Pierre Delanoe

Writer of more than 4,000 songs


Pierre Charles Marcel Napoléon Leroyer (Pierre Delanoë), songwriter: born Paris 16 December 1918; married Micheline Gérald (three children); died Fourqueux, France 27 December 2006.

Only the employees of Sacem, the French association of music writers, composers and publishers, know exactly how many songs Pierre Delanoë wrote between the late Forties and the end of the Eighties. Estimates vary between 4,000 and 5,000, but what is certain is that Delanoë's poetic lyrics grace hundreds of best-selling chansons by singers including Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Hallyday, Françoise Hardy, Nana Mouskouri, Claude François and Gilbert Bécaud. "Et Maintenant" and "Je T'Appartiens", two songs Bécaud and Delanoë composed together, were adapted into English and became international standards as "What Now, My Love" and "Let It Be Me".

In the Sixties, Delanoë also translated into French many American and British hits, helping Hughes Aufray turn Bob Dylan's "Times They are A-Changin" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" into "Les Temps Changent" and "N'y Pense Plus, Tout Va Bien" and improving on the original lyrics of the British group Christie's "Yellow River" when coming up with "L'Amérique" for Joe Dassin in 1970.

Always looking for "just the right word", Delanoë also wrote "Dors Mon Amour" ("Sleep, My Love") for André Claveau, the first French singer to win the Eurovision Song Contest in 1958, and other Eurovision entries for Colette Deréal, Noelle Cordier and Patrick Juvet. He was so prolific that he would occasionally be known to call a radio station when he heard a song he liked, only to be told he had failed to recognise one of his own lyrics.

Delanoë had a loud voice, was rather overbearing and always spoke his mind, often adopting contrary, reactionary views, and falling out with the artists he had worked with. In recent years, he bemoaned the state of popular music in France, calling rap "not music but vociferations, eructations".

Born Pierre Leroyer, he was an unruly child with a stern father who ran a printing firm. "He always wanted me to be top of the class," he recalled. "He would give me five francs if I came top, three francs if I came second and nothing if I came third. I would get a spanking if I came fourth."

Pierre read Law at university before getting a job in the tax office. "When you're a civil servant, you always have time on your hands," he said. "So I started to write and I began to write lyrics. I showed them to a few people and one thing led to another."

His brother-in-law, Frank Gérald, set the lyrics to music and, in the late Forties, they formed a singing double act, though Pierre took up his grandmother's name Delanoë as a pseudonym, since he was moonlighting from his job as a tax inspector. They performed at the Central de la Chanson in Montmartre, where Delanoë met François Silly, the piano accompanist for Jacques Pills (who later became Piaf's husband).

Delanoë and Silly struck up a friendship which blossomed into a songwriting partnership when Silly started singing, changed his name to Gilbert Bécaud and evolved into the dynamic "Monsieur 100,000 Volts". In 1953, "Mes Mains", with lyrics by Delanoë, became Bécaud's first hit in France, and would later be covered by Petula Clark as "Your Love". Another collaboration, "Le Jour Où La Pluie Viendra", became "The Day the Rains Came", a chart-topper in the UK for Jane Morgan in 1958, one in a series of English-language versions of their compositions.

"Je T'Appartiens", a hit in France in 1955, was covered as "Let it Be Me" by the Everly Brothers, Tom Jones, Nina Simone, Sonny & Cher and Bob Dylan; and "Et Maintenant" (1961) became "What Now, My Love" for Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley. According to Delanoë, "Et Maintenant" was inspired by "a chance meeting between Bécaud and the actress Ola Andersen on a Nice-Paris flight. Her fiancé had just broken up with her and she said: "Et maintenant, que vais-je faire?""

Delanoë finally handed in his notice at the tax office and throughout the Sixties seemed to rule the French charts and airwaves. He translated Bob Dylan for the album Aufray Chante Dylan (1965), which brought the American singer to French-speaking audiences and composed "Quand J'aurai 100 Ans" ("When I'm 100") for Maurice Chevalier in 1968. He also wrote material for Michel Fugain ("Je N'Aurai Pas Le Temps", recorded in English as "If I Only Had Time" by Petula Clark) and Nicoletta ("Il Est Mort Le Soleil", which became "The Sun Died" and was covered by Ray Charles and Tom Jones).

Delanoë greatly admired General Charles de Gaulle, writing "Tu Le Regretteras" with Bécaud in praise of the French president in 1965, and was happy to see his songs hijacked by the political right, though he would insist: "I've never written a political song. There's time yet. Iraq rhymes with Chirac."

He remained active well into his eighties and found time to write several novels and two autobiographies, as well as publishing anthologies of his lyrics and poetry. "I've always followed trends, but a lyric idea can come from anywhere," he said.

Reading the newspaper, having a strange feeling, being angry about something. But being a lyricist is a proper job. The poet has to transform the reality into a lyric using all his technique and ability. I feel like a bespoke tailor who has to come up with something to fit a hunchback.

Pierre Perrone

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas