26 February 2014

André Claveau

From the 1940s to the 1960s, André Claveau (1911–2003) was a popular singer and film actor in France. He won the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest with Dors, mon amour (Sleep, My Love).

André Claveau
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 160. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Prince Of The Charm Song

André Claveau was born in Paris, France in 1911 (some sources say 1915). He was the only son of an upholsterer and as a young boy, he decided to become a cabinetmaker. In 1919, he became an apprentice to the French Compagnie des Arts, founded by André Mare and Louis Süe. He studied woodworking and cabinetmaking, and later continued his training at the Ecole Boulle.

André worked as a graphic artist and jewellery designer. He created theatre sets (including for L'Hermine by Jean Anouilh), and playbills for such artists as Damia and Jean Lumière.

 His singing career began in 1936, when he participated in the amateur contest Premières Chances (First opportunities) organized by the radio station Le Poste Parisien. He won with the song Chez moi. He was accompanied by the pianist and composer Alec Siniavine who went on to accompany him at subsequent performances.

During the next six years, Claveau moved on from the third, to the second and to the first part of the program in various music halls. In 1938, he had a hit with the song Quand un Petit Oiseau (When a little bird) and he made his film debut in Champions de France (Willy Rozier, 1938).

In 1942, during the occupation of France by the Nazis, Claveau was spotted by impresario Marc Duthyl and his reputation grew. He had smash hits with Ah! C'qu'on s'aimait (1941) and Mon chemin n'est pas le votre (1942). His warm voice and charisma allowed him to become the host of a variety show on Radio Paris.

After the war he was banned for two years off the radio, because of his activities during the war. Claveau returned to the radio as a singer and had several successes such as Une Chanson à la Diable (1949), Marjolaine and Deux petits chaussons.

Claveau was called the Prince de la chanson de charme (Prince of the charm song). He was also the first to interpret the evergreen Bon anniversaire (Happy birthday), written by Jacques Larue and composed by Louiguy. The song was part of the soundtrack of the film Un jour avec vous/A day with you (Jean-René Legrand, 1951).

André Claveau
French postcard by O.P, Paris, no. 117. Photo: Le Studio.

André Claveau
French postcard by O.P, Paris, no. 94. Photo: Le Studio.

Eurovision Song Contest

Between 1947 and 1955, André Claveau appeared in numerous French films in which he sang his hit songs. Among them were Le destin s'amuse/Fate has fun (Emil E. Reinert, 1947) with Dany Robin, Sous le ciel de Paris/Under the Sky of Paris (Julien Duvivier, 1951) and Cœur-sur-Mer (Jacques Daniel-Norman 1951) with Armand Bernard.

He also starred in such film comedies as Pas de vacances pour Monsieur le Maire/No Vacation for Mr. Mayor (Maurice Labro, 1951), with Grégoire Aslan and Louis de Funès, and the short film Le Huitième Art et la Manière/The Eighth Art and Way (Maurice Regamey, 1952) with Christian Alers and Louis de Funès.

In the Franco-Italian comedy-drama Saluti e baci/Love and Kisses (Maurice Labro, Giorgio Simonelli, 1953) a group of singers get together en masse to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Songs like Moulin Rouge (1953), and La Complainte de la Butte (1955) maintained his popularity through the 1950s. Claveau also performed the song Je t'aime bien pourtant in the classic musical French Cancan (Jean Renoir, 1955) starring Jean Gabin and Françoise Arnoul.

In 1958, he won the third edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. He sang Dors, mon amour (Sleep, My Love) with music composed by Pierre Delanoë and with lyrics by Hubert Giraud. The Swiss entry, Lys Assia came in second. In later years, Claveau was a few times the French vote announcer.

His final film was Prisonniers de la brousse/Prisoners of the jungle (Willy Rozier, 1960) with Georges Marchal.

The Yé-yé music wave in the early 1960s affected Claveau’s popularity and his successes diminished.

At the end of the 1960s Claveau decided to finish his career. He retired completely and never performed again.

At the age of 91, André Claveau died in Brassac, France in 2003. He was not married and had no children.

André Claveau
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 295. Photo: Ch. Vandamme, Paris.

André Claveau
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 556, offered by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

André Claveau sings a reprise of Dors, Mon Amour at the Eurovision Song Contest. Source: Huelezelf (YouTube).

Sources: Dave Thompson (AllMusic), Du temps des cerises aux feuilles mortes (French), Wikipedia (French and English) and IMDb.

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