She had a taste for words, and twenty-five years later, we still discover her lyrical landscapes. Icon of French song, the one who played the piano as she breathed died on November 24, 1997. She loved to tell her love stories. If some led her to men, others led her to cities. French, Austrian, German… Barbara has built up an intimate and unique cartography over more than forty years of her career. Between Göttingen and Paris, Vienna and Nantes, the lady in black will have especially strolled us through the city of her memories. Follow the leader.
Göttingen, the city of reconciliation
July 1964. Barbara is on tour and her manager wants to schedule her in Germany, in the small town of Göttingen. She, the Jewess, who fled deportation from Nazi Germany, playing with the enemy? No, says the singer. But the director of the Jungen Theater in Göttingen is tenacious, and eventually Barbara will go. The performance is a success. She prolongs her stay, plays eight nights instead of just one, and she falls in love with the city and its “blonde children”. After scribbling the first words of “Göttingen”, she performs this new song on the last evening, in front of a conquered audience.
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Barbara will return many times to the German city and will add the song to her repertoire in 1965 in the album “Le mal de vivre”: a hymn celebrating Franco-German friendship which has remained cult.
Vienna, the dream city
The Vienna that Barbara describes in her love song is less the capital of Austria than an intimate refuge, in which she escapes to escape the worries of life together. Then in a relationship with the musician and accordionist Romain Romanelli, legend has it that after an argument, she would have said to him: “I’m leaving you, I’m going to Vienna for a few days”.
The ballad, which appears in the album “La fleur d’amour” in 1972 tells of her wanderings in Vienna, her pleasure of being there alone then the lack of it, and finally the desire to share with her lover the joys of Austrian life. .
Paris, the mother city
More than Paris, it is the rue Rémusat, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, that Barbara tells. Installed at number fourteen of this street in October 1961 by her lover, Hubert Ballay, the singer had her mother move into the same building a year later. In the song “Rémusat”, Barbara pays homage to this familiar neighbor, who lived close to her until her death in 1967:
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“Me, I left Rémusat/Since you left/It was sad, Rémusat/Since you were no longer there”
Barbara left her home on rue Rémusat in 1968, and it was three years later that she wrote this song. A true declaration of love from a daughter to her mother, she will appear on the album “Incestuous Loves” in 1972.
Précy-sur-Marne, the city of rest
Present on the album “Only”, published in 1981, the title “Précy-Jardin” tells the city that the singer chose to end her life: Précy-sur-Marne, in Seine-et-Marne. The song, tinged with melancholy, reveals a Barbara who is already nostalgic for those years of peace. Throughout the lyrics, she praises the calm and gentleness of the town, knowing that it will be her last home:
“Oh, Précy garden/Oh, my wonder/Oh, my country/Am I already in paradise/Précy/Of course, one day, I will leave here/Further away/Over there, to another country “.
She moved to Précy in 1973, and left her home forever in 1997. During the twenty-four years that her presence in the village will last, Barbara will have participated actively in the life of the community, and this song will remain as a last goodbye. to his neighbours.
Nantes, the city of failed farewells
“Nantes was unknown to me then/I had never been there/It took this message/For me to make the trip”, sings Barbara in “Nantes” in 1964, on the album “Barbara sings Barbara”. The message she needed was that of the imminent death of her father, Jacques Serf, in 1959. This incestuous father, who had abandoned her when she was 19, then informed her of her serious state of health and begged her to come to his bedside. The singer went there, but too late.
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She was never able to say goodbye to this father, a figure as disturbing as it was vital in the artist’s life. From this tragedy was born the disastrous “Nantes”, and Barbara will only keep a gloomy and rainy memory of the city of the Dukes.
Barbara the geographer liked to tell about the places she visited, and also sang Marienbad, the Saint-Amand wood, the Gare de Lyon… Among all her compositions, it was in the aptly named “Ma maison” in 1973 that Barbara invented his most beautiful landscape, that of dreams:
“I invent for myself a country where the suns live
Which set the seas on fire and consume the nights
The great suns of fire, bronze or vermeil
The big sunflowers, the big marigold suns
This country is a dream where my seasons dream
And in that land I have built your house.