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I mentioned Carole Fredericks in a recent article on one of my very favorite French singers, Jean-Jacques Goldman, and I am inspired to tell all of you more about her for a few reasons. First of all, because she was a very popular singer throughout the French-speaking world in the 90’s as part of the trio Fredericks-Goldman-Jones. Secondly, because she is the epitome of what good French-American relations should be all about – what we have in common and our mutual interests in culture, namely music. And last, but not least, I find it absolutely wonderful that her family has chosen to tell her story and share her legacy by promoting French language education and Francophone culture in the United States and Canada by developing lesson plans, workbooks and other materials in collaboration with French teachers and foreign language associations so that young people can discover what good French-American relations should be all about.
Carole Denise Fredericks was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on June 5, 1952. She sang in church and participated in her school choir. Upon graduating from high school, she was determined to make a career out of singing the blues. She moved to San Francisco to work with her brother, blues singer Taj Mahal, with whom she recorded three albums. However, she never really found great success in the United States. On the weekends in San Francisco, she would sing with a trio called La Belle Helène at a French bistro. The French couple who owned the bistro encouraged Carole to pursue her dream in France. And that’s exactly what she did at the age of 27, even though she didn’t know a single word of French.
In Paris, her talent, courage and determination brought her from singing background vocals for such stars as Johnny Hallyday, Patricia Kaas, Elton John, Céline Dion and others to becoming a very successful and much loved star throughout France and Africa as part of the trio Fredericks-Goldman-Jones. She creatively brought her American roots and her beloved gospel, R&B, jazz and blues to French music. For ten years, she performed alongside Jean-Jacques Goldman and Michael Jones in front of sold-out crowds all over Europe, Africa and Asia. She also released two solo albums during this time, entitled Springfield in English and Couleurs et parfums in French.
Sadly, in the very midst of her hard-fought success, she suffered a heart attack at the age of 49 while in Senegal, a French-speaking country she had come to know as her own. Carole Fredericks was buried in Montmartre Cemetery in Paris and continues to be a music icon in the Francophone world.
Here is a video of her popular song Qu’est-ce qui t’amene:
It’s interesting to read some of the comments, especially those in French as it shows just how much Carole was loved throughout the world, and makes it even more shocking that she still remains fairly unknown in her mother country, the United States of America.
One viewer writes: “Je reste infiniment fan. C’est triste qu’elle nous aie quitté si tôt.” (I continue to be a fan. It is sad that she left us so early.) Another viewer writes: “J’adore cette chanson une voix formidable trop belle.” (I love this song. …such a sensational, beautiful voice.)
You can find out more about Carole and her music career at www.cdfmusiclegacy.com or you can read about her in French at www.carolefredericks.net. You can get more information on the Carole Fredericks Foundation, which was established in her honor, at www.carolefredericksfoundation.org.
Finally, here’s another video of Carole, this time singing in English. Her voice gives me goosebumps.