Combining West Coast-style surf pop, Velvet Underground-like urban rock, and the romanticism of French singer Françoise Hardy, Algerian-born singer/songwriter Etienne Daho has taken the European rock scene by storm. His albums have consistently qualified for gold or platinum status and his songs have been recorded by such artists as Mercedes Audras and Arnold Turboust. His résumé includes duets with Sarah Cracknell, Elli Medeiros, Lyn Byrd, Astrud Gilberto, and Chris Isaak. In 1989, he participated in an Arthur Baker-produced recording with Al Green and Jimmy Somerville.
The son of a French soldier father and a chemist mother, Daho was raised by grandparents who operated a semi-bar/semi-grocery during the War of Algeria. Recordings of Sylvie Vartan and Françoise Hardy, on a jukebox, inspired Daho to dream of becoming a singer. Settling with his family in Rennes, France, in 1965, Daho continued to broaden his musical scope to include the British rock of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the art rock of David Bowie, Roxy Music, and the Velvet Underground. Visiting London for the first time in 1966, he became enamored of the British city's flourishing music scene.
Daho worked as a dormitory monitor at the city's university. When he organized a concert at the school, featuring rock bands Stinky Toys and Marquis de Sade on December 20, 1978, Daho unknowingly took the first steps leading to his career in music. The Stinky Toys' Elli Medeiros and Jacno encouraged him to continue writing and singing, while Marquis de Sade lead guitarist Frank Darcel took him under his wing, helping him to learn the intricacies of musical professionalism. When Daho made his stage debut at the rock festival Transmusicales in June 1979, Darcel and other members of Marquis de Sade accompanied him. After releasing an independent single, "Cowboy," Daho signed with Virgin France. His 1980 debut album, Mythomane, produced by Jacno and featuring Marquis de Sade musicians, was certified gold a decade after its release.
Arnold Turboust, Daho began to attract attention. Receiving some radio airplay with his singles "The Big Sleep" and "To Leave This Evening," he released his second album, La Notte la Notte, featuring the hit single "Weekend in Rome." Although it showed hints of a promising future, its sales paled next to those of Daho's next release, Pour Nos Vies Martiennes, which was certified gold (with sales of more than 100,000 copies) on the day it was released in June 1988. The success continued with 1989's Live ED, which sold more than 250,000 copies.
Paris Ailleurs, a tribute to the Motown and Stax labels. Pre-release orders of the album were so strong that the album was certified gold before it was released and attained platinum status with sales of more than 500,000 copies. Four years later he was on the charts with a cover of Edith Piaf's "Mon Manège a Moi," while the U.K. pop group Saint Etienne were topping the British charts with "He's on the Phone," an English-language cover of "Weekend in Rome." While his 1994 release, Daholympia, sold half as many copies as Paris Ailleurs, Daho regained the momentum of his earlier albums with the release of Eden in 1996. Corps et Armes appeared in 2000 and was followed three years later by Reevolution.
Daho has always sought new avenues for his creativity. He appeared in Olivier Assayas' movie Dirorder, and received a European video award for his 1987 video "Tattoo Shoulder." In addition to writing songs for other artists, Daho has produced recordings for Les Valentins and Sylvie Vartan. He performed in a stage production of Jean Genet's Condemned to Death at the Moliere Theater in Paris. The soundtrack of the production was released in England as The New World. Françoise Hardy has remained a major influence on Daho's music. In 1986, Daho joined with Jerome Soligny to write a biography of the French singer, Superstar and Hermit.