This is the story of an encounter between two icons of variety. On one side, the singer-songwriter Michel Berger. On the other, the singer France Gall. They share the year of birth 1947 in common, but above all a common passion for music. However, these two artists reputed to sing of love will suffer several disappointments in love.
In 1965, France Gall achieved great success thanks to her victory in the Eurovision Song Contest with the title Wax Doll, Sound Doll. While a great career is reaching out to her, Claude François is jealous of her notoriety and breaks her heart by breaking up with her. Then, in 1969, the young artist fell in love with Julien Clerc, star of the musical Hair.
For his part, Michel Berger shared the life of the singer Véronique Sanson, for whom he composed his first two albums published in 1972. But their sudden break made him mope. “Michel Berger falls into a form of post-depression. A kind of very complicated burnout”, tells the musical journalist Fabien Lecoeuvre for Planet. “He is a little disappointed by love, he felt this betrayal on the part of Véronique Sanson”.
While his ex-girlfriend fled to the United States with his new love, the American Stephen Stills, Michel Berger was inspired by this separation to relaunch his career as a singer. In 1973, Warner released his first eponymous studio opus, also called Chagrin d’amour. As he prepares to release the second album Songs for a Fan, one of his tracks will capture the attention of a very special fan.
In the summer of 1973, Michel Berger presented the single Listen to music, taken from this second album to come. A piece that seduces the public, and in particular France Gall, who had heard it for the first time on the radio while driving her car. “She found her voice extremely disturbing and moving,” says her friend and journalist Fabien Lecoeuvre.
While going through a slump in her career at this time, France Gall took her destiny in hand and absolutely wanted to meet the author of the song. “She will do everything to get closer to him. She will meet him in a radio studio,” adds the TV and radio columnist. It was then that France Gall was invited to Europe 1 for a program, also in the hope of approaching this man for whom she had an artistic crush.
During his lifetime, France Gall returned to this key moment at the microphone of Europe 1 in 2015. “We are there behind the scenes, we are waiting in a corridor. He says hello to me and I say to him: ‘I would like you to listen to something that my record company would like to release,'” explained the singer. Unfortunately, Michel Berger prefers to decline the invitation and postpone this moment. It is very bad to know the singer who is stubborn. “I arrive at his house eight days later, I make him listen to the tape. He tells me that it sucks”. Another disappointment for the interpreter of Lollipops. But, his first meeting will nevertheless prove fruitful. “We started a dialogue that never stopped”.
In 1974, Michel Berger and France Gall got to know each other through music. For Fabien Lecoeuvre, the flair of the singer has never failed him to detect the talent of an artist. “Beyond being a huge performer, she is a woman of instinct. She immediately perceived that in Michel Berger”, estimates the author for Planet. “She thought he had very avant-garde words for the year 1973-1974”.
Michel Berger first offers the singer to put her voice on My son will laugh at rock’n roll, published on his album Chansons pour une fan. This rapprochement is just as beneficial for the author and composer who is healing from his separation. “It’s a beautiful story of friendship that turned into a love story,” says the host of CNEWS. While she separates from Julien Clerc at this time, France Gall sees her career relaunched with the most beautiful song written by Michel Berger, The Declaration of Love.
“I played a lot of piano, he made me sing stuff. And, he had written a song for him called ‘The declaration’, which he gave to me instead of singing it to him”, remembered the singer in 2015 for Europe 1, relayed in particular by Marie Claire. The first success of a long list that will breathe new life into their relationship.
For fans, this chemistry between the two soul mates is more than obvious. “France Gall and Michel Berger are linked by music and by love”, admits Pauline, a retired accountant. “It’s a couple that made me dream. I’ve always loved France Gall even before being with him. She really took off with him”. Like her, Marine is an admirer of the couple. “They really had a lot of talent. He made France Gall’s career take off,” said the project manager in the medical sector. Just like her friend Anne-Laure who shares the same feeling. “They are very complementary, both in writing and in musicality”.
From the declaration of love to the commitment, there is only one step for Michel Berger and France Gall. But… How to tell this person that she is also the love of his life, except through a song in 1975. The following year, the couple married on June 22, 1976 and founded their family. With the birth of their daughter Pauline in 1978 and, later, their son Raphaël in 1981.
A united and loving family that Michel Berger did not mention (or very little) in the media. “He was a very discreet and modest person. He didn’t like to talk a lot about himself. He lived in his inner world, me in mine”, confessed his widow France Gall in 2012 for Paris Match. For some admirers, the creator of the rock opera Starmania was first and foremost a man of music, not tabloids. “When I learned to discover him, I did not know his personal life at all. I was very focused on his songs and not his private life”, recognizes Anne-Laure, head of talent acquisition for a start. -up.
From this first artistic collaboration, France Gall returned to success thanks to this summer 1974 hit which ranked 25th in sales in France. With his new muse, Michel Berger is a hitmaker who shapes his artist in his image. As Fabien Lecoeuvre assures us. “He changed the way he sang. Before the famous declaration of love, France Gall did not sing at all in the same way. She got lost in different styles”.
For our reader Pauline, “their collaboration inspires confidence since it was he who relaunched her career. You really had to believe in France Gall to take her under his wing”. And, she doesn’t believe so well. Michel Berger is at the origin of the greatest hits of the singer’s career from the 1980s. Ironically, the couple of artists together dominate the top of the charts with their own song. She defends her piece He played the piano standing up and he signs the hit of the summer of 1980 with La groupie du pianiste.
“They kept fighting for first place, which is very rare in a career, especially when you’re married and you have to share the top,” observes music expert Fabien Lecoeuvre. Subsequently, Michel Berger will be the favorite composer of all his wife’s albums. Among the notable successes of France Gall, born under the pen of her husband, we find titles like Resist and Diego libre dans sa tête (1981), Babacar and Ella, elle l’a (1987) without forgetting Obviously (1988).
From the 1970s to today, Michel Berger has marked the generations with his music with his wife. With Planet, Marine assures that “the couple he formed with France Gall helped him a lot in his career. In my opinion, he is a composer who is known thanks to his companion and his notoriety”, notes the young woman. For those who witnessed her notoriety like Pauline, the retiree is still marked by her music. “These tubes rocked my life and I still listen to them often with my family”.
The artist duo also remains attached to media life. As Fabien Lecoeuvre observes for us. “It’s a couple that obviously makes you dream because there is a beautiful popular and common story,” he explains, referring to the singer’s place in his life. “She will be his happiness, since he will give everything to France Gall. He will make her become so fashionable that all the girls identify with her in the mid-1970s”.
But, like many stars, the couple has not escaped the setbacks of fame and gossip in showbiz. “Besides, there were gray areas since after the disappearance of Michel Berger and France Gall, tongues were loosened”, explains the famous journalist. However, the singer, husband and father continues to live through his fans and the artists of the French music scene who perpetuate his memory.