” The development and
performances of Abraham
took up the next few years, but last year Jonasz
released his first studio album in six years – Les Hommes Sont Toujours des
, spiced up with tzigane music, blues, rock and salsa.
to perform his classic hits, as well as new material, Jonasz will be returning
to Israel with a full orchestra for his show next week. It’s likely that
following Jonasz’s performance, Johnny Hallyday will have to give up any hope of
resting on his laurels.Michel Jonasz will perform on March 25 at the
Opera House in Tel Aviv.
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