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Thursday, June 1, 2023

the soul of the peasant has joined the earth

Jean-Louis Murat had not chosen his stage name by chance: Murat-le-Quaire was the name of the village where his grandparents owned a farm — isolated. Hailed by the golden triangle of Parisian critics — Release, Telerama, Unbreakable —, Jean-Louis Murat never ceased throughout a career rich in personal productions and collaborations nourished by a great eclecticism — from Mylène Farmer to Indochina — to pay homage to the peasant land which had seen him grow up.

Son of a carpenter-joiner, knitting music as an amateur, and a seamstress, it is in this hamlet overlooking the Bourboule that this singer, born in January 1952 in Chamalières, will have spent a large part of his childhood. It is in his stronghold of Puy-de-Dôme, a farm – isolated – where the wind could have dehorned an ox, that the Auvergnat died this Thursday morning.

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Jean-Louis Murat was actually called Jean-Louis Bergheaud and this is how he deposited his songs at Sacem for a long time to avoid being confused with a namesake. When the radios discover his single If I should miss you in 1987, Jean-Louis Murat is no longer a partridge of the year. As he will often regret, his recognition was late to say the least: at 35, the singer has already nearly put an end to his career on several occasions.

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William Sheller spots him

Introduced to jazz by an English teacher, Jean-Louis Murat has other obligations apart from his musical passion: married at 17, he quickly finds himself a father. He divorced quickly and had to do odd jobs – beach attendant in Saint-Tropez, ski instructor in Avoriaz – to support himself.

The first to notice the young artist was William Sheller: the author of the spiral notebook spotted him in his Clermont group Clara, where Jean-Louis Murat sings and plays both guitar and saxophone. William Sheller will even engage him for a time at his side.

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In 1981, a cover photographed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino presented him for the first time to his public under his solo artist name: under the artistic direction of the eminent Claude Dejacques, this 45-rpm appeared in the record company EMI-Pathé was however struck by bad luck: after complaints from listeners, the song Kill yourself the people are dead is deprogrammed from the Europe 1 station, which fears to see in it an apology for suicide with a audience young.

A six-track EP album, Murat (1982), then an album of twelve tracks, private passions (1984), left little hope for a continuation of his career and, despite the support of Charlélie Couture, who engaged him in the first part of his concerts, his contract was returned to him.

A dual career as singer and composer for others

Three years later, a new artist seems to appear. Signed by the English record company Virgin, Jean-Louis Murat stands out as a hope of the song with his title If I should miss you, first single from the album Cheyenne Autumn, produced with the Clermont musician Denis Clavaizolle.

Julien Clerc is one of the first to solicit the singer, who also turns out to be a revelation as an author: he will cover the song The fallen angel (1988) and will solicit him as star author, alongside Françoise Hardy, on the album Leave me a place. The following opus, The raincoat (1991), confirms its success.

To everyone’s surprise, Jean-Louis Murat then took part in one of the most astonishing collaborations of the moment with the duo. Sorry, sung in 1991 with Mylène Farmer. More than a marriage of convenience, this song blurs the lines between chic taste and popular taste. To this day, this melody remains one of the greatest successes of each of the two artists.

Jean-Louis would repeat the genre ten years later by recording an entire album, this time with the actress Isabelle Huppert, but without experiencing the same public and commercial enthusiasm (Mrs Deshoulieres, 2001).

A frantic pace with one album per year in the 2000s

After a third album entitled Venus (1993), live performances, film music and a tribute to Gérard Manset, under the initiative of Bayon, his friend and journalist at Release, Jean-Louis Murat will publish his masterpiece: Dolores, inspired by his break with his companion and manager Marie Audigier where his poetry is dressed in rhythms between jazz and trip-hop.

The next album, mustango (1999), recorded with the group Calexico in Arizona, is the opposite. Jean-Louis Murat will then enter a phase that is quick to confuse more than one. As if he was trying to make up for time that had been stolen from him, he continues productions and collaborations at a breathless pace: The Moujik and his wife (2002), the double album Lilith (2003), the project Bird on a Pear (2004), like a mischievous nod to Leonard Cohen…

Accumulating, picking up and letting go is my way of being creative

Jean Louis Murat

One hour a day at least, I fill poetry notebooks. Then there is drawing, painting, my diary and my correspondence. I mix it all up. If I hang on a song, I draw, and each activity vivifies the other. Accumulating, taking on and letting go of ballast, that’s my way of being creative, being overcreative like an overactive child. For my grandfather, it was infinitely more serious to be a slacker than to be a criminal. I kept it as an obsession. I feel guilty. Before going to bed, I must have completed the specifications. So I will not make one drawing but a hundred. It’s a neurosis, my way of surviving.” he explained in Release when the album is released Lilith.

The public struggles to follow and the promotion of these albums published at a Stakhanovist pace too. From Jennifer Charles, of the New Yorkers Elysian Fields, to the singers Camille and Carla Bruni, the singer nevertheless has many free and inspired collaborations.

Uncomfortable on TV sets, he unwittingly becomes a media animal, sharp with his outspokenness. With him, from Renaud to Johnny Hallyday, the competition takes for his rank. We would almost forget that the Auvergnat continues to release excellent albums at an ever frenetic pace, while raising his two youngest children, Justine and Gaspard, young adults and teenagers today.

Last delivery date, The Real Life of John Buck (2021). On tour, the singer was about to see his first best-of out tomorrow. The Pias record company had decided to reissue its entire catalog. As the best portrait of this iconoclastic artist.

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