Paul Mauriat

Orchestrator of 'Love is Blue'
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The Independent Online

Paul Mauriat, conductor, composer and arranger: born Marseilles, France 4 March 1925; died Perpignan, France 3 November 2006.

When the conductor and composer Paul Mauriat recorded an instrumental version of "Love is Blue (L'Amour est bleu)" in 1967, it was just another track on his Blooming Hits album, alongside arrangements of the Beatles' "Penny Lane", Herman's Hermits' "There's a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)", and Sandie Shaw's 1967 Eurovision-winner "Puppet on a String". Indeed, the original version, sung by Vicky Leandros for Luxembourg, came only fourth in the same contest.

But, with Mauriat's exquisite orchestration, the André Popp/Pierre Cour composition was transformed into something altogether more elegant and "Love is Blue" became an international hit. Mauriat was the first French musician to top both the singles and album charts in the US, and Blooming Hits sold two million copies worldwide in 1968.

In Britain, the producer Mickie Most convinced Jeff Beck to record his own instrumental guitar version of "Love is Blue", which relied heavily on Mauriat's arrangement, but it only made no 23 while the conductor's reached no 12.

With his bright and lush orchestrations, Mauriat came to epitomise easy listening as much as Percy Faith, Bert Kaempfert, James Last or Henry Mancini. He scored two more US hits with "Love in Every Room" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", and became a superstar in Japan, touring there regularly until the end of the 1990s. In a career stretching over 40 years, Mauriat also worked with the crème de la crème of French chanson, arranging, recording and writing with Charles Aznavour, Leny Escudero, Leo Ferré and Mireille Mathieu.

Born in Marseilles in 1925, Mauriat grew up in a musical environment and took up the piano at four. When the family moved to Paris in 1935, the precocious Mauriat joined the Conservatoire but, though he would later record many classical pieces in his trademark light style, he became more interested in jazz and popular music. He began conducting his own orchestra in his late teens and subsequently became musical director for Charles Aznavour.

In the late 1950s, he wrote his first hit, "Rendez-vous au Lavandou", with André Pascal and started to record under the name Paul Mauriat et Son Orchestre, but he also used pseudonyms like Richard Audrey, Eduardo Ruo and Willy Twist to capitalise on various dance crazes. He even posed as a fictitious harmony vocal group, Les Satellites, releasing Slow, Rock and Twist (1961) and Les Satellites chantent Noel (1964).

Managing to juggle a busy diary, Mauriat composed and arranged film music for Un taxi pour Tobrouk (Taxi for Tobruk, 1960) and Horace 62 (1962), both starring Aznavour, as well as Faîtes sauter la banque (Rob the Bank, 1964) and Le Gendarme à New York (The Gendarme in New York, 1965), two vehicles for the comic talents of the popular Louis De Funès.

In 1962, Mauriat used the pseudonym Del Roma when he wrote "Chariot" for Petula Clark with the arrangers Frank Pourcel and Raymond Lefèvre and the lyricist Jacques Plante. "Chariot" became a hit throughout Europe and was eventually adapted into English by the lyricists Arthur Altman and Norman Gimbel. Now called "I Will Follow Him" and recorded by Little Peggy March, the song topped the US singles charts in 1963, and was later revived by Whoopi Goldberg and a choir of singing nuns in the 1992 comedy Sister Act.

Mauriat found further success as a composer with Mireille Mathieu, writing many of her biggest hits of the late 1960s, including "Mon Credo", which sold over a million copies in France. He also composed TV idents and the theme music for Intervilles, the French TV game show that evolved into Jeux sans Frontières and its British version, It's a Knockout.

But Mauriat was best known internationally for the many pop instrumental albums he recorded with his orchestra, though not even the easy-listening revival of the mid-1990s could turn albums like Mauriat Magic, Prevailing Airs and The Soul of Mauriat into guilty pleasures.

His last appearance conducting his Grand Orchestre was in Osaka in 1998. Four years later, he published an authorised biography, written with Serge Elhaik and entitled, fittingly enough, Une Vie en bleu.

Pierre Perrone