Friday, 25 January 2013

Torch Song

Your never too late to learn something new, and I have to admit I have heard of few French singers, 'Maurice Chevalier', 'Johnny Hallyday', 'Sasha Distel 'and 'Edith Piaf' and that's about it, so the name 'Barbara' (which was her stage name) or 'Monique Serf' which was her birth name, was a new one to me.

Barbara aka Monique Serf

Apparently, outside the confines of the English speaking world, she was something of a continental superstar in both France and Germany until her recent death ..... she was mainly lauded for her role in helping the French and German nations to start the process of reconciliation after the second world war, by renditions of her French / German songs, particularly her songs about a German town called Göttingen which she visited soon after the war and loved.

What made this all the more remarkable was that as a French Jew, she had been forced to flee from the Nazis, and had to hide from them throughout the war years, with certain death her fate if they caught her family ......... now there's a street (Barbarastraße) named after her. Here's her singing on YouTube.

See, bet you weren't expecting to learn about a new singer when you came here today.


  1. No, Barbara was also famous in Japan, Canada, Israel, Holland, Portugal, Romania, all the countries where she toured. But not in England. I wonder why...She is, with GRIBOUILLE and EVA, the best french speaking female songwriter, ever.

    1. We don't take to 'Continental' singers much in the UK .... this is probably because we look to the English speaking world of the US, Canada, and Australia for our influences. We also barely speak English ourselves, so occasionally songs in French will break through, but never a German song. I expect that this is our loss, but it was ever thus

    2. We have never really had a tradition or a niche for 'torch singers' in the UK - ubnlike on the continent, or even the USA. Maybe its down to interpretation of what is a 'torch singer' as I have seen Susan Boyle and Amy Winehouse categorised as torch singers (which I wouldn't do).

      Certainly a woman singing about the sad or dark side of romance in a soulful manner may have its followers in the UK, but the singers never seem to hit mainstream in the UK, in the same manner as Édith Piaf or Barbara for example did on the continent.

    3. Well, I can only say that I had barely heard of the term 'Torch Singer' until recently when researching for posts elsewhere and I came across the name of Helen Morgan, a 1920's Torch Singer from the Chicago area. So I guess that explains partly why we don't take to them much .... ignorance


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