Follow TV Tropes


Music / Georges Brassens

Go To

Together with Jacques Brel and Léo Ferré, Georges Charles Brassens (22 October 1921 – 29 October 1981) is considered to be one of the three great names in French Chanson.

Born in a working-class family (his mother was an Italian immigrant and his father a bricklayer), he engaged in petty larceny as a teenager and interrupted his studies early. He spent part of World War II as a conscripted laborer in Germany before going AWOL. After the war, he grew close to Anarchism and tried his hand at poetry, before being talked into becoming a singer-songwriter.

His singing career took off in the early 1950s, and although he published two novels and several collections of poems, he would from then on mostly be known as a singer. His musical style was spare: just his voice, an acoustic guitar, and occasionally a contrabass accompaniment (played pizzicato, jazz-style, to mark the beat). Most of his songs were by himself, though he also adapted in song format poems by various authors: François Villon, Victor Hugo, Louis Aragon, etc. Among his favorite themes were friendship, women, tales of naughtiness, bourgeois hypocrisy, and ridiculing figures of authority.

Georges Brassens's songs contain examples of:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Not that much of a surprise, considering anarchist leanings of Brassens himself. Le Roi is practically one, long ode dedicated to how much the monarchy sucks.
  • As Himself: in the one movie he played in, Porte Des Lilas, he plays a guitar-player and singer who sings in bars about wine and girls. A bum friend of his pressures him to hide a gangster in flight: unlike his friend, he's aware of how dangerous and ruthless the man is, and he wants to be rid of him as soon as possible, but he wouldn't denounce him to the police.
  • Band of Brothels: "La Complainte des filles de joie" is about the hardships faced by streetwalkers.
  • Big Ball of Violence: "Hécatombe".
  • Black Comedy: many of his song are written from this perspective. In La Mauvaise Réputation, at end of each stanza there is a bit that describe how much community hates the narrator, with exclusion of the handicapped (everyone is pointing finger at him except those without hand, everyone talk ill of him except mute etc.). The song end with narrator saying that they're probably going to lynch him, and everyone will come to see his hanged body... that's except the blind, of course
  • Black Comedy Rape: "Le Gorille" is about a randy gorilla who escapes from the zoo and rapes a magistrate.
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: Averted by Georges Brassens himself. Unless you count f-bombs in his songs
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: "Supplique pour être enterré sur la plage de Sète".
  • Country Matters:
    • Defied in Le Blason. The song is an ode to female genitals, and at one point regrets so many of names related to this areas are vulgar, and two whole verses serve to criticize the French closest equivalent of "cunt" without naming it once.
    • Used liberally, however, in Le temps ne fait rien à l'affaire, including many puns on "con" (although keep in mind, it is used in its meaning of "dumbass", in which it is a much milder insult than in english).
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: There are a lot of photographs showing him holding his pipe or with between his lips.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In "Brave Margot", a whole village stops when the titular Margot feeds her kitten. The people affected included the school teacher, town mayor, coalman, policeman, postman and altar boys in the middle of the mass.
  • Due to the Dead: unexpected example (seeing the author's penchant for dark humor and distaste for social norms) in "Les Copains d'Abord" : the crew absolutely refuses to forget about their dead mates, and will miss them no matter how much time passed
  • Ethical Slut: Lisa in "Les Croquants".
  • First Girl After All: In "La Première Fille" Brassens sings that you always remember your first girlfriend.
    • Also a bit of Sex as Rite-of-Passage in that same song in that it isn't so much his first girlfriend, but his first girl (literally "the first girl you've taken in your arms"), which as he points out could be a virgin or a prostitute, the message being that for better or for worse you remember your first forever.
  • Good Samaritan: "Chanson pour l'Auvergnat" is one of the most famous illustrations of this trope in French pop culture. Specifically, in Brassens's time Auvergnats had a reputation of being stingy, and somewhat unpleasant, in a way France's mocked version of the Greedy Jew trope, to the extent that an older cabinet minister in the 2000s tried to pass a joke going "when there's one it's fine, when there's more of them that's when trouble happens!" as being about Auvergnats. It's possible that this song is what made it a Dead Horse Trope today.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: His most controversial song, "Les Deux Oncles", implies that The Resistance and The Collaborators were morally equivalent. La Mauvaise Réputation to a lesser degree, as he's consider stopping policeman from catching thief a good deed.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: the magistrate in "Le Gorille" thought that it would be impossible for the gorilla to mistake him for a she-ape... only for the song to mention that next events proved him wrong (you can read above *how* wrong)
