Michel Berger: his last love, his last secrets

IHe met them when they started, when Michel Berger found the singer he was waiting for in France Gall … At the time, Yves Bigot was a rock journalist, he was working on Europe 1 when the couple came to introduce themselves and made contact. Yves Bigot will follow their career at the forefront, a musical decade in osmosis with the French, marked by several hits, “Resist”, “He played piano standing”, “Calypso”, “Babacar”, “Ella, Elle l ‘a” … In the early 1990s, the duo broke up, Michel wanted to divorce and start a new life. In a new version of his biography devoted to the singer, Yves Bigot returns to the musician’s last secrets.

Point: Who is Beatrice Grimm, who is nearing the end of Michel Berger’s life?

Yves Bigot: When he meets her, she is not thirty years old. He meets her for a dinner hosted by Jean-Paul Baudecroux, the head of NRJ, which France Gall also attends. She is a German top model, tall blonde, blue eyes, former mistress of Rod Stewart, who works with the greatest photographers. She frequents the artistic world and wants to go to music.

The story could have ended there, but they meet again …

Fate gets involved as she lives in Paris on the corner of the passage where Michel and France have their studio in the Batignolles district … They talk, get to know each other. And seen again in 1991, when Michel is in Los Angeles to create and produce an American rock band. He’s looking for voices, he’s auditioning, and he’s calling Beatrice … She’s rehearsing with him “You’ve Got a Friend,” a huge hit sung by James Taylor. This is where their story really begins, it will last almost 18 months until the singer’s sudden death in August 1992.

We have the impression that Michel Berger at that time was at a crossroads, both emotionally and professionally …

He stands at a crossroads in his life. He had confided in some of his friends that he had a harder and harder time finding new ideas in music, that he wanted to switch to image and cinema – he also started making music videos. He had in his drawers a movie that he called Cherokeethen Totemthe story, it seems, about Indians getting lost in the urban jungle … He had just sold his musical versions to start producing, first with this rock band, but also with the English version from starmaniabaptized Tycoonas he searched for international votes between Los Angeles and London.

Did he consider leaving France Gall for Béatrice?

That’s what the evidence suggests. At least that’s what Beatrice Grimm wanted and hoped for. And apparently Michel was planning to settle in the United States. He was looking for a school for his children, but he was also looking in Switzerland … You have to understand that Michel shared his life and his conversations with everyone very well. He managed his relationships and his projects in his own way, very discreetly. I can well imagine that he explored several hypotheses at that time.

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Did France Gall know about the existence of this relationship?

Yes, she knew she was talking about it with certain close relationships, but it was especially not necessary that this business be rumored. It was necessary to preserve the children, but also the show-biz image of the duo so popular, ideal couples, untouchable in the eyes of the French. But France also had its own adventures … And she no longer liked what Michel was doing at the time, she criticized him a lot.

Some even go so far as to say that he was so torn by these life choices that he did not want to decide and let go …

But at that time, they released a new album, Double dealer

A strange album where there is no love song, the album of the end somewhere … For the first time France is co-producer, she makes him drool, everyone agrees to say he was there a bad mood during the recording and the campaign. Which does not mean that the couple would not have given each other a chance, it is hard to say what Michel would have done in the end. He suddenly left, at the age of 44, an age where one should not die … The day before he had just received a phone call from Luc Plamondon telling him that “The World Is Stone”, hit from starmania covered in English by Cyndi Lauper, had entered the UK charts. His wildest dream came true …

Changing privacy, new professional challenges … Some say the stress ended up killing him.

It is true that Michel was at a crucial time in his life. He was certainly plagued by a form of guilt: his daughter, Pauline, is ill and condemned, she has cystic fibrosis, it was not time to leave … Leaving France Gall also breaks an intimate and artistic, long and complex , it must have been unbearable for him. We also need to add production of Tycoon, occupying his time and his thoughts … All his friends say he had changed physically: they found him exhausted, stressed, began to feel uncomfortable. Some even go so far as to say that he was so torn by these life choices that he did not want to decide and let go …

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In addition, the death of his father, Professor Jean Hamburger, six months before his own death. With which there remained a heavy strife …

We can not understand Michel Berger without knowing this story: this father, scientific authority, triple academic, pioneer in nephrology, but frankly undrinkable, who drops his family overnight under the pretext of memory loss after a heavy operation. He says bluntly that he no longer recognizes them and starts his life again. Michel is six years old, it is an emotional earthquake, for him as for the family. He will always live with this feeling of abandonment, the idea that everything is fleeting, temporary, that everything can stop. When her father died, they had seen each other again, but never really got in touch again. His death can not leave him indifferent, it assumes that their relationship can no longer be repaired.

Wasn’t Jean Hamburger proud of his son’s success?

He hated when people reminded him that he was the father of Michel Berger because he felt it humiliated him … For him, it must have been a shame to have a son in showbiz! Jean Hamburger was an ingenious guy, but so polar, condescending, almost disembodied. He went so far as to make his children hereditary, yet another violence for Michel.

To leave France Gall was also to reproduce somewhere the father’s forgiveness …

He must have had a hard time letting go of everything he felt responsible for. It must be understood that Michel was a straight man, with a real Protestant ethic, equipped with a real moral compass, all this should work on him … The fact is that he died in Saint-Tropez in the arms of France, and not with Beatrice. Who will not attend the funeral, unlike Véronique Sanson, invited by the family … For Beatrice, it is also a total breakdown, they were very much in love: In her apartment in Santa Monica, she suddenly stands with Michels things, her clothes, her piano, she does not know what to do with them …

What’s left of Michel Berger today?

rock opera starmaniathe album Rock’n Roll Attitude by Johnny, “Personal Message” with Françoise Hardy, a magnificent song … And this artistic couple with France Gall: they were in perfect symbiosis, a musical participation, an identical phrasing … Michel made them spokesman for young French girls , of an entire generation. That’s what’s left.

Read : Michael Bergerby Yves Bigot, Editions du Seuil.

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