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Henri Salvador, who died on 13 February, 2008, aged 90, was a versatile French singer, most famous for eccentric and silly songs that became popular on French television and the Scopitone video jukeboxes of 1960s Europe.For songs such as Le Blues du Dentiste (Dentist Blues), Mais Non, Mais Non (But No, But No), Minnie Petite Souris (Little Mouse) and Juanita Banana (Miss Banana), he would film early precursors to the music video, often dressed in ludicrous costumes and pulling silly faces.Despite this, he was originally a jazz musician and had also played on early French rock ’n’ roll records. As well as his novelty songs, he recorded love songs and ballads and turned his velvety voice to many forms of music during his 70-year career.Henri Gabriel Salvador was born on 18 July, 1917, in Cayenne, the capital of French Guyana. His family moved to France when he was seven and a few years later he discovered the music of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.From that moment on he was determined to be a jazz musician, taking up the guitar and learning to play along with Django Reinhardt records. At 16 he began performing in Parisian cabaret clubs, gaining plaudits for his playing and for his comic approach.In 1935, his hero Django Reinhardt hired him as an accompanist and he also began working for American jazz violinist Eddy South. The Second World War interrupted his jazz career for several years until he was demobbed in 1941.In occupied France he joined Bernard Hilda's jazz orchestra in Cannes before Ray Ventura spotted his talents as a novelty musician. They went on an English-language revue tour in South America where they entertained American GIs. On returning to France, M Salvador decided to branch out with his own show.By 1949 he was playing at the most prestigious venues in Paris and won the Grand Prix du Disque for his record Le Loup, La Biche et Le Chevalier (The Wolf, the Deer and The Knight). During the 1950s he played to packed auditoriums in France and was interviewed by Ed Sullivan in America.Towards the end of the decade he began to experiment with blues, rock and even Caribbean styles. But in 1959, Boris Vian, his songwriting partner on more than 400 compositions (including Rock and Roll-Mops, the first French rock ’n’ roll record), died from a sudden heart attack.At the start of the ‘60s he concentrated on television presenting in France and Italy, but also founded his own record label. His releases during this decade were his biggest hits. They included Zorro Est Arrivé (Zorro Has Arrived), Syracuse, Le Travail c'est la Santé (Work is Health) and were generally accompanied by a video of M Salvador acting out various comic roles against a gaudy studio backdrop.During the following decades he continued to release new material and present on television, where he was renowned for his sharp wit and rich laugh. He was also backed by the Walt Disney Corporation and recorded several numbers inspired by their feature films, taking advantage of his popularity with children.During his later career he returned to his first love, jazz, giving recitals in Europe, North and South America. He was particularly popular among French-speaking communities in Canada and was also awarded the ‘Order of Cultural Merit’ by Brazil’s culture minister.In 2006, aged 89, he finally retired after the release of his final album, Révérence (Bowing Out). He died of a ruptured aneurysm at his home in Paris. He had been married four times and had one son.© Photograph copyright Tybault
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Published in: Online.
Published from: February 13, 2008.
Region: National
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