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Okay, so I’ve written many posts on my favorite French musicians and singers and repeatedly mentioned how much I believe music is one of the best and most interesting ways to learn a foreign language. When I was finally able to understand the lyrics written by Jean Jacques Goldman, I really felt like all the ups and downs of learning a foreign language were for a reason. A good French friend of mine introduced me to Goldman’s moving lyrics. Because of his singing and especially his songwriting, Goldman is extremely popular among French speakers and according to Wikipedia, Goldman was the second highest grossing French pop singer in 2003, just behind Johnny Hallyday.
Jean Jacques Goldman was born in Paris, France on October 11, 1951 to a Polish father and a German mother. At the age of 11, his parents had him learn how to play the violin and then, the piano. As an adolescent, he was very shy. At the age of 14, he became completely enthralled with music. One of his earliest idols was Aretha Franklin. He then began learning how to play guitar. One of the first groups he formed with his school friends sang gospel at the local church. Although he was completely into his music, he spent plenty of time studying and holds two degrees, one from the École de Hautes Études Commerciales de Lille (Lille Higher School of Business) and another in sociology. After studying, he basically backpacked his way with a friend through Sweden, Turkey, Canada, the USA and Mexico. He recorded an English language album in 1975 with the group Taï Phong which was somewhat successful, but Jean Jacques did not feel ready to tour with the group and so, Michael Jones came along to replace him. The two became lifelong friends (Jean Jacques even named his son after him.) Although reluctant at first, Jean Jacques began to go it solo with French songs and an Anglo-Saxon style upon signing a contract for five albums with Epic Records. Inspired by the music of the 70’s, he attained the number 1 spot for the first time on the French charts on May 9, 1981. He had many ups and downs as his career started off with this ‘Goldman Style’. But, lasting success finally arrived with the single Quand la musique est bonne. Many of his songs have a social awareness aspect to them and Goldman’s optimism is particularly appealing. Comme toi evokes his personal link to the collective Jewish memory, Je te donne is about respecting differences and Rouge is about the end of communism, but not the end of the ideals which many believe to be noble.
Jean Jacques has always known well how to surround himself with great people to make beautiful music and create excellent shows including Jones, Bernard Schmidt and Carole Fredericks. In all, Goldman has released twenty-four albums including five as part of the very successful trio he formed in the middle of his solo career Fredericks / Goldman / Jones. He has written and composed entire albums for Johnny Hallyday, Celine Dion and others.
Because I was so motivated by them as a French learner, I would like to share some of the lyrics that have touched me most with all of you (although it is difficult to do artistic justice when translating the lyrics, I have provided loose English translations since many of you are beginning French learners):
“Aujourd’hui, on n’a plus le droit, ni d’avoir faim, ni d’avoir froid…” (“Today, we don’t have the right anymore neither to be hungry nor to be cold…”) – Les Restos du Coeur
“Il y a une question dans ‘je t’aime’ qui demande “et m’aimes-tu, toi?’…” (“There’s a question in ‘I love you’ which asks ‘and do you love me?'”) – Sache que je
“Mais n’être plus rien après tant, c’est pas juste…“ (But, not to be anything anymore after so long is not fair…”) – Quand tu danses
“Y aura des jardins, d’l’amour et du pain…des chansons, du vin, on manquera de rien…“ (There will be gardens, love and bread…songs, wine, no one will be in need of anything…”) – Rouge
“Je suis d’un pays d’un horizon d’une frontière…qui sonne guerre, qui sonne éternel hiver… Je suis d’une région d’une langue d’une histoire…qui sonne loin qui sonne bataille et mémoire” (I’m from a country with a horizon, a border…that sounds like war, that sounds like an eternel winter…I’m from a region, a language, a history…that sounds far away, that sounds like a battle and memory”) – Une fille de l’Esthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXQO7r8qoJ0
Jean Jacques Goldman’s official website can be found at www.jjgoldman.net.