French pop balladeer Marc Lavoine transcended the matinee-idol trappings of his early career with a series of melancholy and profoundly intimate LPs exploring issues both personal and political.
Born August 6, 1962 in the Parisian suburb of Longjumeau, Lavoine was raised on a steady diet of jazz and British Invasion rock & roll. As a teen he began writing songs, but initially gravitated more toward acting, joining an amateur theater troupe in the rue Chabrol. While working as a receptionist at Paris' legendary Olympia music hall, Lavoine was introduced to Fabrice Alboulker, A&R director for the Barclay label. Albouker installed him in a Lyons-based hard rock combo called Your Vice, but the pairing proved disastrous and Lavoine returned to Paris. In 1981, he landed a supporting role on the popular television soap opera Pause Café. He did not find acting to his liking, however, and soon renewed ties with Albouker, who agreed to compose music using Lavoine's lyrics. After signing to the Avrep label, the fledgling singer issued his debut single, "Je Ne Sais Même Plus de Quoi J'ai l'Air," in 1983, and with the blockbuster follow-up, "Pour une Biguine Avec Toi," he emerged as the premier romantic crooner of his generation, his success galvanized by his rugged good looks and warm, tender vocals. Lavoine issued his debut full-length, Le Parking des Anges, in 1985. A massive hit buoyed by the singles "Les Yeux Revolver" and "Bascule Avec Moi," it made the singer a household name. The 1987 follow-up, Fabriqué, fared equally well, generating the hits "Le Monde Est Tellement Con" and "Même Si," and a subsequent tour also proved enormously successful, yielding a live LP in 1988.
After spending a year-long sabbatical in Los Angeles with Albouker, Lavoine released his next studio effort, Les Amours du Dimanche, in 1989. The singles "C'est la Vie" and "Rue Fontaine" continued his previous chart success, and in 1991 he repeated the formula with another collection of lush romantic ballads, simply titled Paris. But with 1993's Faux Rêveur, produced by the illustrious Tony Visconti, Lavoine introduced a darker, more world-weary approach that would grow more pronounced in the years to follow. In 1994, he put his music career on temporary hold to co-star in filmmaker Claude Chabrol's L'Enfer, and in the months to follow appeared in additional features including Cabaret and Les Menteurs. Apart from "Une Nuit Sur Ton Épaule," a duet with Véronique Sanson, Lavoine was absent from the pop charts for more than two years prior to the 1996 release of Lavoine Matic, an album he declared free of love songs. Love existed only in the songs themselves, he said, instead tackling subjects spanning from prostitution to terrorism. A subsequent tour found him paired only with pianist Alain Lanty, and in the autumn of 1999, Lavoine returned with 7éme Ciel, his final release for BMG. In September 2001, a self-titled effort inaugurated his new deal with Mercury, highlighted by the chart-topping "J'ai Tout Oublié" and "Chère Amie," the latter a duet with the venerable Françoise Hardy. The album's success also inspired Lavoine to return to the live circuit, a 190-date trek highlighted by a 12-night stint at Paris' Théâtre de la Porte Saint Martin. He spent the next several years in the cinema, most notably appearing in Neil Jordan's 2002 feature The Good Thief. As a result, a new album, titled L'Heure d'Été, did not hit retail until mid-2005.
He continued to play film roles for the next few years before delighting his fans by returning to music in the early 2010s, producing solid albums in which his voice and style continued to mature, drawing comparisons to Gainsbourg. Volume 10 saw release in 2010, and the wryly titled Je Descends du Singe dropped in 2012. Inspired by Michael Powell's 1948 film The Red Shoes, Les Souliers Rouges followed in 2016. A collaboration with Québécoise singer Cœur de Pirate and France's Arthur H, it charted in France and Switzerland. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi