Welcome, dear visitor!
If you are reading these lines, you are likely to be a non-French speaker looking for information about Jean-Jacques Goldman. Unfortunately, "Parler d'sa vie" ("Talking about his life") is exclusively in French. There are indeed more than 2,800 pages and it would be a horrenduous work to adapt this website to French, not to mention the time it would take to adapt the lyrics to English and still keep them meaningful and nice to read.
The only information I may provide in English is the biography below, that I wrote to allow English speakers to discover the essential aspects of Jean-Jacques Goldman's biography and life. Otherwise, if you would like to get English translations of Jean-Jacques Goldman's song lyrics, please go to my friend Benjamin Broucke's "Jean-Jacques Goldman: Beyond languages" website.
[ Where to start ]
For the last twenty years, Jean-Jacques Goldman has been the most successful French language songwriter and singer, performing his own songs or offering them to performers as diverse as Céline Dion, Johnny Hallyday or Florent Pagny. He is little known outside French-speaking boundaries. Still, "D'eux" (aka "The French album"), the album that he wrote for Céline Dion in 1995, is the French best seller album of all times: more than six million copies in the world, including close to four million copies in France!
This biography was written in English by Jean-Michel Fontaine, and is meant to give you the opportunity to learn more about Jean-Jacques Goldman, in case you do not have the chance to master French. It will perhaps allow you to appreciate his songs even better!
Jean-Jacques Goldman was born October 11th, 1951, in Paris, France, the third of four children. His father, Alter Mojze Goldman, had come to France from Poland at the age of 15. In 1942, Mr Goldman created a Jewish Resistant Organization, for which he was awarded the "Légion d'Honneur" (France's highest national medal) in November 1988, only few weeks before he died. His mother, Ruth, born in Germany, met Alter at the end of World War II and the two married in June 1949. The Goldmans then settled in Montrouge, in the South suburbs of Paris, in 1956.
Between the age of 5 and 17, Jean-Jacques learnt to play the violin and the piano, which allow him to write his own musical arrangements later on, which is quite unique. At the age of 16, Jean-Jacques discovered "Think", by Aretha Franklin, a real electric shock for him. He decided to stop the violin to play the guitar. His first high-school band was called "Phalanster".
After graduating from the lycée in 1969, he prepared for the highly competitive entrance exams to gain entry into the French Business Schools. He succeeded into attending the EDHEC, a prestigious French Business School located in Lille, in the North of France. He graduated in 1973 with his Business School Diploma, along with a Master of Sociology which he earned as a dual degree.
During his military service, he sneaked out at nights to rehearse with a band in which he was the singer and a guitarist. This band was called "Tai Phong" ("Great wind" in Vietnamese), and was created by two Vietnamese brothers. Tai Phong's first album was released in 1975, and the first single, "Sister Jane", became a summer hit in France. Tai Phong's style is progressive rock, akin to Yes or Genesis.
In 1975, Jean-Jacques Goldman married Catherine, who was on her way to become a psychologist. They had three children: Caroline (born in 1977), Michaël (born in 1979), and Nina (born in 1985).
Tai Phong releases two new albums: "Windows" in 1976 and "Last Flight" in 1979. Neither becomes a success. When Tai Phong wants to go on tour in 1978, Jean-Jacques Goldman refuses to go, because he does not want to leave his family. A new guitarist-singer is recruited: Welsh-born Michael Jones, who later on becomes Jean-Jacques Goldman's best friend.
In 1980, Tai Phong break up. Jean-Jacques Goldman goes his own way and tries to become a songwriter. . Unfortunately he is unable to find anyone who is interested in performing his songs. However, EPIC, CBS's new talents label, is interested by Jean-Jacques Goldman's voice. Jean-Jacques Goldman signs a five album deal.
In 1981, Jean-Jacques Goldman's first solo album is released. It should have been called "Démodé" ("Out Of Fashion"), but CBS did not agree to the album's name. It shall bear no name. This album contains 11 tracks, including "Il Suffira D'Un Signe" ("One Sign Will Be Enough"), Jean-Jacques Goldman's first hit.
In 1982, the second album, which should have been called "Minoritaire" ("In The Minority") - a title once again refused by CBS! - is an instant success, as well as the third one, "Positif" ("Positive"), released in 1984. It is high time for his first solo tour, which will be very tough, physically and psychologically. His sister, a physician, prescribed drugs for him to cope with the stress.
1985 is the "Goldman year": his fourth album, released in September, enters the charts at number one, and sells 1.2 million copies in one year! The second single, "Je te donne" ("I give you"), is a bilingual duet with Michael Jones, about respecting differences ("Je te donne toutes mes différences / Tous ces défauts qui sont autant de chances / (…) Tout ce que je vaux, ce que je suis, mes dons, mes défauts / Mes plus belles chances, mes différences": "I give you all my differences / All these defects that are as many chances / (…) All that I am worth, my gifts, my defects / My best chances, my differences"). The song remains number one for eight weeks, and is to this day Jean-Jacques Goldman's greatest success. The tour that follows lasts for more than a year, without any publicity, and for the first time, Jean-Jacques Goldman loves being on stage.
A few weeks later, Coluche, the greatest French stand-up comedian of the 70's and the 80's, asks him to write a song for his new association, "Les Restos du Cœur" ("The Restaurants of the Heart"), that allows the most destitute to eat real meals twice a day during the winter. Jean-Jacques writes the song in one night, and makes another success that has since become a standard: "Aujourd'hui, on n'a plus le droit, ni d'avoir faim, ni d'avoir froid..." ("Nowadays, we don't have the right anymore, neither to be hungry, nor to be cold…").
In 1986, Jean-Jacques realises one of his dreams: he becomes a simple songwriter. But he does not choose just anybody, since he writes an entire album for Johnny Hallyday, the Legend of French Rock 'n Roll. "Gang" becomes Johnny's best seller, with 600,000 copies.
1987 marks a turning point in his career: he releases a double album, "Entre Gris Clair Et Gris Foncé" ("Between Light Gray and Dark Gray") which contains 20 songs, and most people consider this to be his best album. Half of these songs are acoustic, and were recorded live, without keyboards or electronic devices. This double album sells one million copies in one year! Jean-Jacques then tours world-wide doing 150 concerts (among which one in L.A.'s "Palace" and one in New York City's "Palladium"), including five weeks in Paris in four different concert halls.
This success even attracts the curiosity of the American media: "Billboard", the legendary American Music Magazine, devotes a special "starfile" to Jean-Jacques Goldman in March 1988.
In 1990, all the songs that he has been writing are either duets or trios. He decides to create a new band, Fredericks-Goldman-Jones, with Carole Fredericks, an African-American native of Springfield, Massachusetts, who had participated in the last tour, and the unavoidable Michael Jones. Their first album is released in December 1990. If the audience is somewhat surprised by these changes, they do not prevent the album from selling a million copies in the first year.
At the end of 1991, an 8 CD package covering his career from 1981 to 1991 is released. The trio goes on a world-wide tour again.
In 1993, he writes "Il me dit que je suis belle" ("He Tells Me I Am Pretty") for Patricia Kaas; this song is his first success as a songwriter under an assumed name. Indeed, since the early 80's, Jean-Jacques Goldman had occasionally written songs under pseudonyms.
"Rouge" ("Red"), his second album with Fredericks-Goldman-Jones, is released at the end of 1993. It is a "concept-album" that marks the end of communism, but not the end of the ideals, which were noble. The first single, "Rouge" ("Red"), features the Choirs from the former Red Army!
In 1994, he writes two hits under a pseudonym for Florent Pagny: "Est-ce que tu me suis?" ("Do you follow me?") and "Si tu veux m'essayer" ("If you want to try me"). During the annual "Restos du Cœur" evening, he sings "Là-Bas" ("Over There") with Céline Dion, who is not yet the world star that we all know today. Jean-Jacques is at the time writing a whole album for her, "D'eux", which is released in 1995. It has since become the best selling French language album of all times! In France, it remained number one for 44 weeks, and the first single, "Pour que tu m'aimes encore" ("For you to love me again"), was number one for 16 weeks!
That year, he produces a second album for Johnny Hallyday, "Lorada" (this is the name of Johnny's house, based on the names of his children David and Laura), for which he also writes two songs (the rest of the album is signed by Erick Benzi, Jacques Veneruso and Gildas Arzel, the members of the former band "Canada", with whom he became friends at the end of the 80's).
In 1996 and 1997, Jean-Jacques Goldman devotes himself more and more to his songwriting career: he writes "Aïcha" (song of the year at the French "Victoires de la Musique") and "Le Jour Viendra" ("The Day Will Come") for Raï singer Khaled, the music for two songs for his friend Carole Fredericks who releases a solo blues and gospel album in English, two texts and one song for Patricia Kaas's new album, one song for Québécois singer Robert Charlebois…
While the public is waiting for a new album, Sony releases Jean-Jacques Goldman's first best of album, "Singulier" (meaning both "singular" and "peculiar"), a double CD that contains 34 songs, including several unreleased versions.
At the end of August, ten years after "Entre Gris Clair Et Gris Foncé" ("Between Light Gray and Dark Gray"), Jean-Jacques Goldman's new solo album is at last available. "En passant" ("Passing By"), is the album of maturity, grave and nostalgic, where the melancholy of lost youth comes out in most of the themes. It is another turning point in his career. Jean-Jacques touches on his separation from his wife ("Quand Tu Danses" - "When You Dance" - as well as "Les Murailles" - "The Walls"). Only two songs have a definitively more positive feeling: "Bonne idée" ("Good Idea") and "On Ira" ("We'll Go").
From March 1998 to June 1999, Jean-Jacques Goldman tours France, Switzerland, Belgium, Africa, the Indian Ocean and the French West Indies. More than 150 mostly acoustic, intimate concerts, which deeply leave their mark on Jean-Jacques, do not prevent him from taking the time to write a second album for Céline Dion, "S'Il Suffisait D'Aimer" ("If Love Could Be Enough"), as well as new songs for Carole Fredericks, Patricia Kaas and Florent Pagny, and the soundtrack to "Astérix et Obélix contre César" ("Asterix and Obelix vs. Ceasar").
What surprises does Jean-Jacques Goldman still have for us? It is highly unlikely that his new album will come out before 2001, but before that, no doubt that his songwriting career will take more and more room in his life. After all, it was his dream when he began writing songs, and it is now taking shape: more than 40% of the close to 200 songs he wrote were offered to other performers.
If you would like to buy Jean-Jacques Goldman's music, please go to any of the following merchants, depending on where you live:
My personal recommendations for you to discover Jean-Jacques Goldman's music would be to buy:
(1996): A 36 song compilation of his 80's carreer. A must.
2. En passant (1997): His last album to date.
3. Entre gris clair et gris foncé (1987): Considered by many to be his best album. Be sure to get the new, 2 CD-set edition, which contains all 20
songs in their full version.
4. Pluriel (2000). A 16 song compilation of his Fredericks-Goldman-Jones years.
5. L'intégrale 1981-1989: 8-CD set covering his carreer from 1981 to 1989.
6. L'intégrale 1989-2000: 8-CD set covering his carreer from 1989 to 2000.
7. Other JJG albums are "Démodé" (1981), "Minoritaire" (1982), "Positif" (1984), "Non homologué" (1985), "En public" (1986, live album), "Traces"
(1989, live album), "Fredericks-Goldman-Jones" (1990), "Sur scène" (1992, live album), "Rouge" (1993), "Du New Morning au Zénith" (1995, live album).
Personal choice of artists performing songs written by Jean-Jacques Goldman:
If these choices cannot quench your thirst for French music, please find below a personal choice of French-language albums that I would recommend:
Gildas Arzel: Gildas Arzel (1997) (official
Gildas Arzel: Autour de nous (2000) (official website)
Daniel Balavoine: L'essentiel (2 CD best of, 1998) (Daniel Balavoine: le chanteur)
Michel Berger: Celui qui chante (2 CD best of, 1994) (Michel Berger on yahoo.fr)
Patrick Bruel: Alors regarde (1989) (official website)
Francis Cabrel: 77-87 (best of, 1987) (official website)
Francis Cabrel: Samedi soir sur la terre (1994) (official website)
Gérald de Palmas: La dernière année (1995) (official website)
Gérald de Palmas: Marcher dans le sable (2000) (official website)
Stephan Eicher: Hôtel S (best of, 2001) (official website)
Les Enfoirés: La compil (best of, 1996) (official website)
Les Enfoirés: La compil 2 (best of, 2001) (official website)
Olivier Gann: On m'a dit (2001) (official website)
Francis Lalanne: Tendresses (1992) (official website)
Francis Lalanne: Flash back (1994) (official website)
Clarisse Lavanant: Où c'est ailleurs ? (2000) (official website)
Maxime Le Forestier: Mon frère (1972) (official website)
Maxime Le Forestier: Essentielles (best of, 1997) (official website)
Jean Leloup: L'amour est sans pitié (1991) (Jean Leloup: Tout est étrange)
Claude Nougaro: Grand angle (best of, 1994) (Claude Nougaro)
Kevin Parent: Pigeon d'argile (1997) (official website)
Michel Polnareff: La compilation (2 CD best of, 1991) (official website)
Michel Polnareff: Live at the Roxy (live best of, 1996) (official website)
Axelle Red: Sans plus attendre (1993) (official website)
Julien Régnier: La façade est jolie (2002) (official website)
Renaud: The very meilleur (2 CD best of, 1995) (official website)
Alain Souchon: C'est déjà ça (1993) (official website)
Alain Souchon: Collection (2 CD best of, 2001) (official website)
Téléphone: Rappels (2 CD best of, 1993) (Téléphone on yahoo.fr)
Laurent Voulzy: Belle-Île-en-Mer (best of, 1989) (official website)
Laurent Voulzy: Caché derrière (1992) (official website)