Michel Polnareff (born 3 July 1944, Nérac, Lot-et-Garonne, France) is a French singer-songwriter, who was popular in France from the mid-1960s until the early 1990s with his penultimate original album, Kāma-Sūtra. He is still critically acclaimed and occasionally tours in France, Belgium and Switzerland.
Michel Polnareff at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in 2007
|Born||3 July 1944|
|Origin||Nérac (Lot-et-Garonne), France|
Biography and career
Resounding beginnings (1966–1973)
Michel was born into an artistic family: his mother, Simone Lane, was a Breton dancer and his father, Leib Polnareff (Russian: Лейб Полнарёв) or Léo Poll was a Russian Jewish immigrant from Odessa who worked with Édith Piaf. He learned piano by age five and was a very good music student. He attended the Cours Hattemer, a private school. He learned the guitar, and after his studies, military service, and a brief time in insurance, he began to play his guitar on the steps of the Sacré Cœur.
In 1965, Polnareff won the Disco Revue prize in Paris. This victory let him record a disc at Barclay, but as part of the counterculture he turned down this opportunity. It was Lucien Morisse, then director at Europe 1, who made him sign with AZ. His first disc, La Poupée qui fait non (1966), was an unexpected success. Its new musical style and Polnareff's atypical image, crossed borders. During this period, he played concerts in Brussels for one week sharing the bill with Jeff Beck.
An atypical character
Polnareff also played with his image: black glasses, fancy trousers, and ambiguous provocations. His song L'Amour avec Toi could not be played before 10 pm because it was considered "pornographic" at the time in France (the song is mild by today's standards). From 1969 on, Polnareff was hugely successful: tours, music videos, hits. He also became the target of scandalmongers.
Depression and distance
Tragedy struck in September 1970, when his friend Lucien Morisse committed suicide. In the same time, he also suffered a relationship crisis. After a rest period in the Paris area, and long months in isolation healing from his depression, Polnareff gradually resumed touring. His health and his morale improved, but not his sight: he was forced to protect his eyes with thick, dark sunglasses. His problems didn't stop there. In 1972, a promotional poster for his 1972 Polnarevolution tour showed his naked buttocks. Although the scandal benefitted him commercially, it brought censorship and lawsuits.
Exile in the United States (1973–1984)
Then, during a world tour, he learned that Bernard Seneau, his manager, had run off with his money, leaving him broke. Unable to pay his debts, and crushed by the death of his mother, he left France for the United States, where he lived in anonymity. He was joined by his friend, Annie Fargue who became for many years his manager.
Then, in 1975, his song Jesus for Tonight made it onto the American Billboard. He also created the soundtrack for the exploitation rape drama Lipstick (1976), which starred American model Margaux Hemingway and her sister Mariel. But his success in the United States was not as great as in France. Plus, Polnareff had left behind his fellow musicians and the musical community. He discovered a passion for computers. A tour in 1975 brought him to Belgium, where thousands of French fans came to see him. His forced exile did not prevent him from composing, and his albums had various success. But it was Bulles in 1981 that proved that France had not forgotten him.
Return to France (1984–1994)
Polnareff made a surprise return to France in 1989. Without any promotion, "Goodbye Marylou" invaded the airwaves and became a hit. For a year and a half, Polnareff was locked up at Royal Monceau in Paris and recorded Kāma-Sūtra, with Mike Oldfield adding some guitar parts. The album was released in February 1990, met with commercial success and marked Polnareff's true return with hits such as "Kâma Sûtra", "LNA HO" and "Toi et moi".
Rumors spread about his health, and in 1994, he finally decided to have a cataract surgically (and successfully) removed to prevent him from becoming blind.
