Charles Trenet  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Charles Trenet (born Louis Charles Auguste Claude Trénet) (May 18, 1913, Narbonne, FranceFebruary 19, 2001, Créteil, France) was a French singer and songwriter, most famous for his recordings from the late 1930s through the mid-1950s, though his career continued through the 1990s. In an era in which it was exceptional for a singer to write his or her own material, Trenet wrote prolifically and declined to record any but his own songs.

His best known songs include "Boum", "La Mer", "Y'a d'la joie", "Que reste-t-il de nos amours?", "Ménilmontant" and "Douce France". His catalogue of songs is enormous, numbering close to a thousand. While many of his songs mined relatively conventional topics such as love, Paris, and nostalgia for his younger days, what set Trenet's songs apart were their personal, poetic, sometimes quite eccentric qualities, often infused with a warm wit. Some of his songs had unconventional subject matter, with whimsical imagery bordering on the surreal. "Y'a d'la joie" evokes 'joy' through a series of disconnected (though all vaguely phallic) images, including that of a subway car shooting out of its tunnel into the air, the Eiffel Tower crossing the street and a baker making excellent bread. The lovers engaged in a minuet in "Polka du Roi" reveal themselves at length to be 'no longer human': they are made of wax and trapped in the Musée Grévin. Many of his hits from the 1930s and 1940s effectively combine the melodic and verbal nuances of French song with American swing rhythms.

His song "La Mer", which according to the legend he had composed with Leo Chauliac on a train in 1943, was recorded in 1946. "La mer" is perhaps his best known work outside the French-speaking world, with over 400 recorded versions. The song was given unrelated English words and called "Beyond the Sea" (sometimes known as "Sailing") which was a hit for Bobby Darin in the early 1960s and later George Benson in the mid-1980s. Other Trenet songs were recorded by such popular French singers as Maurice Chevalier, Jean Sablon and Fréhel.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Charles Trenet" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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