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: as per his political leanings, Brassens often expressed admiration for simple, but good-hearted characters in his song (especially compared to "proper", but morally bankrupt upper classes).
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Discussed in Le Pornographe, where he mentions that his off-stage persona is not even half as rude and vulgar as his lyrics might suggests... but the moment he open his mouth, he ends up spewing vulgarities anyway
  • Mood Whiplash: "Brave Margot" is about a young farm girl who breastfeeds a kitten who has lost its mother. It is cute and funny at first, because all the men in the village kept watching her doing it, and Margot innocently believed they wanted to see the kitten. Then the women of the village got jealous and burned the poor kitty to death. Ouch.
  • Moral Guardians: " La Mauvaise Réputation" has the recurring line "No, good/respectable folk don't like it when // One follows a different path than theirs."
  • Naughty Nun:
    • Subverted for main character in La Religieuse, as she specifically tried to hide her sex appeal by shaving her head bald and wearing absolutely non-sensual habit. Suffice to say, it doesn't help and she causes mass outbreak of Hot for Preacher (with sad masturbation for epilogue)
    • Played straight in Le Moyennageux, which is about Brassens regretting not to have lived during the Middle Ages. He then goes on to explain that part of the appeal is that he could have had sex with nuns, who "in this blessed times did not always say nay" and were part-time prostitutes for the fun of it.
  • Odd Friendship: with the famous "singing priest", Père Duval. Lampshaded in Les Trompettes De La Renommée, where he mentions that "He lets me say Shit!, I let him say Amen"
  • Precision F-Strike: Brassens liked to insert expletives in his songs for shock value. A good example is "Marinette", a perky little ditty in which the singer tries several times to demonstrate his feelings to Marinette, but each time something prevents her from noticing him including, in the penultimate verse, the fact that she's died, and in the final verse, when he goes to her funeral, she's come back to life again: the last line of the chorus is "J'avais l'air d'un con" ("I looked like a dumbass").
  • Princess in Rags: Referenced in "Les Sabots d'Hélène", about a raggedy girl who's passed over by three army officers, yet turns out to have "the heart of a queen".
  • The Power of Friendship:
    • "Les Copains d'Abord".
    • Jeanne and Chanson Pour l'Auvergnat are his way of thanking a couple, Jeanne and Marcel, who let him stay at their auberge at a time when he needed help.
  • Raging Stiffie: In "Fernande" Brassens sings how an erection decides to rise according to its own wishes.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: His iconic oral imitation of a trumpet in the final verses of Les Copains d'Abord.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: The straight-laced family who casts disapproving stares at kissing couples on public benches in "Les Amoureux des bancs publics". "The whole family, the father, the mother, the son, the daughter, the holy spirit, wouldn't mind every once in a while being able to behave like that."
  • Shout-Out: "Bécassine" is a shout-out to the eponymous French comic book character.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Brassens was an iconic pipe smoker.
  • Somewhere, a Mammalogist Is Crying: "Le Gorille" has female visitors of a zoo appreciating the genitals of the eponymous gorilla. In real life, male gorillas genitals are much smaller than their human counterpart.
  • Space Whale Aesop: The Aesop of "Le Gorille"? Abolish the death penalty. According to the song, the magistrate crying for his mother while being graphically raped by a gorilla is an Asshole Victim for having smugly sentenced some shmuck to death minutes earlier while ignoring his pleas for mercy.
  • STD Immunity: Subverted in Les Trompettes De La Renommée, where he accuses a marquess as the cause of his genital lice.
  • True Companions: "Les Copains d'Abord" is one, big love letter to this trope, with the crew of the ship being described as example of it through and through
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: "Un P'tit Coin d'Parapluie" is about a boy who shares his umbrella with a girl. "A little piece of umbrella/For a piece of heaven/She sure looked like an angel".
  • Take That!: "Mourir pour des idées" has the line "to die for one's ideals, alright, but of a slow death", and is aimed at both Moral Guardians and fellow anarchists taking shots at him for songs like "Les Deux Oncles" mentioned above.