This will be his 11th participation in the Francofolies, an absolute record: Bernard Lavilliers remembers his “crazy days” at the festival, like singing from the top of La Rochelle’s ramparts or with 1,789 children.
It is one of the images that created the legend of “Francos”. Edition 1989: Lavilliers, white shirt and acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder, climb to the top of the walls of the harbor of La Rochelle. He sings “La lamente de Mandrin”, a traditional song about an 18th century Robin Hood-style smuggler.
“Everyone is afraid I’m going to break my face, but I’m kind of Belmondo, I love to climb everywhere,” the artist recalls to AFP, who was reached by phone before his visit to Francofolies on Friday.
“When I sang from the top of the violence, I had been thinking about it for a long time. It was a sporting thing, but it was worth it.” This is not the only one of his “crazy days”, as he says, at the Charente-Maritime festival.
It must be said that Lavilliers is encouraged in his folly on “Francos” by the creator of the event, a relative, Jean-Louis Foulquier (disappeared in 2013).
“It was Jean-Louis’ madness that made this festival possible, it was a colossal challenge when he created it in 1985,” the singer-adventurer insists.
– “I’ll leave you the keys” –
The two men are behind an insane spectacle, still in 1989, the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. Lavilliers sings one of his pieces, “Black and White”, accompanied by 1,789 “children” from several French-speaking countries, in the courtyard of the Elysée in the presence of the President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, then the next day at The Francophiles.
“From any country, from any color / Music is a cry that comes from within”, therefore sounds first at the Presidential Palace. “Mitterrand asks me: + Do you have one more? +. I answer him: + We had talked about a single song +. He says to me: + Give it back +. We sing it again while he beats time at.” on the head (laughs) ‘.
“So to go to La Rochelle, all the kids took the train, quickly transformed with them into a disco, as Jean-Louis told me,” reports the one who republishes part of his discography on vinyl (starting with “Les barbares “and” 15th round “on 5 August).
Lavilliers, 75 today, is not from the first edition of the festival, but from the second, in 1986.
“Jean-Louis told me: + I’ll leave you the keys one night, you’re doing your program +. It was great,” says the artist.
The night vibrates to Caribbean, African and Brazilian rhythms with Malavoi, Mory Kanté, Les Etoiles and Manu Dibango.
– “A bit drunk” –
“Les Etoiles were two Brazilians disguised as women singing magnificently. I had known them in a small Parisian cabaret, Discofagen, and there they stood on the big stage in + Francos +”, Lavilliers recalls.
“They were a little drunk. It’s a shame, but everyone was a little drunk at + Francos + in those years (laughs)”.
He has only fond memories of La Rochelle. Except maybe in 1987. The festival celebrates Léo Ferré in his presence. “It was me who introduced Ferré, my friend, to Foulquier: I did not attend this evening because singers attended it, which I did not like, but I was angry with myself afterwards.”
In La Rochelle, Lavilliers remains attentive. In recent years, he discovered artists like Pauline Croze or Feu! Chatterton. And can always surprise, as in 2016 with a reread of his 1979 album “Pouvoirs”.
Why ? “Everyone is talking about this album, but no one has bought it,” he says mockingly.
At least he’s on “Francos” like home. “He’s part of the family long before me,” agrees AFP, the festival’s current boss, Gérard Pont. Who also programs him for his news: “He comes back with elegance and he has a young group that broadcasts”.
Lavilliers defends on stage one last album with the title reflection of global warming, “Under a huge sun”.