It’s the story of a meeting between two icons of variety. On one side, the author-composer and performer 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 renowned for singing about love will suffer several romantic disappointments.
In 1965, France Gall achieved great success thanks to her victory in the Eurovision contest with the title Poupée de wax, doll of sound. While a great career beckons 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 under the spell of 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 released in 1972. But their sudden breakup made him feel depressed. “Michel Berger falls into a form of post-depression. A very complicated kind of burnout,” says music 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-partner fled to the United States with his new love, the American Stephen Stills, Michel Berger was inspired by this separation to relaunch his singing career. In 1973, his first eponymous studio opus, also called Chagrin d’amour, was released by Warner. As he prepares to release his second album Songs for a Fan, one of his tracks will capture the attention of a very special admirer.
In the summer of 1973, Michel Berger presented the single Listen to Music, taken from this upcoming second album. A piece that appealed to the public, and in particular France Gall, who heard it for the first time on the radio while driving her car. “She found her voice extremely disturbing and moving,” her friend and journalist Fabien Lecoeuvre tells us.
While she was going through a slump in her career at this time, France Gall took her destiny into her own hands 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 show, also hoping to approach 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 wait 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. Alas, Michel Berger prefers to decline the invitation and postpone this moment until later. It’s a poor idea to know the singer who shows obstinacy. “I arrived at his house eight days later, I played him the tape. He told me it was rubbish.” Another disillusionment for the singer of Sucettes. But his first meeting will nevertheless prove fruitful. “We started a dialogue that never stopped.”
In 1974, Michel Berger and France Gall learned to know each other through music. For Fabien Lecoeuvre, the singer’s flair has never failed him to detect the talent of an artist. “Beyond being an immense performer, she is a woman of instinct. She immediately perceived that in Michel Berger,” said the author for Planet. “She thought he had very avant-garde words for the year 1973-1974.”
Michel Berger first suggested that the singer use her voice on Mon fils ira du rock’n roll, released on his album Chansons pour une fan. This rapprochement is just as beneficial for the author and composer who heals from his separation. “It’s a beautiful story of friendship that turned into a love story,” the CNEWS host tells us. While she separated from Julien Clerc during this period, France Gall saw her career relaunched with the most beautiful song written by Michel Berger, La Declaration of Love.
“I played a lot of piano, he made me sing things. And, he had written a song for him called ‘The Declaration’, which he gave to me instead of singing it himself”, remembered the singer in 2015 for Europe 1, relayed in particular by Marie Claire. The first success in a long list which will breathe new life into their relationship.
For fans, this alchemy between the two soul mates is more than obvious. “France Gall and Michel Berger are linked by music and love,” confesses Pauline, a retired accountant. “It’s a couple that made me dream. I 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. It 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 declaration of love to commitment, there is only one step for Michel Berger and France Gall. But… How can you 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 started 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 talking about himself a lot. He lived in his inner world, I in mine,” admitted his widow France Gall in 2012 for Paris Match. For some admirers, the creator of the rock opera Starmania was above all a man of music and not of the tabloids. “When I learned to discover him, I didn’t know his personal life at all. I was very focused on his songs and not his private life,” admits Anne-Laure, head of talent acquisition for a start-up. -up.
Five years after the death of Michel Berger, his daughter Pauline suddenly disappeared at the age of 19 as a result of cystic fibrosis, leaving behind her brother Raphaël and their mother France Gall. The latter having now died, only their son Raphaël remains to watch over his parents’ work. Raphaël Hamburger, the real last name of Michel Berger, has made a point of remaining discreet about his life.
In 2015, France Gall spoke about his daily life as a music producer in the columns of Paris Match. “He has just bought a recording studio, he created a radio station, a record label, and he supervises film scores” , she explained, affirming that he did not want to be famous. Now 42 years old, Raphaël continues to be involved in all artistic projects linked to his parents.
As La Dépêche recalled, he would have been the initiator of the second version of the musical comedy Starmania in 2022. As for his sentimental life, he would have been in a relationship with Cécile Cassel, the sister of actor Vincent Cassel. Today, he would be the father of a child born from his relationship with a woman whose identity we do not know.
From this first artistic collaboration, France Gall returned to success thanks to this hit from the summer of 1974 which ranked 25th in sales in France. With his new muse, Michel Berger is a hit maker who shapes his artist in his image. As Fabien Lecoeuvre assures us. “He changed his way of singing. Before the famous declaration of love, France Gall did not sing in the same way at all. She got lost in different styles.”
For our reader Pauline, “their collaboration inspires trust 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 think she says it that well. Michel Berger is at the origin of the biggest hits of the singer’s career from the 1980s onwards. The height of irony, the couple of artists together dominate the top of the hit parade with their own song. She defends her piece: He played the piano standing up and he signed the hit of the summer of 1980 with La groupie du pianiste.
“They didn’t stop competing 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 of his wife’s albums. Among France Gall’s notable successes, born from the pen of her husband, we find titles like Résiste and Diego libre dans sa tête (1981), Babacar and Ella, elle a l’a (1987) without forgetting Obviously (1988).
From the 1970s to today, Michel Berger has left his mark on generations through his music with his wife. Speaking to 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 partner and his notoriety”, notes the young woman. For those who witnessed her notoriety like Pauline, the retiree is still marked by her music. “These hits have 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, evoking 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 downside of fame and rumors 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 on through his fans and the artists of the French music scene who perpetuate his memory.