With his whiskey-and-cigarettes vocals, blues-inspired arrangements, and acerbic lyrics, Arno regularly earned comparison to gutter poets like Serge Gainsbourg and Tom Waits.
Born Arno Hintjens in Ostende, Belgium, on May 21, 1949, he first surfaced in a series of little-known R&B-influenced acts, including Freckle Face and Tjens-Couter. In 1977, Arno and longtime collaborator Paul Decouter co-founded TC Bland with Ferre Baelen and Rudy Cloet, and after a name change to TC Matic, the group emerged as one of the more successful European acts of the early '80s, scoring a series of hits including "Elle Adore le Noir" and "Putain Putain." After a 1985 tour in support of Simple Minds, TC Matic split and a year later Arno issued his self-titled solo debut, written almost entirely in English. With the 1988 follow-up Charlatan, he cemented his roguish persona but also exhibited a more sensitive side via his moving cover of the Jacques Brel classic "Le Bon Dieu." Upon relocating to Paris, Arno wrote and recorded his third LP, 1990's Ratata, headlined by the hit "Lonesome Zorro." He next joined the one-off Charles et les Lulus alongside Roland Van Campenhout and Adriano Cominotto, recording an eponymous album stuffed with blues classics penned by Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson. Arno traveled to Nashville to record his next solo effort, 1993's Idiots Savants; after another one-off collaboration, Arno et les Subrovnicks (featuring fellow TC Matic alum Cloet), he ventured into cinema, scoring the Marion Vernoux film Personne Ne M'aime.
After spending virtually the entirety of his career writing and singing in English, Arno embraced French for 1995's chart-topping Les Yeux de Ma Mere, which dabbled in genres spanning from jazz to tango. He then made his acting debut as a homosexual swimming instructor in Jan Bucquoy's Camping Cosmos, extending his hiatus from the studio by releasing a 1997 live LP, Arno (En Concert à la Française). Arno's next album, Give Me the Gift, was recorded in English and distributed exclusively in the U.S. market. The release generated little attention in the American marketplace and he returned to film, scoring Michel Piccoli's Alors Voilà and also accepting a co-starring role onscreen. Another pseudonymous blues set credited to Charles and the White Trash Blues preceded Arno's next proper solo effort, 1999's A Poil Commercial. An acoustic LP, Arno Charles Ernest, followed in 2002, highlighted by "Elisa," a duet with French pop legend Jane Birkin. With the 2005 follow-up, French Bazaar, he again recorded solely in French, and earned the Victoire de la Musique award for Best Pop-Rock Album for his efforts. Arno returned to film via 2006's Komma, the first in a series of big-screen projects including Ex-Drummer and J'ai Toujours Voulu Être un Gangster. He finally returned to music in the spring of 2007 with Jus de Box. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi