Mouloudji never had fame equal to his talent, his talents. Yet this free and libertarian artist explored many facets of the Arts: theatre, painting, writing and of course music. A man of conviction, Mouloudji remains a man whose work mixed sensitivity and generosity.
Marcel Mouloudji was born in Paris on September 16th, 1922. His father, who was Kabyle, originally came from Sidi Aïch in Algeria. After emigrating to France, he worked as a mason and joined the Communist Party. He married a Breton woman who was a devout Catholic, but who very quickly sank into alcoholism and madness. She would be committed to a mental institution.
The Mouloudji family lived in a humble dwelling in the Nineteenth District of Paris. Marcel went with his father to the Communist Party meetings, a party which he felt close to part of his life. Rather a cute child, he got a role in a film on Ménilmontant at the age of eleven. Besides this, he worked many odd jobs on the street with his brother André such as a singer.
As a teenager, Marcel joined the Faucons Rouges (Red Falcons) an association linked to the Communist Party where he formed a group with his brother. In 1935, he met Sylvain Atkine, a theatre director in the Groupe Octobre, an organisation affiliated with the Fédération des Théâtres ouvriers de France (working class theatre) It was then at only the age of thirteen that he had already met the great names in theatre like Jean-Louis Barrault and Roger Blin.
Quite gifted, the young man was adopted by the theatre world. He was even sponsored by the literary man Marcel Duhamel who introduced him to literature and poetry. Duhamel sent him to work for Jean-Louis Barrault where Marcel lived for a short time. Mouloudji also took classes with Charles Dullin. In 1936, he performed in his first show "Le tableau des Merveilles" inspired by the Spaniard Cervantes and adapted in French by Jacques Prévert. At this time he took part in a large artistic solidarity movement during the great strikes of 1936. This is how with many other artists he played in factories among other places.
In parallel to the theatre, Mouloudji started in cinema. Through Jacques Prévert, he met Marcel Carné who gave him a small singing role in "Jenny" in 1936. He then did one film after another. One of the most famous was "les Disparus de St. Agil" by Christian-Jacque in 1938. At sixteen, Mouloudji was already a star of the screen.
At the beginning of the Second World War, Mouloudji fled to the South of France, to Marseille in the unoccupied zone with the Groupe Octobre. On this occasion, he met the singer Francis Lemarque. Despite the chaos of the time, he continued working. Thanks to his brother André, Mouloudji avoided doing the Service du Travail Obligatoire (Mandatory work service). Quickly, he returned to Paris where he did a ton of odd jobs semi-clandestinely. He sang at the Bœuf sur le Toit and especially discovered the artistic milieu of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Keeping company with the literary world drove him to write "Enrico" his memoires (he was only 20!) which received the Prix de la Pléiade at the Liberation in 1945.
During the war in 1943, Mouloudji met Louise Fouquet, known as Lola, whom he married. She would be his wife and artistic agent until 1969. A versatile artist, he already had many feathers in his cap. Around 1947 he started painting. But above all, he started to become seriously interested in music. In the fashionable cabarets he sang Boris Vian and Jacques Prévert. At the same time, he continued working in cinema and was very present on screen. Some of his films are classics like "Boule de Suif"(Christian-Jacque, 1947) and "Nous sommes tous des assassins"(André Cayatte, 1952). A young star, a known singer, he was sometimes asked to play himself like in "Eaux Troubles" by Henri Calef in 1949.
Music at last
In 1951, Mouloudji recorded his first record with some important songs such as "Rue de Lappe, "Si tu imagines" and "Barbara". It was also at this time that he performed for the first time at Bobino, the great Parisian music hall. Like for many young debutants of the period, it was Jacques Canetti, the famous agent and owner of the Cabaret Les Trois Baudets who led Mouloudji to success. He had him record "Comme un p'tit coquelicot" which had great success and that marked a step in the singer's career. Thanks to this song, Mouloudji received the Grand Prix du disque in 1953 and the Prix Charles-Cros in 1952 and 1953. Same success for "un jour tu verras" in 1954, from the movie "Secrets d'alcôve").
Always politically committed and an ardent pacifist, Mouloudji ran into several problems concerning censorship during the war in Indochina. The item of debate was the song "le Déserteur", obviously anti-military, written and created by Boris Vian. When Mouloudji performed it at the Theatre de l'œuvre the same day as the fall of Diên Biên Phu, it caused an outcry and he became the target of censures and politicians. The song was banned from the airwaves. Only the station Europe 1 played it. This first censuring would follow him later and other songs would suffer the same fate.
