(born 3 July 1944, Nérac (Lot-et-Garonne, France) is a French singer-songwriter, who was popular in France from the mid-1960s until the early 1990s with his last original album, Kama-Sutra
. Since then, without any proper new original album, he is still critically acclaimed and occasionally tours in France.Michel was born into an artistic family: his mother, Simone Lane, was a dancer and his father, Leib Polnareff or Léo Poll worked with Édith Piaf. He learned piano by age five and was a very good music student. He learned the guitar, and after his studies, military service, and a brief time in insurance, he began to play his guitar on the steps of the Sacré Cœur.
In 1965, Polnareff won the Disco Revue prize in Paris. This victory let him record a disc at Barclay, but as part of the counterculture he turned down this opportunity. It was Lucien Morisse, then director at Europe 1, who made him sign with AZ. His first disc, La Poupée qui fait non
(1966), was an unexpected success. Its new musical style and Polnareff's atypical image, crossed borders. During this period, he played concerts in Brussels for one week sharing the bill with Jeff Beck.
An atypical character
Polnareff also played with his image: black glasses, fancy trousers, and ambiguous provocations. His song L'Amour avec Toi
could not be played before 10 pm because it was considered "pornographic" at the time in France (the song is mild by today's standards). From 1969 on, Polnareff was hugely successful: tours, music videos, hits. He also became the target of scandalmongers. Tragedy struck in September 1970, when his friend Lucien Morisse committed suicide.
Depression and distance
After a rest period in the Paris area, and long months in isolation, Polnareff gradually resumed touring. His health and his morale improved, but not his sight: he was forced to protect his eyes with thick, dark sunglasses. His problems didn't stop there. In 1972, a promotional poster showed his naked buttocks. Although the scandal benefitted him commercially, it brought censorship and lawsuits. Then, during a world tour, he learned that Bernard Seneau, his manager, had run off with his money, leaving him broke. Unable to pay his debts, and crushed by the death of his mother, he left France for the United States, where he lived in anonymity. He was joined by his friend, Annie Fargue who became for many years his manager.
Polnareff in the USA
Then, in 1975, his song Jesus for Tonight
made it onto the American Billboard. He also created the soundtrack for the exploitation rape drama Lipstick
(1976), which starred American model Margaux Hemingway and her sister Mariel. But his success in the United States was not as great as in France. Plus, Polnareff had left behind his fellow musicians and the musical community. He discovered a passion for computers. A tour in 1975 brought him to Belgium, where thousands of French fans came to see him. His forced exile did not prevent him from composing, and his albums had various success. But it was Bulles
in 1981 that proved that France had not forgotten him.
Return to France
Polnareff made a surprise return to France in 1989. Without any promotion, "Goodbye Marylou" invaded the airwaves and became a hit. For a year and a half, Polnareff was locked up at Royal Monceau in Paris and recorded Kama Sutra
, with Mike Oldfield adding some guitar parts. This album debuted in February 1990 and marked Polnareff's true return. However, rumors spread about his health, and in 1994 he decided to have a cataract surgically removed to prevent him from becoming blind. In 1995, he returned to the United States to create his famous album Live at the Roxy
with Musical Director / guitarist Dick Smith. Smith also executive-produced the ambitious live record which achieved platinum certification in France. To mark this occasion, the channel Canal + devoted a special to him entitled "À la Recherche de Polnareff
" ("In Search of Polnareff"), in which he appeared in military uniform (from whence his recent nickname "The Admiral" may come) and was interviewed in the desert by Michel Denisot. This was followed by an acoustic mini-concert in the middle of the California desert.Following the media attention in 1995 and 1996, Polnareff could have restarted his career as though nothing had happened. However, his fans still await, after more than ten years, an album which may never come. However, some of his early songs are becoming popular again, like "La Poupée qui fait non" by Mylène Farmer and Khaled (1996), and "On Ira Tous au Paradis", which became the theme song of Restaurants du Cœur in 1998. His 1977 hit "Lettre à France" enjoyed a new success in 2004 following its inclusion on the French version of the Star Academy
talent contest.Polnareff sold over three million albums and four million singles in France to date.
On 22 November 2004, and again on 18 December 2005, France 3 broadcast a one and a half hour documentary entitled "Michel Polnareff Dévoilé
" ("Michel Polnareff Revealed"). It includes images from rare files mixed with interviews with media personalities like Marc-Olivier Fogiel, Jacques Séguéla, Jean-Luc Lahaye and Frédéric Beigbeder explaining to the televiewers what Michel Polnareff represented for them and for France. Polnareff also revealed that he was working on a new album. On 12 May 2006, Michel Polnareff announced that he would be giving a series of concerts between 2 March and 14 March 2007. Ticket sales rocketed, showing that Polnareff has not lost his gleam. On Bastille Day, 2007, Polnareff gave a free concert.In 2001, death rapper Necro sampled Polnareff's "Voyages" for his song "Light My Fire". English band The Shortwave Set sampled this song as well for their single "Is It Any Wonder?" in 2005. Masher (L)SD sampled "Sous Quelle E'toile Suis Je ne?" for his tune "Howards' Thinking Clearly", on the CD "That's CRAZY Music!" (2005)The 2004 Korean TV drama "Sorry, I love You" in Korean ????, ???? ("Mi'an'ha'da, Sa'rang'han'da" or aka "MiSa") soundtrack largely drew from Polnareff songs like "Qui a tué Grand-Maman ?" and "ça n'arrive qu'aux autres". It was aired on channel KBS 2004/11/09~2004/12/28. The soundtrack was released in two commercial CDs.
On 28 December 2010, Polnareff's girlfriend gave birth to a boy in Los Angeles. On 21 February 2011, Polnareff announced via a Facebook post that a DNA test had revealed that he was not the biological father of the child. A later post indicated that his girlfriend had disappeared with the baby.
- His first hit La Poupée qui fait non (1966), recorded in London, featured Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as session players.
- He has a namesake in Jean Pierre Polnareff, a character in the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure manga series.
- In the Manga One Piece, Ouka Shichibukai Donquixote Doflamingo is based physically on him.
- The lyrics for Tout, Tout Pour Ma Cherie are featured in the final volume of Detroit Metal City.
In 1994, his song La Poupée qui fait non
was covered by the British indie-dance band Saint Etienne (band) on their "Hug My Soul" single.In 1999, his song Tout, Tout Pour Ma Cherie was covered by Japanese dance-pop group Pizzicato Five on their "Darlin' Of Discothèque" EP.