05 September 2013

Dick Rivers

French singer and actor Dick Rivers (1945) was - with Eddy Mitchell and Johnny Hallyday - one of the three stars who introduced Rock and Roll in France in the early 1960s. In later life, he also appeared in some films.

Dick Rivers
French postcard by PSG, no. 923. Photo: Patrick Bertrand.

The Wild Cats

Dick Rivers was born Hervé Fornieri in in Villefranche-sur-Mer in southern France in 1945. He was fascinated by America, the juke box and Rock and Roll. He admired Elvis Presley, who highly influenced both his singing and his looks.

In 1960, at the age of fifteen, Hervé founded with three friends, guitarists Jean-Claude and Gerard Roboly and bassist Gerard Jacquemus, the group Les Chats Sauvages (The Wild Cats). With his black hair slicked back, his never worn jeans and his cowboy boots he was the lead singer. His stage name came from the character (Deke Rivers) that Presley played in his second film, Loving You (Hal Kanter, 1957).

In February 1961, the British music magazine, NME, reported that Rivers concert at the Palais des Sports de Paris, whilst headlining with Vince Taylor, had turned into a full-scale riot. Between May 1961 and June 1962, he recorded with Les Chats Sauvages more than a hundred songs, and they sold more than 2 million albums.

Big hits were Ma petite amie est vache (My girlfriend is a cow), Twist à Saint-Tropez (Twist in Saint-Tropez) and Est-ce que tu le sais (Do you know). The band’s success extended to all French-speaking countries, Belgium, Switzerland and Quebec, where they attracted large crowds.

But then, Rivers suddenly left Les Chats Sauvages.

Dick Rivers, Les Chats Sauvages
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 228. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Les Chats Sauvages
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1095. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Les Chats Sauvages
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 227. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Mister D

In September 1962, Dick Rivers released his solo single Baby John which sold 200,000 copies. It was the start of a long and successful solo career, with more than thirty albums (three in English) and many singles.

Among his hits were Tu n'es plus là (1963), the French version of Roy Orbison’s Blue Bayou, and Va t'en va t'en (1965), based on Go Now by the Moody Blues.

In the 1970s, his music seemed outdated. For ten years, between 1982 and 1992, he hosted a program devoted to rock on Radio Monte Carlo.

In 1994, a first collection of his old successes, Very-Dick was certified gold the following year. He started to record new music. In 1999, Dick made his first film La Candide Madame Duff/The Candid Lady Duff (Jean-Pierre Mocky, 1999) and gave about 60 concerts in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

In 2003, Rivers played in the comedy Le Furet/The Ferret (Jean-Pierre Mocky, 2003) with Jacques Villeret and Michel Serrault. The following year he appeared on stage in the play Les Paravents (The Screens) by Jean Genet, at the Théâtre National de Chaillot. It was a success.

Furthermore, he was the French voice of Shere Khan in Jungle Book 2 (Steve Trenbirth, 2003) and he also gave his voice to Arthur et les Minimoys/Arthur and the Invisibles (Luc Besson, 2006). On television he appeared in Mon amour de fantôme/Phantom Love (Arnaud Sélignac, 2007).

His latest album, called Mister D, was released in 2011 to celebrate his 50-year career. At the same time, a book with the same title was published containing his memoirs collected by Sam Bernett. He returned to the stage and in 2012, he was on tour in France.

Dick Rivers lives in an apartment in Montmartre in Paris and on a ranch in the Toulouse region. He is married to Micheline Davis and has an adopted daughter, Natala, who lived for three years with American director George Lucas.

Dick Rivers
French collector's card by Publistar.

Dick Rivers
French promotion card by Pathé Marconi, no. 5-63. Photo: Vallois.

Dick Rivers, Les Chats Sauvages
French postcard by P.I., no. 1085, offered by Corvisart. Photo: Jean Mainbourg.

Sources: RFI Musique (French), Dick Rivers.com (French), Wikipedia (French and English) and IMDb.

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