From The Roxy to Bercy : rebirth (1995–2006)
Polnareff returned to the United States and performed live (for the first time since ages) on 27 September 1995 at The Roxy in Sunset Boulevard with executive-producer / guitarist Dick Smith Dick Smith (Earth, Wind and Fire, Aretha Franklin) and Alex Acuña (Weather Report, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson). The performance was released in 1996 as the ambitious live album Live at the Roxy. The album achieved platinum certification in France. To mark this occasion, the channel Canal + devoted a special to him entitled "À la Recherche de Polnareff" ("In Search of Polnareff"), in which he appeared in military uniform (from whence his recent nickname "The Admiral" may come) and was interviewed in the desert by Michel Denisot. This was followed by an acoustic mini-concert in the middle of the California desert.
Following the media attention in 1995 and 1996, Polnareff could have restarted his career as though nothing had happened. However, his fans still await, almost twenty years later, an album which may never come. However, some of his early songs became popular again, like "La Poupée qui fait non" covered by Mylène Farmer and Khaled (1996), and "On Ira Tous au Paradis", which became the theme song of Restaurants du Cœur in 1998. His 1977 hit "Lettre à France" enjoyed a new success in 2004 following its inclusion on the French version of the Star Academy talent contest.
On 22 November 2004, and again on 18 December 2005, France 3 broadcast a one and a half-hour documentary entitled "Michel Polnareff Dévoilé" ("Michel Polnareff Revealed"). It includes images from rare files mixed with interviews with media personalities like Marc-Olivier Fogiel, Jacques Séguéla, Jean-Luc Lahaye and Frédéric Beigbeder explaining to the televiewers what Michel Polnareff represented for them and for France. Polnareff also revealed that he was working on a new album.
Return to the stage (2007)
On 12 May 2006, Michel Polnareff announced that he would be giving a series of concerts between 2 and 14 March 2007. Ticket sales rocketed, showing that Polnareff has not lost his gleam. On Bastille Day, 2007, Polnareff gave a free concert.
In 2001, death rapper Necro sampled Polnareff's "Voyages" for his song "Light My Fire". English band The Shortwave Set sampled this song as well for their single "Is It Any Wonder?" in 2005. Masher (L)SD sampled "Sous Quelle E'toile Suis Je ne?" for his tune "Howards' Thinking Clearly", on the CD "That's CRAZY Music!" (2005)
The 2004 Korean TV drama "Sorry, I love You" in Korean 미안하다, 사랑한다 ("Mi'an'ha'da, Sa'rang'han'da" or aka "MiSa") soundtrack largely drew from Polnareff songs like "Qui a tué Grand-Maman ?" and "ça n'arrive qu'aux autres". It was aired on channel KBS 2004/11/09~2004/12/28. The soundtrack was released in two commercial CDs.
In the studio (2010–2015)
In 2014, a documentary, called "Quand l'écran s'allume" pictured Polnareff, his partner Danyellah and their son Louka, in theatres first, and on TV a few months later.
At the end of 2014, Polnareff started recording a new album. His long-awaiting fans are really impatient.
New single and new tour (2015–2017)
On 8 December 2015, Polnareff announced the release of his new album in the first half of 2016 (between January and April 2016) and a new tour of 50 dates, mostly in France but also in Belgium and Switzerland, split into two legs : a Summer leg due to start on 30 April 2016 in Epernay and to end on 26 July 2016 (including a four-date stay at the Paris-Bercy Arena in early May 2016 and many appearances at Summer Festivals) and an Autumn leg due to start on 4 November 2016 and to end on 10 December 2016 in Bordeaux.
On 18 December 2015, a week before Christmas, Polnareff released "L'Homme en rouge", the first single from his upcoming album and his first single since 2006 (only as a digital download and on streaming). "L'Homme en rouge" deals with Santa Claus.
In late April 2016, just before the beginning of the tour, Polnareff revealed that the new album was not finished yet, as he's still working on 3 of the 9 announced tracks due to appear on it, that he has planned to play live during the tour a new song from it entitled "Sumi" about his SM experience with a geisha in Fukuoka, Japan and that a song he wrote about his son Louka – simply entitled "Louka's song" – will appear on the new album.
