Born: Jan 1, 1939 in Ismailia, Egypt
Died: Mar 11, 1978 in Paris, France
Styles: French Pop.
Along with Johnny Hallyday, Claude Francois was one of the biggest stars of French rock & roll, emerging during the so-called "ye-ye" movement of the early '60s. Like Hallyday, his early success came mostly from French adaptations of English-language rock and folk hits, rather than from original material written specifically for him. However, his image - immaculately coiffed hair and glitzy sequined suits - played just as big a role in his popularity, and made him a major teen idol in his heyday, when fans dubbed him "Clo-Clo." He dressed his much-imitated quartet of backup dancers, the Clodettes, in even more flamboyant costumes (some self-designed), which gave his act a definite kitsch appeal and became a visual signature for much of his career. Appropriately for the singer who recorded the original version of the song that became "My Way," Francois lived the outsized life of a star, cycling through a series of high-profile affairs and acquiring a reputation for being extremely difficult to work with. Despite continued popularity, he endured a run of bad personal luck in the '70s that culminated in his freak accidental death at only 39 years old, electrocuting himself in the bathtub while changing a light bulb.Claude Marie Antoine Francois was born on February 1, 1939 in Ismailia, Egypt, where his French-born father worked as a shipping traffic controller on the Suez Canal. His Italian-born mother encouraged him musically, getting him into violin and piano lessons; Francois preferred the drums, however. When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, Francois and his family were repatriated to France, settling in Monte Carlo. His father fell seriously ill not long after, and Francois was forced to get a job and help support the family. He worked in a bank by day, but soon caught on as a drummer with local orchestras on the hotel and nightclub circuit. He made his professional debut with Louis Frozio in 1957, over his father's strenuous objections. Around 1959, Francois started to try his hand at singing, and proved a hit with resort audiences around the French Riviera. In 1961, he and his first wife moved to Paris.Francois found a gig performing with Les Gamblers, but soon decided to embark on a solo career, hoping to take advantage of the rock and roll fad emerging among the youth of Paris. Still in 1961, he landed a record deal and issued a debut single, "Nabout Twist," under the name Koko. It flopped. However, his second release, an Everly Brothers adaptation retitled "Belles, Belles, Belles," was a million-selling smash for Philips in 1962. Adopted as a teen idol by the French music press and the popular Salut Les Copains show, he scored several more hits over the next year, including "Marche Tout Droit," "Pauvre Petite Fille Riche," "Dis-Lui," and the late-1963 chart-topper "Si J'Avais un Marteau" (a French version of "If I Had a Hammer"). Thus established as a star, Francois embarked on a headlining tour of France in 1964, and wound it up with an appearance at the famed Olympia theater in Paris.Francois recorded prolifically during the mid-'60s, cranking out single after single and adaptation after adaptation. He added the first version of the Clodettes to his stage show in 1966, which gave him a whole new appeal in concert, and mounted another hugely successful tour. By now long since separated from his first wife, he had a brief and well-publicized romance with singer France Gall in 1967. In the aftermath of the breakup, he co-wrote and recorded a song called "Comme d'Habitude," which was later adapted by Paul Anka into the English-language pop standard "My Way." Francois started his own Fleche label in 1968, the same year he had the first of two children with a new girlfriend.Francois continued to perform and record with considerable success for the next few years, but broke down and collapsed on-stage in 1971 during a concert at Marseille. He recuperated in the Canary Islands for a short time, and returned to France only to break several bones in a serious car accident. In 1972, he discovered songwriter Patrick Juvet, who composed his smash hit "Le Lundi au Soleil"; however, more bad luck followed, as Francois was found to owe more than two million francs in back taxes. He had several more hits in 1973, the biggest of which was "Ca S'en Va et Ca Revient," but suffered more misfortune when the windmill at his country home caught fire, and when he was accidentally head-butted by a fan during another concert at Marseille.Francois had a huge hit in 1974 with "Le Telephone Pleure," which when translated into English (as "Tears on the Telephone") gave him his first U.K. chart single. While in the U.K. on a promotional tour in 1975, he narrowly avoided being killed by an IRA bombing. By this time, he had solved some of his financial problems by acquiring a couple of magazines (one teen-oriented, one with adult nude photography) and a modeling agency. In 1977 he reinvented himself as a disco singer with the smash hits "Alexandrie, Alexandra" and "Magnolias Forever," two of the most enduringly popular songs of his career (and enhanced live by the Clodettes' disco routines). Sadly, they would also be the last. On March 11, 1978 - not long after taping a U.K. TV special - Francois was taking a bath at his Paris apartment when he noticed that the overhead light bulb needed changing. He stood up to do so, still standing in water, and was fatally electrocuted. News of his death was met by an outpouring of grief from French music fans, who continue to enjoy much of his latter-day work.
