Universally revered in the French speaking world, Jacques Brel is widely considered to be one of the greatest songwriters and performers of all time. But despite having sold tens of millions of records and some of his songs being adapted by the likes of David Bowie and Nina Simone, he still remains subject to a modest cult following in the English speaking world.
In part 1 of this BBC documentary series, Brel’s friends and collaborators introduce us to the world of the Belgian genius. They discuss the beauty, complexity and power of his literary lyrics, as well as the extroardinary way he embodied them on stage, in the pure tradition of French chanson.
Although music critics are unimpressed since 1983’s Let’s Dance, David Bowie keeps meeting commercial success. To support his latest album Never Let Me Down, he plans the “Glass Spider Tour”, a spectacular and very ambitious show which became a template for mainstream pop stars tours such as Madonna’s or Prince’s.
But in 1989, leaving his more recently acquired fan base, he teams with other musicians to form a hard rock band: Tin Machine. The band dissolves after 3 years and Bowie confirms his reputation as a musical chameleon by returning to his solo career with a soul album: Black Tie White Noise.
Bowie is now more confident and with the 1980 album Scary Monsters, partly recorded at Keith Richard’s house in Jamaica, he finds a new balance. He now wears suits on stage and reaches a new peak in popularity with Let’s Dance, his best selling album to date and – ironically – also his most criticized.