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Dick Rivers, french rock'n'roll icon, is dead

Dick Rivers in 2006
Dick Rivers in 2006. STÉPHANE OF SAKUTIN / AFP

Former singer of Wild Cats, a group formed in early 1961 and he will leave in the summer of 1962, Hervé Forneri, dit Dick Rivers, died in Paris of "After a cancer"On the night of Tuesday 23 to Wednesday 24 April, the birthday of his 74 years, announced, on the morning of Wednesday his manager, Denis Sabouret.

He was one of the most famous defenders and propagator of French rock'n'roll in the early 1960s, with Johnny Hallyday and Eddy Mitchell.

Born April 24, 1945 in Nice, son of traders, Dick Rivers – named after the character Deke Rivers, played by Elvis Presley in the movie Loving You (1957), Hal Kanter – fell in rock'n'roll from his childhood.

His idols are Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lewis Lee, Little Richard …, which he tracks the least songs broadcast on the radio and the few 45-laps crossing the Atlantic. He will regularly declare that he listens to them and has learned English. In his French song, in a rather serious voice, there was a touch of that accent, just like a form of vocal theatrics reminiscent of that of his master Presley.

His energy at the service of rock

After participating in various local groups with no tomorrow, he cofounded Les Chats sauvages early 1961, in Nice, with the brothers Roboly, both guitarists. Between adaptations in French of rock hits and original compositions, the group will become one of the most popular pioneers of rock and twist in the early 1960s. On April 24, 1961, the quintet signs with Pathé-Marconi and records immediately his first 45-lap. Dick Rivers will be present at the singing on seven 45-turns (four titles) and on two albums 33-turns (format 25 cm). Some of the songs with Rivers will become classics, including Twist in Saint-Tropez and Do you know it?

In August 1962, shortly after the release ofOh ! Yes, second album of the group, Dick Rivers decides to start a solo career. It brings together English musicians who will be present on his first album, entitled Dick Rivers, which also collaborates the jazz pianist Martial Solal. Dick Rivers takes off. And even if the perception of his career will often make him an eternal third man behind Hallyday and Mitchell, nothing in his statements or his attitude shows that he will have lived negatively. The important thing for him to put his energy, his enthusiasm in the service of rock, a few passages to a register closer to the variety will not temperate.

He has a big success in June 1963 with I can not forget you, adapts the Beatles, Buddy Holly – to whom he will dedicate an entire album in autumn 1991, Holly Days in Austin -, Roy Orbison, etc. Between March 1964 and December 1965 appear four albums to his name. We hear his knowledge of rock, the first trips to the country. From the end of 1965, his ear is attracted by soul music, which will partly irrigate his best album of the 1960s, Mister Pitiful, published in 1966.

From soul to Louisiana country

Regularly, in his recordings, Dick Rivers convenes prestigious musicians – Steve Cropper, James Burton, Jimmy Page, Chris Spedding, Charlie Sexton … -, is attentive to evolutions of the sounds of the time, without losing sight of an authentic approach from his rock and country roots. In 1969, he recorded the strangest album of his career, entitled The?, which he will say, in a reissue in 2016, that he is the one he is "The most proud". We hear Gérard Manset as a narrator, an orchestra of strings and winds, sound distortions coming from psychedelic rock, bossa atmospheres, flamenco. A commercial failure.

The 1970s will be rather favorable. Between 1972 and 1974, Dick Rivers will work with Alain Bashung, for whom the successes of Vertigo of love or Gaby are still far away. This gives three albums The Rock Machine, Rockin'Along … The River's Country Side and Rock & Roll Star. He is headlining at the Olympia, in Paris, for a series of concerts in May 1973. As he had passed his passage to the soul, the one that led him to the country blues of Louisiana marks by its quality his production of the 1970s, with albums Mississippi River's (1976) and Dixie (1977). Each time, Dick Rivers combines ballads, of which he is an elegant, sensitive performer, with more evocative themes, sources of rock'n'roll, blues and country.

Last album published in 2014

In the 1980s, if he continues to regularly record singles and albums – including one for an ephemeral reformation Wild Cats, in 1982 – with pockets that show it in close-up, jet-black hair, wick forward velvet eye, it will be more rare on stage. From 1982 to 1992, he was responsible for a radio show on Radio Monte Carlo. The double album Linda Lu Baker, in September 1989, is a reminder of all the styles of American music that he practiced through the evocation of an actress of the 1950s – Norma Jeane Baker, called Marylin Monroe, is obviously not far. Participate in this other strangeness of Dick Rivers' discography, Francis Cabrel, Liane Foly, Gold Group, Golden Gate Quartet, Eddy Mitchell.

The compilation Very Dick published in 1994, is a good overview of his phonographic career since its inception. He will keep this title for his autobiography published in 1996 by Michel Lafon. After a stint in Bobino on November 21, 1995, which marks his return to the stage, he is on tour. The Francofolies Festival of La Rochelle celebrates it in the summer of 1996. In March 2006, we find the younger generation of the song, for the writing of the songs of an album in his name, Dick Rivers. Benjamin Biolay, Matthew Chedid, Mathieu Boogaerts, Mickey 3D … In May 2014 was released his last album, soberly titled Rivers.

Read also Dick Rivers, Michèle Torr, Sheila … The "youth idols" were in Tours

Dick Rivers in a few dates

April 24, 1945 Birth in Nice.

1961-1962 Member of the rock and twist band Les Chats sauvages.

1963 First solo album.

1966 Turn to soul music.

Late 1970s Two country blues albums Mississippi River's (1976) and Dixie (1977).

1994 Release of the most interesting compilation, Very Dick.

May 2014 Last album, Rivers.

April 24, 2019 Died in Paris as a result of cancer at the age of 74.

Sylvain Siclier

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