- Steve Huey (All Music Guide)
Claude Marie Antoine Francois was born in Egypt, on the first of February 1939.His father was French, and he worked on the Suez Canal, he was a strict man with his children, but he loved them. His mother was Italian, and in comparison was much more relaxed with her children, and she was very close to Claude, in fact Claude later was to say that she was his best friend. Claude had one sister, Marie-Jose, he called her Josette.
Rather than go to school, Claude liked to play in the streets with the Arab boys, and sometimes he had fights with them, for example, Claude gave a poor Arab boy some money, so that he could buy food, however the boy spent the money on a toy, Claude hit the boy for being stupid, as he had meant the money for food, Claude apologised for his bad behavior, and gave the boy a box of his toys, and they were friends again.
When Claude was in school he was a very clever student. His mother was very musical, and sent Claude for violin and piano lessons, but Claude's first love was playing the drums. He was also very athletic, he won a running championship at school,and his trophy was presented by Colonel Nasser, and there was a big party afterwards.
In 1956 the family had to leave Egypt, due to it being nationalized. Claude was 17 years old, and unhappy about leaving Egypt and his friends. They returned to france and settled on the Riviera.
On their return to France life was hard, as they had very little money, and for a short time Claude worked in a bank. His father became very ill, and Claude worked hard to provide money for food and medicine.
He started to play the drums with orchestra's in big hotels. He saw how the rich and famous lived, they left money tips on tables for the waitressess, that was for more than Claude earned for the night.
He went into the kitchens, and saw food on plates that was being wasted, so he put plastic bags in his suit pockets before he left home, and put the left over food in his pockets, to take home for his mother. Eventually he began to sing with the bands and earned a little more money.
He decided to go to Paris to further his career.
Claude recorded his first disc called 'Nabout Twist', which was not very successful. Then came the big success he wanted in October 1962 with the song 'Belles, Belles, Belles', it sold 1.7 million records.
This launched a fabulous career he was later to found his own record label 'Fleche'.
He made spectacular programs for television, designing many of the sets, and contributed towards the scripts. He went on tour with his shows with his backing dancers 'The Claudette's'. The spectacle was lavish, with amazing dance routines, for which he did some of the choreography, and they wore fantastic costumes, which he sometimes designed himself.
In 1967 he recorded a song called 'Comme d'habitude', which he also co wrote the words and music for. Paul Anka heard the song and wrote new lyrics for it in English, it was to become one of the most famous songs in the world, it is the song 'MY WAY', and Claude was very proud of it.
In 1974 the record 'Le Telephone Pleure sold more than 2 million copies.
Claude came to the United Kingdom in 1975 and released 'Tears on the Telephone', which was in the U.K. charts at number 35. He was on quite a few television programmes in the U.K. and was becoming very popular, and in January 1978 had his own show at the Royal Albert Hall.
On March 9/10 in Switzerland, he recorded a television special for the United Kingdom, and he was very pleased with it.
The next day March 11 1978 after returning home to France, he was preparing to go to yet another television recording, and he decided to have a bath. After bathing he noticed a light bulb over the bath needed changing, and with his feet still in water, reached up to remove it. He was to suffer a fatal electric shock.
The news of his death came as a terrible shock to his family, and his fans, and he is mourned to this day.
But I, and I am sure you too, will celebrate the fact, that he has left us the great legacy of his music, which will continue to give enormous pleasure to fans, old and new.