French Sinatra

2 minute read

Many of the people who crowded into Manhattan’s red candy-striped Embassy Club, where it costs $2.50 for a hamburger, didn’t understand a word he sang. But the Sinatra of France, handsome, flaxen-haired Charles Trenet, was a big hit, regardless. In the audience, and clapping hard, were such diverse celebrities as Lana Turner and Leon Henderson. The language of mugging, strutting and rolling the eyes was universal, as Maurice Chevalier discovered before him. After four encores. Fiance’s No. i crooner bubbled in French: “In France they understand what I sing. Here they understand me.” He took three showers “to calm down.”

Trenet is just 30, six feet tall, and built like a halfback. His creamy tenor occasionally softens to a bedroom whisper, but usually it is roguish and rolling. As he sings, he twists and crumples a battered felt hat. That was how he began ten years ago in Paris’ Bohemian cabaret Le Boeuf sur le Toit (The Ox on the Roof). Soon he was earning more on the radio and in the music halls than Chevalier. During the war he sang for French prisoners in Germany. He looks well-fed; as he explains it, “there is always a crust of bread for a good-looking boy.”

G.I.s in Paris brought back news of Trenet. Others heard of him in Erich Maria Remarque’s Arch of Triumph (TIME, Jan. 28), whose hero listened to Trenet on a taxicab radio. The advance buildup was so good that Trenet was signed by the Embassy Club for what amounts to about $6,500 a week. He is a bachelor.

This week Trenet sang some of his songs in a Gallic English. As translated by Broadway Lyricist Harold (Pins and Needles, Call Me Mister) Rome, J’ai ta Main lost most of ifis charming mystery, sounded like dozens of other Tin Pan Alley banalities:

“Here we go, holding hands,

Just like kids, you and I,

In a glow, holding hands,

As the hours go by. . . .”*

*Copyright 1945 by Leeds Music Corporation, New York, N.Y. Reprinted by permission of copyright owner.

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