Claude Lemesle

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Claude Lemesle was one of French pop's greatest latter-day songwriters, working with many of the top chanson stars of the '70s on: Joe Dassin, Michel Sardou, Dalida, Nana Mouskouri, and Serge Reggiani,…
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Claude Lemesle was one of French pop's greatest latter-day songwriters, working with many of the top chanson stars of the '70s on: Joe Dassin, Michel Sardou, Dalida, Nana Mouskouri, and Serge Reggiani, among many others. Lemesle often worked in tandem with lyricist Pierre Delanoé, and eventually built up a catalog of songwriting credits that numbered over one thousand. Lemesle was born in Paris in 1945, and studied history at the Sorbonne in hopes of becoming a teacher. He had long been interested in music as well, however, and went on to attend the Petit Conservatoire de Mireille, which specialized in the study of French chanson. In the meantime, he began performing on the cabaret circuit, and in 1966 met singer Joe Dassin, who was just beginning his recording career. The two would eventually strike up a songwriting partnership, and Lemesle would eventually abandon his own singing career to concentrate on writing, despite having released a four-song EP on Decca during the late '60s.

Lemesle had a hand in writing two of Dassin's biggest hits of 1970, "La Fleur Aux Dents" and "L'équipe de Jojo," which quickly established him as a hot property. The Greek singing star Melina Mercouri recorded several of his compositions in the early '70s, and Dassin had another big hit with 1972's "Salut Les Amoureux." In 1974, Lemesle worked with Michel Sardou on the singer's two biggest hits of the year, "Une Fille Aux Yeux Clairs" and "Je Veux L'Épouser Pour un Soir"; he also worked on material for Dalida. By this time, Lemesle had struck up his highly productive partnership with Pierre Delanoé, which led to mid-'70s work for Nana Mouskouri and, once again, Joe Dassin. Dassin scored heavily in 1975 with Lemesle co-writes like "L'été Indien," "Et Si Tu N'Existait Pas," and "Ça Va Pas Changer le Monde," and had several more hits over the next four years, including "À Toi" and "Le Café des Trois Colombes," among others.

Dassin's renewed success helped lead to a flurry of activity for Lemesle in the late '70s. Most notably, he forged a relationship with singer Serge Reggiani starting in 1977, when Reggiani scored hits with the Lemesle co-writes "Le Barbier de Belleville" and "Venice N'est Pas en Italie." The 1979 smash "Je T'Aimerais" cemented Reggiani's taste for Lemesle's material, and for more than two decades afterward, Reggiani's albums generally boasted a fair number of Lemesle credits. Lemesle also worked extensively with Isabelle Aubret, and co-wrote material with Alice Dona during her late-'70s singing comeback. Other artists who recorded Lemesle compositions during the '70s included Julio Iglesias, Carlos, Henri Salvador, Mireille Mathieu, Nicole Rieu, Mari Trini, Hervé Vilard, Gilbert Montagne, Michel Fugain, Nicole Croiselle, Gilles Marchais, and Gerard Lenorman. Additionally, as a singer, Lemesle recorded an LP for CBS, Je Parle de la Vie, in 1978.

Lemesle kicked off the '80s by co-writing an enormous worldwide hit for Nana Mouskouri, "Je Chante Avec Toi, Liberté." He also placed material with veteran stars Gilbert Bécaud, Johnny Hallyday, and Sacha Distel in the early '80s. While continuing his songwriting career in years to come, Lemesle also taught songwriting workshops and served in administrative capacities for the professional songwriters' organizations SNAC and SACEM, including a term as president of the former.