French singer Bernadette Grimm was destined to become a big star – or at least that was the intention of bosses at the Fontana record label. They teamed the teenager with some of the biggest songwriters and producers of the day, but all to no avail. These days, she remains best known for C’est fou, her take on Lee Hazlewood’s I’m blue.
Bernadette Grimm was born Babette Goëft in November 1946 in French-ruled Algeria. As a child, she moved with her family to Tourcoing in northern France, near the Belgian border.
At the age of 18, she auditioned for the Fontana record company. Having passed, the young brunette was taken under the wing of artistic director Jean-Jacques Tilché, who is probably best known for his work with Claude François.
Bosses at the label gave the singer her new stage name, Bernadette Grimm, and whisked her into the recording studio to cut her first EP, Qui me dira les mots. Issued in March 1965, the title track was a cover of US pop princess Diane Renay’s Where is the boy.
Signalling Fontana’s faith in their new signing, top songwriters Guy Magenta and Vline Buggy provided Tu plais aux filles for the EP. Two further covers – Sans toi je m’ennuie (a version of The Fletwoods’ Ten times blue) and Les deux petits poissons (the little-known Two little fishes) – rounded off the release.
Despite the best efforts of both Jimmy Walter and Jean Bouchety and their orchestras, the EP proved a respectable, if unremarkable, debut for Bernadette. It raised interest in her but, ultimately, sold poorly. Better was yet to come.
Issued in June that year, the follow up, Johnny ce n’est pas un adieu, proved an altogether superior release. The song, issued on both an EP and as a single, was a rather amusing ode to Johnny Hallyday. It was written and recorded in the wake of his conscription into the French army and his marriage to Sylvie Vartan.
“We won’t forget you, this isn’t goodbye,” Bernadette trilled, reassuringly.
Vous n’avez rien compris, penned by Jean Leccia and Pierre Saka, proved another highlight of the EP. Somewhat unusually, all four songs on the release were original compositions – and all from top songwriters of the day, such as Jacques Chaumelle, Bernard Kesslair, Mya Simille and Jean Kluger.
Bernadette was also given a blond hairdo to mark her relaunch, but still her new look and new material weren’t enough to tempt record buyers in sufficient quantity.
However, despite her lack of success, Fontana remained convinced that the singer could become a star and again label bosses threw the best they had available at her third EP. Issued in February 1966, the release proved another corker.
The lead track, Donne-moi un matin, and Ce n’est que l’automne had been penned by Bernard Kesslair and Jacques Chaumelle and both songs were terrific choices for the singer. (They were also issued on a single.) However, these days Bernadette is best known for the EP’s C’est fou, thanks to its inclusion on one of the Pop à Paris compilations. The song was a cover of Lee Hazelwood’s I’m blue, written by Miriam Eddy (the wife of Duane Eddy, later a star in her own right under the name of Jessi Colter) with French lyrics provided by Georges Liferman.
Sadly, this release also landed in the sale bins.
Bernadette resurfaced a year later, in 1967, when she take over from singer Sophie on the Epopée du rock tour, headlined by Vince Taylor.
Later, she quit the music business and most recently has been running a Belgian charity that helps to improve links among children from different communities in Brussels.
Pop à Paris, vol 5
Our pick of the pops
Vous n'avez rien compris
Ce n'est que l'automne
Qui me dira les mots
Johnny ce n'est pas un adieu
Donne-moi un matin
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Find Bernadette Grimm EPs and 45s at GEMM.com