Graeme Allwright's life story is quite remarkable. He was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1926 (same year as Miles Davis). After gaining a scholarship to a drama school in London, he followed his heart to France in 1948, where he settled with his first wife.
Working daytime in the various odd jobs that are often the fate of long-term anglo-saxons in France, he started exploring the music of 1960s singer-songwriters - notably adaptations into French of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. In 1966, at the age of 40, he got a record deal (there's still hope!), and his first disc was a hit in France. Allwright's music successfully bridged the worlds of Woodstock and the heated days of the événements in France in 1968. Further hit songs followed, and he became a star throughout the francophone world. For an anglophone from the far side of the world, to gain recognition in the tight circle of chanson française was a significant achievement.
Of course, nobody knows who he is in his native land, and Graeme's tour to New Zealand in 2005 (aged 78) is effectively the first time he has performed in this country as a recognised artist. He's assembled a great kiwi band for the tour, including pianist Jonathan Crayford and the very original saxophonist Lucien Johnson.
Graeme Allwright - Suzanne
From Le Jour de clarté: Polygram 536 163-2 [Buy]
Graeme Allwright - La Marseillaise
[zipfile including lyrics and mp3]
The songs here give you a good idea of his style. Suzanne (by Leonard Cohen) is one of his great hits. And this cheeky kiwi has even dared to play with La Marseillaise, re-working the lyrics to aspire to more than blood and guts. Perhaps these represent new valeurs républicaines for the 21st Century...?
Pour tous les enfants de la terre
Chantons amour et liberté.
Contre toutes les haines et les guerres
L'étendard d'espoir est levé
L'étendard de justice et de paix.
Rassemblons nos forces, notre courage
Pour vaincre la misère et la peur.
Que règnent au fond de nos coeurs
L'amitié la joie et le partage.
La flamme qui nous éclaire,
Traverse les frontières
Partons, partons, amis, solidaires
Marchons vers la lumière.
© 2005, Graeme Allwright - Sylvie Dien