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Jean-Claude Vannier

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A vitally important figure on the French music scene, Jean Claude Vannier is best known for the work he's done with other people, but his list of collaborators is stellar, and includes Serge Gainsbourg, Michel Legrand, Johnny Hallyday, Jane Birkin, Mort Shuman, Françoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan, and many more. Vannier was born in 1943 in Courbevoie, Hauts-de-Seine, while the town was waiting out an air raid. A self-taught musician, Vannier began playing the piano when he was 18, and learned the basics of arranging and orchestration from reading a book in the Que Sais-Je? ("What Do I Know?") series of instruction manuals. A meeting with flautist Roger Bourdin led to a job working at the Pathe Marconi recording studio, where he was an assistant and session musician, and Vannier soon put his new skills to work writing and arranging material for pop singers Alice Dona and Michel Magne. By the early '70s, Vannier was one of the top arrangers and studio players in French pop music, composing and orchestrating Serge Gainsbourg's La Histoire de Melody Nelson, Jane Birkin's Di Doo Dah, Françoise Hardy's Message Personnel, and dozens of other recordings of note. Vannier also enjoyed a successful career writing music for films; beginning with Jacques Poitrenaud's Qu'est-Ce Qui Fait Courir les Crocodiles in 1969, Vannier composed the scores for dozens of movies and television projects. In 1972, he recorded his first solo album, an eccentric instrumental song cycle titled L'Enfant Assassin des Mouches ("The Child Killer of the Flies"), which was accompanied by a short story by Gainsbourg; the album went unreleased for years, but became an underground legend thanks to the distribution of a handful of promo copies, and finally received an official release in 2003. Vannier continued to record in a more traditional singer/songwriter fashion through the '70s and '80s, and as French pop gained a new audience among American record collectors and tastemakers, Vannier's work slowly began to find an appreciative audience in the United States. In 2011, he made a rare appearance in the United States, conducting the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra for a special concert of the music of Serge Gainsbourg, and he released two albums stateside — Electro Rapide, a collection of unreleased recordings from the '60s and '70s, and Roses Rouge Sang, his first studio recording of new material since 1990.

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1943 à Bécon-les-Bruyères, France

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