Michel Legrand and "Jacques Demy invented, with 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,' a new genre: neither a musical comedy, nor an opera-simply, a movie that is just sung."
This multitalented and versatile artist is a classical pianist, composer, jazzman, singer, and director. He has won two Academy awards (for the music of "The Thomas Crown Affair," in 1968, and "Yentl," in 1983), and has collaborated with a number of artists, including Clint Eastwood ( in "Breezy"), Agnès Varda ( in Cléo de 5 à 7), Claude Lelouche (in "Partir Revenir"). He has played with any number of the greats of Jazz, and has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1993. But very few people know that Legrand is part Armenian.
In his own words: "My maternal grandfather was named Sarkis Der Mikaelian. In 1917, he fled the genocide He was a true Armenian: excessive, passionate, generous , the very expression of happiness. I lived in his house in Asnières [, a suburb of Paris], with my mother, for six years. Sometimes, on Sundays, he would drag me to the Armenian church in Jean Goujon street [in Paris proper]. These long ceremonies used to bore me! [Grandfather] owned an oud [and] lots of records of Om Kalsoum [the famous Egyptian singer] whom he adored. [Also,] the band leader Jacques Hélian was my uncle... Eight years ago, I spent a week in Yerevan with my sister. We found some of our kin. It was, on my part a curiosity concerning my roots... Performing with the Yerevan Philharmonic [afforded] a great joy. I had the feeling of rediscovering cousins, if not brothers. It was beautiful, moving."
Michel Jean Legrand
Michel Legrand is a three times Academy Award-winning French composer, conductor and pianist who composed over 200 film and television scores as well as recorded over a hundred albums of jazz, popular and classical music.
He was born on February 24, 1932, in Becon-les-Bruyeres, in the Paris suburbs, France. His father, Raymond Legrand, was a French composer and actor. His mother, Marcelle der Mikaelian, was descended from the Armenian bourgeousie. From 1942 - 1949 young Legrand studied piano at the Paris Conservatoire. There his teachers were Nadia Boulanger and Henri Challan among other renown musicians. He received numerous awards for his skills in composition and piano and mastered a dozen other instruments. In 1947 he attended a concert by Dizzy Gillespie and caught a jazz bug. He started working as a pianist for major French singers. He eventually collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie on several albums and film scores.
In 1954 Legrand became an overnight star after his album "I Love Paris" became a hit, it went on selling over 8 million copies. He followed the success with such albums as "Holiday in Rome" (1955) and "Michel Legrand Plays Cole Porter" (1957). In 1958 he was invited to play at Moscow Festival of Students and Youth. There, in Moscow, he met his future wife, a young French model with who he went on to have three children.
In the late 1950s and 1960s Legrand was caught up in the French New Wave. He scored seven films for jean-Luc Godard, he also made ten films with Jacques Demy, and became responsible for creating the genre of musical in the French Cinema. In 1963 Legrand did Parapluies de Cherbourg, Les (1964), the first film musical that was entirely sung. For that film score he received three Oscar nominations. His beautiful, haunting melody, "I Will Wait For You", received nomination for Best Original Song.
In 1966 Legrand decided to take his chances in Hollywood, and moved to Los Angeles with his wife and three children. His friendship with Quincy Jones and Hank Mancini helped him a great deal, especially in meeting the lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman. In 1969 Legrand won his first Oscar for Best Music, Original Song for "The Windmills of Your Mind" and was also nominated for Best Music, Original score for a Motion Picture for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Eventually Legrand went on to become a star in the US, he received twelve nominations for Academy Awards, and won two more Oscars. He was also nominated for a Grammy 27 times and received 5 Grammys in the 1970s.
In the 1980s and 1990s Legrand continued giving live concerts with his own jazz trio. He also led his big band which he took on several international tours, accompanying such stars as Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Bjork, and Stephane Grappelli who celebrated his 85th birthday in 1992. He also recorded several classical albums, including an album with cross-genre hits entitled "Kiri Sings Michel Legrand" with the opera singer Kiri te Kanawa. During the 2000s Legrand has been working mainly in the studio, and also made several international tours.
In 2005 a compilation of Legrand's best known film soundtracks was released under the title "Le Cinema de Michel Legrand", featuring 90 songs composed in the course of his career.
Son of composer Raymond Legrand, and brother of singer Christiane Legrand.
Was nominated for Broadway's 2003 Tony Award as Best Original Music Score, his music with lyrics by Didier Van Cauwelaert and English adaptation by Jeremy Sams, for "Amour."
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1990.
Edited by Aratta-Kingdom, 24 November 2007 - 04:23 AM.