While Michel Berger is at the height of his career, his personal life is littered with drama. In 1982, he lost his older brother Bernard at age 41 to multiple sclerosis. Four years later, he mourned the death of two close friends: Daniel Balavoine died in January during the Paris-Dakar and Coluche, six months later, in a motorcycle accident.
To these successive dramas is also added the illness of his daughter Pauline affected by cystic fibrosis. “I was one of the few to know, and Michel had made me swear not to tell anyone,” confided his agent Grégoire Colard in 2014 for France Sunday. “Because he might have thousands of groupies, he was very alone, in reality. I was the shoulder on which he could cry, the only man to whom he could confide his misfortunes: his daughter’s illness, the death of his older brother, finally overcome by multiple sclerosis, the disappearances of his friends Balavoine and Coluche…”.
Discreet about his private life, Michel Berger was also about his state of health. Hard at work, the famous singer did not spare his efforts to the point of putting himself in danger. “He had this form of heart fragility,” says journalist Fabien Lecoeuvre for Planet.
A cardiac pathology due to his cholesterol problems, which forced the artist to change his way of life. “A year earlier, he had gone on a salt-free, butter-free diet for a month, before rebelling, in his own very measured way. He had taken to smoking two cigarettes a day, drinking a glass of wine to fight against his fate… He was screaming ‘I don’t want to die'”, wrote the journalist Yves Bigot in his book Something in us by Michel Berger, published in 2012.
During the summer of 1992, Michel Berger took refuge in the south of France where he recharged his batteries with France Gall and their entourage. During a lunch with friends, one of the guests would have assured the interpreter of Obviously that she was going to enter immortality. A prediction that was announced to her the day before the death of her husband, as she told in 2012 for Paris Match.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. During lunch, a friend asked one of the guests, who was a bit of a medium, to read me the lines of the palm. He took it from me, the opened it, looked at it and immediately closed it again, and he said to me: ‘You are going to experience a very great shock and you will enter into immortality.’ I replied that it was certainly not with my little songs!”, she mentioned to our colleagues.
“The next day, Michel arrived while I was telling this story to someone. He said to me: ‘I wonder which of the two will be immortalized!’ And we left, hand in hand, as usual, laughing.” It was without suspecting the drama that would change the life of the couple forever.
On August 2, 1992, Michel Berger died suddenly at the age of 44, victim of a heart attack in Ramatuelle. In the afternoon, a few hours before his death, the singer played several matches on the tennis court with Framboise Holtz, the first wife of journalist Gérard Holtz.
“It was 2-3 p.m. in the afternoon. The sun was beating down a lot during this time of day. It was after a match that he had a stroke of heat”, confides the journalist François Lecoeuvre for Planet. The musician collapses for the first time before getting up to sit on a bench. Faced with the seriousness of his heart problems, he prefers to give up and retire to his house.
On the way home, Michel Berger suffered a second heart attack. The pains in the chest are more persistent in the evening. While taking his bath, the artist warns his wife that his condition is getting worse and calls the doctor. Upon his arrival, the singer is lying on his bed waiting to receive first aid from SOS doctors and SAMU. But, the third heart attack will be fatal to him.
“His heart dropped”, confides the musical animator Fabien Lecoeuvre, still upset by the tragic disappearance of this immense artist. “It’s always striking and shocking for our society to leave in full youth. He left us such a sublime musical work that crosses time”.
As he sang before his disappearance, Michel Berger went to sleep in his white paradise. On August 6, 1992, the artist and composer was buried in the Montmartre cemetery in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Before a crowd of admirers who came to pay their last respects, her coffin covered with roses and white lilies was exposed in front of her loved ones for a final farewell.
His wife France Gall and his children Pauline and Raphaël were united in mourning. Jacques Attali paid tribute to the late artist while a handful of stars and close friends paraded in front of his coffin. Among them, Johnny Hallyday, Véronique Sanson, Michel Jonasz, Alain Souchon or Françoise Hardy, as we can see on the images of the Antenne 2 newspaper presented by Bruno Masure.
Five years later their daughter, Pauline Hamburger, died at the age of 19. A disappearance that will lead to a family conflict between France Gall and her sister-in-law Françoise “Franka” Berger. The latter wanted to bury her brother in the family vault while the singer wanted to reunite father and daughter in the same burial. “As France Gall was not of the Jewish faith, Michel Berger did not want us to use this vault to put his wife or other family members there”, explains Fabien Lecoeuvre. Finally, the singer will win her case by having a burial site built for their family, not far from the Hamburger clan vault.
On January 7, 2018, France Gall died at the age of 70 following a severe infection. She then joined her late husband Michel Berger and their daughter Pauline in the family mausoleum that she had built in the cemetery of Montmartre. “It was France Gall’s desire to put Michel Berger and his daughter Pauline, not too far from the family vault, on the Hamburger side”, tells us the host of CNEWS Fabien Lecoeuvre.
Located at the 29th division on the avenue de La Croix, the glass burial shelters the tombstone where Raphaël Hamburger’s parents and sister rest. Looking closer, we can read the names of Michel (1947-1992) and Pauline Hamburger (1978-1997), as well as France Gall (1947-2018) with their signatures affixed to the marble floor. High glass slats also reflect the sun’s rays.
As you can see in the photos, the family grave is decorated with a Japanese cherry tree. An original idea of France Gall who wanted to adorn the tomb of her husband and their daughter in her own way. “France Gall has always had this very avant-garde taste for flowering a glass cage”, considers the journalist. A way for the singer to embellish this gloomy place and above all to attract the attention of visitors, before the 30th anniversary of the death of Michel Berger.
© Thomas LOUISY / Planet.fr
On a sunny Sunday in July, we ventured into the cemetery in Montmartre to meet visitors. Upon our arrival in the district between Pigalle and Place de Clichy, a map indicates the path to follow to discover the names of the artists who rest in this calm and peaceful place.
After a few minutes of walking, the large glass mausoleum stands before our eyes and is recognizable among all the graves. In front of the vault of Michel Berger, France Gall and their daughter Pauline, the curious file past and observe everything down to the smallest detail. From the cherry tree to the bouquets of flowers and roses that adorn the interior of the vault, our gaze rests on a small slate heart, where it is written “in our daylight” (title of a song dedicated to Pauline, editor’s note) .
© Thomas LOUISY / Planet.fr
Among the visitors mingle friends, families, tourists with their cameras. Or these two young people. “Oh how beautiful,” they exclaim in front of the magnificent mausoleum on their way, white rose in hand. Later, a couple notices their autographs affixed to the grave. Then a young woman, accompanied by her mother and her sister, stops in front of the tomb to remember the artist, in silence. A few barely audible whispers, and visitors file by silently. When suddenly, the silence is broken by the bell of a guard: 6 p.m. on the watch, time to return to the exit! And, to have those A Few Words of Love floating around in our heads…
© Thomas LOUISY / Planet.fr