On 28 December 2010, Polnareff's girlfriend Danyellah gave birth to a boy in Los Angeles. On 21 February 2011, Polnareff announced via a Facebook post that a DNA test had revealed that he was not the biological father of the child. A later post indicated that his girlfriend had disappeared with the baby. They were separated for a few months, but are now reunited with their son, Louka.
- His first hit "La Poupée qui fait non" (1966), recorded in London, featured Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as session players.
- He has a namesake in Jean Pierre Polnareff, a character in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, a popular manga series.
- In the Manga One Piece, the Shichibukai Donquixote Doflamingo is based physically on him.
- The lyrics for "Tout, Tout Pour Ma Cherie" are featured in the final volume of Detroit Metal City.
- In 1994, his song La Poupée qui fait non was covered by the British indie-dance band Saint Etienne on their "Hug My Soul" single.
- In 1999, his song "Tout, Tout Pour Ma Cherie" was covered by Japanese dance-pop group Pizzicato Five on their Darlin' Of Discothèque EP.
|1966||Michel Polnareff / Love Me Please Love Me||1||–||–|
|1967||Volume 2 / Le Bal des Laze||3||–||–|
|1975||Fame à la mode||4||–||–|
|1978||Coucou me revoilou||7||–||–|
|1982||Show télé 82/Public (Live)||–||–||–|
|1996||Live at the Roxy (Live)||1||11||–|
|2007||Ze re Tour 2007 (Live)||13||27||69|
|2016||À L'Olympia 2016 (Live)||31
- 1991: La compilation
- 1998: La compilation (re-edition of 1991 release)
- 1997: Les Premières Années
- 1999: Nos mots d'amour (Nos (maux) mots d'amour)
- 2003: Passé présent
- 2004: Passé simple
- 2006: Les 100 plus belles chansons de Michel Polnareff
- 2009: Triple Best of (Michel Polnareff)
- 2011: Le cinéma de Polnareff
- 2016: Polnabest
- 2017: Pop Rock en Stock
Film soundtracks and music for theater
- 45 rpm (4 titles) (EP)
(first two tracks Side A, third and fourth tracks Side B)
- 1966: "La Poupée qui fait non" / "Chère Véronique" / "Beatnik" / "Balade pour toi"
- 1966: "Love me, please love me" / "L'Amour avec toi" / "Ne me marchez pas sur les pieds"
- 1966: "Sous quelle étoile suis-je né?" / "Time Will Tell" / "L'Oiseau de nuit" / "Histoire de cœur"
- 1967: "Ta-ta-ta-ta" / "Rosée d'amour n'a pas vu le jour, rosée du jour n'a pas eu d'amour" / "Le Pauv' Guitariste" / "Complainte à Michaël"
- 1967: "Âme câline" / "Fat Madame" / "Le roi des fourmis" / "Le saule pleureur"
- 1967: "Mes regrets" / "Miss Blue Jeans" / "Dame dame"
- 1968: "Le Bal des Laze" / "Le temps a laissé son manteau" / "Encore un mois, encore un an" / "Y a qu'un ch'veu"
- 1968: "Jour après jour" / "Les grands sentiments humains" / "Pipelette" / "Oh! Louis"
- 1968: "Pourquoi faut-il se dire adieu?" / "Ring-a-ding" / "J'ai du chagrin Marie" / "L'Affreux Jojo"
- 45 rpm (2 titles) (Single)
(first track is Side A, second track Side B)
- 1969: "Tous les bateaux, tous les oiseaux" / "Tout tout pour ma chérie"
- 1969: "La Michetonneuse" / "Dans la maison vide"
- 1970: "Un train ce soir" / "Avec Nini"
- 1970: "Gloria" / "Je suis un homme"
- 1971: "Qui a tué grand-maman?" / "Nos mots d'amour"
- 1971: "Allô Georgina" / "Comme Juliette et Roméo"
- 1972: "Holidays" / "La Mouche"
- 1972: "On ira tous au paradis" / "Je cherche un job"
- 1973: "I Love You Because" / "Rosy"