In 1955, Mouloudji headlined at the Alhambra. More of a singer, he started writing his own lyrics more and more at the end of the 1950's. This time music took first place in his life. In 1958, he made his last cinema appearances in "Rafles sur la ville" by Pierre Chenal and in a Hispano-Swedish film "Llegaron dos hombres".
In 1960 his son Gregory was born.
Struggles and Convictions
After having signed with Vogue records in 1961, Mouloudji finally created his own record label in the form of a cooperative. This was how in 1965 he launched Graeme Allwright, a young New Zealander living in France. Not inclined to melt into the record industry, Mouloudji didn't have the success that he had in the Fifties in cinema. In 1966, he even opened a hair salon.
When the events of May '68 took place it was the political activist who sang in the factories like in 1936. Remaining honest and not sacrificing his convictions for his career was essential for him. During this time two women entered his life. First Cris Carol, a former singer who became his preferred songwriter for those years and Lilianne Patrick, an actress with whom he would share his life.
In his own way, Mouloudji struggled against the record industry, which didn't leave him any room. After having been the victim of censorship many times, he wrote without worrying about the effect achieved. He knew that in any case, he would be played very little or not at all on the radio. In "Autoportrait" in 1970, he spoke about his mixed blood: "Catholic by my mother, Muslim by my father"; with his remake of "Allons z'enfants" by Vian, he set off to war again against the military. Always present during political combats, he took part in the recording of an album consecrated to songs and poems of the Resistance in 1974. We also heard him on a compilation of workers' songs and another on the Commune, the revolutionary and proletariat insurrection that took place in Paris in 1871. His fight also took place on stage as in the time he participated in a gala supporting the left-wing in Chile in 1974.
Nevertheless, a very faithful public was always lying in wait for his stage performances. This is how in 1974 when he got up on stage at the Théâtre de la Renaissance, it was with joy that he noticed how much enthusiasm awaited him. Ditto in September '75 for his return to the Olympia. He organized several shows consacrated to poets like those of Vieux Colombier on Prevert or Bruant. Parallel to this, he continued to write and record: "Merci la vie" in '74, "Madame la Môme" in '75, "le Bar du temps perdu" in '77 (Grand prix du disque) and "Comme une feuille en automne" in '78. Finally, in 1976, he recorded "Et ça tournait", a musette (accordion music) anthology with the accordionist Marcel Azzola and a record for children entirely composed of texts from Prévert.
In 1980, he released an album "Inconnus Inconnues" and gave innumerable concerts across the country but which the media rarely said a word about. Tired, he dedicated more time to writing and to painting, his former loves. We saw him again on stage in 1987 at Elysée Montmartre.
At the age of Seventy, in 1992 a pleurisy left him without a part of his voice. This didn't prevent him from making an album which wouldn't have the time to see the light of day. In March '94, he was invited to the Chorus des Hauts-de-Seine festival in the Paris region for a tribute. Then he gave a final recital near Nancy in Eastern France in April.
He passed away on June 14th 1994 leaving many projects in progress: the rest of his memoires 50 years after the first volume and a new album. This touching and talented artist leaves us the memory of a man who was loving and faithful to his opinions.
2. Un Jour Tu Verras
3. Les Feuilles Mortes
4. Plaisir D'amour
5. La Complainte De La Butte
6. La Java Des Bombes Atomiques
7. Les Beattles De 40
8. Les Petits Paves
9. Un Petit Coquelicot
10. Allons Z'enfants ''Le Conscrit''
11. Le Temps Des Cerises
12. Rue De Lappe
13. Comme Le Dit Ma Concierge
14. L'un A L'autre Etranger
15. Le Chasseur Francais
16. Si Tu T'imagines
17. En Sortant De L'ecole
18. Tout Fout Le Camp
19. Jean Misere
20. Un Jour Je M'en Irai
2. Mon Pote Le Gitan
3. J'ai Tant Besoin D'amour
4. Enfin Tu Me Viendras
5. Le Deserteur
6. Y A Trop De Tout
7. Les Enfants Qui S'aiment
8. Madame La Mome
9. Une Bonne Paire De Claque
10. A Paris
11. Les Prostituees
12. Comme Une Chanson De Bruant
13. Je Bois
15. La Complainte Des Infideles
16. Faut Vivre
18. Ce Soir La
19. Je Voudrais Tant Prier
20. Si Tu N'en Veux Pas