Death of Graeme Allwright, a sweet and rebellious song of the traveler

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I have to go... this famous song by Graeme Allwright sadly became topical on Sunday February 16 with the death at 93 years of the French folk singer of New Zealand origin in his retirement home, in Seine-et-Marne.

Career plans? Graeme Allwright never practiced. The son of a station master, born in New Zealand, has always enjoyed making new starts. As a child, he sang in churches and in the family. Graeme Allwright decided to take a chance on the song at 40. In Paris, France, the country where he settled with his family Catherine Dasté (the granddaughter of Jacques Copeau, a famous theater man), met in London.

By turns an actor, decorator, beekeeper or even employed in a psychiatric hospital, Graeme Allwright loves jazz music and adapting songs from English and American folksong in French with his guitar. A first concert at the Comédie de Saint Étienne gave him a taste for the recital.

In the campfire directory

In the mid-sixties, it was time for contestation. With his third disc The day of clarity (a title adapted from the trio Peter, Paul and Mary, the mainstream success is at the rendezvous. Songs like Small boxes, I have to go, little boy, up to the waist, immediately enter the repertoire of campfires and rebellious moods specific to youth.

Graeme Allwright also established himself as a translator and interpreter of Leonard Cohen, from whom he adapted great songs – The stranger, Suzanne – combining mysticism and sensuality. A connivance that will last over the years. As well as a passion for Brassens songs sung in English on a translation by Andrew Kelly.

Overwhelmed by this first success, Graeme Allwright decided in 1969 to go to other horizons. The traveler who sings on stage barefoot lives first among people in Ethiopia, then in India (in Bombay he will live a month in the street) in Auroville, and again in Madagascar or Reunion. The life of an artist in France, punctuated by records and concerts, alternates with long stays abroad.

Among the meetings that marked the author of The ballad of de-escalation or Light, that of the Dominican religious Maurice Cocagnac was translated into a few songs like In the heart of the tree where the lessons of wisdom of an artist sensitive to the spiritualities of the world are expressed.

A Marseillaise less warlike

Support of the association ” Sharing “, A peaceful fighter, Graeme Allwright has promoted, following other personalities like Abbé Pierre, a less warlike text by The Marseillaise. At the start of each concert, he distributed the text. Anxious also in these singular concerts to share happiness with the public come to take up catchy refrains and to share ideas of fraternity and to suggest new styles of life.

His farewell song, based on a poem by Luis Porquet, indicates its colors and hopes: ” Goodbye friends, courage. We can beat the storm. And overcome fear. The fortress trembles. And the winds gather. On the last rowers. Under the weight of suffering. Hope rises. And the tree of sweetness. “



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