- 1974: "Tibili" / "La fille qui rêve de moi"
- 1976: "Fame à la mode" / "Wandering Man"
- 1977: "Lettre à France" / "Mademoiselle de"
- 1978: "Une simple mélodie" (with Jaco Pastorius) / "J'ai tant de choses à dire"
- 1981: "Je t'aime" / "Joue-moi de toi"
- 1981: "Je t'aime" / "Tam-Tam"
- 1984: "Viens te faire chahuter" / "Dans la rue"
- 1984: "Y a que pas pouvoir qu'on peut" / "Dans la rue (remix)"
- 1984: "Sur un seul mot de toi (remix)" / "Bronzer vert"
- 1989: "Goodbye Marylou (remix)" / "Goodbye Marylou (remix version longue)"
- 1989: "Toi et moi" / "Dans la rue"
- Singles 1990 onwards
|1990||"Toi et moi..."||—||45|
|1999||"Je rêve d'un monde"||31||20|
|2006||"Ophélie flagrant des lits"||—||28|
|2012||"Lettre à France" (rerelease)||—||93|
- Singles in languages other than French
- 1966: "No no no no" / "Beatnik" (UK)
- 1966: "Meine Puppe sagt non" / "Gammler-Ballade (Beatnik)". (Germany)
- 1966: "Love me, please love me" / "Ich will dich lieben" (Germany)
- 1966: "Love me, please love me" / "Amart" (Spain)
- 1966: "Una bambolina che fa no" / "La lezione del capellone" (Italy)
- 1966: "Love me, please love me" / "Amore con te" (Italy)
- 1967: "La ragazza ta ta ta" / "L'usignolo" (Italy)
- 1969: "Sonne, Wind und Meer" / "Komm, schön ist die Welt" (Germany)
- 1969: "Ame Caline" / "Yippie Yeah" (Italy)
- 1969: "Un amore fa" / "Cherie cherie" (Italy)
- 1974: Polnaréflexions in collaboration with Jean-Michel Desjeunes, Editions Dire/Stock2
- 2004: Polnareff par Polnareff in collaboration with Philippe Manœuvre, Editions Grasset et Fasquelle
- 2013: Le Polnabook, de Michel Polnareff, Editions Ipanéma
- 2016: Spèrme, de Michel Polnareff, Editions Plon
- Christian Eudeline, Derrière les lunettes, ed. fayard, 2013 (ISBN 978-2-213-66680-8)
- Benoît Cachi, Polnaculte : Michel Polnareff vu par ses auteurs et par lui-même, ed. Tournon, 2007 (ISBN 978-2351440360)
- Christophe Lauga, Polnareffmania, ed. Scali, 2007 (ISBN 2350120848)
- Fabien Lecœuvre, Polnareff, la véritable histoire d'une légende, ed. City, 2007 (ISBN 2352880459)
- Philippe Margotin, Polnareff, ed. de la Lagune, 2007 (ISBN 284969049X)
- Fabien Lecœuvre, Michel Polnareff, ed. Vaderetro, 2004 (ISBN 2847630104)
- Edith et ses hommes, By Bernard Lonjon, Editions du moment, 19 Mar 2015
- "Quelques Anciens Celebres". Hattemer. Archived from the original on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- "L'Affaire Derri". TIME. 1 January 1973. Retrieved 3 August 2009.
- "InfoDisc : Bilan par Artiste (Ventes RŽelles des Singles/Titres & des Albums)". Infodisc.fr. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- ""Je n'ai pas annulé un seul concert", assure Michel Polnareff en tournée à partir du 30 avril". RTL. 19 April 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- "Michel Polnareff sort Enfin ! - critique de l'album événement".
- "Enfin !, le nouveau Polnareff entre réjouissances vintage et morceaux pièges".
- "Polnareff et son bébé: colère, chagrin et incompréhension" (in French). Paris Match. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- "MICHEL POLNAREFF, SON "POLNA BB" LUI DONNE ENVIE DE VIVRE" (in French). Paris Match. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- "Michel Polnareff – Enfin!". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- "Michel Polnareff - Olympia 2016 (Live)". www.chartsinfrance.net.