It is one of France’s most famous songs, has been included on many collections of top Gallic hits, sold millions of copies in the early 1980s and now it is to lead to the Freedom of Connemara for its singer.
Next week in Paris, legendary French singer Michel Sardou is to be honoured by Failte Ireland and by Connemara Chamber of Commerce for his 1981 hit Les Lacs du Connemara which brought the name of the region to a worldwide audience.
A group of tourism representatives from the Connemara region will pay homage to Michel Sardou at a media reception in Paris on November 15. The event will be held at the residence of the Irish Ambassador and organised by Failte Ireland in collaboration with Tourism Ireland in France.
The press event celebrates the 30th anniversary of the release of the song ‘Les Lacs du Connemara’ in 1981. Michel Sardou is a household name in France and the song is known by every French-speaking person young and old. The song has done much to strengthen the brand of the region in France and has assisted greatly in increasing the number of French holidaymakers in Connemara over the last 30 years.
Mr Sardou will receive a symbolic key from Brian Hughes, president of the Connemara Chamber of Commerce, giving him the Freedom of Connemara. Among the many entitlements this bestows are: free car parking, free Roundstone turf, free grazing rights for sheep on Clifden Commonage, free boat anchorage on Buttermilk Lake and free haircuts for himself and his grandchildren!
He was also presented with a gift of a holiday for himself and his wife in Connemara staying at Abbeyglen Castle Hotel and Cashel House Hotel and, since they are keen golfers, they will receive a crested sweater each from Connemara Golf Links.
Speaking today Ciara O’Mahony, Client Services Officer in Fáilte Ireland, Galway said they were delighted to organise this event in collaboration with Tourism Ireland in France and, given the popularity of Michel Sardou in France, are anticipating extensive media coverage.
“We are thankful to Mr Sardou for his role in giving Connemara a special place in the hearts and minds of French people and all of the additional tourism business which has come as a result’
Brian Hughes, President of the Connemara Chamber of Commerce said that the event will aid enorously in marketing Connemara overseas and will go some way in honouring an artists who has done so much for the profile of the region.
This event signals the start of a new marketing campaign for Connemara in the French market under Failte Ireland’s Sales Connect programme. Failte Ireland is collaborating with the industry on a series of marketing activities planned for 2012 which include an extensive on line marketing campaign.
So who is Connemara’s new Freeman?
Michel Sardou was born in Paris, the son of Fernand Sardou and Jackie Rollin (Jackie Sardou ). Contrary to claims common towards the beginning of his career, he is not the grandson of the dramatist Victorien Sardou. However, he is the father of the French novelist Romain Sardou, and the actor Davy Sardou.
He is known not only for his love songs ("La Maladie d'Amour" ), but also for songs dealing with various social and political issues, such as the rights of women in Islamic countries, clerical celibacy, colonialism and the death penalty. Another sometimes controversial theme found in some of his songs ("Les Ricains" and "Monsieur le Président de France" for example ) is his respect and support for the culture and foreign policies of the United States. He has focused his full attention on his homeland, ignoring the prospect of an international audience, although his 1981 single "Les Lacs du Connemara" did manage to become a big international hit. A number of his hit songs were written in collaboration with Jacques Revaux, a few others (most notably "En Chantant" ) with Italian singer Toto Cutugno.
Even in the 21st century, Michel Sardou remains quite popular in France, selling out 18 consecutive dates at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in 2001, while his 2004 album "Du plaisir" went straight to the no. 1 spot on the French album charts.
He has been married three times; first (1965–1977 ) to a dancer Françoise Pettré, the mother of his daughters Sandrine (b. 1970 ) and Cynthia (b. 1973 ); then (1977–1998 ) to Elizabeth "Babette" Haas, the mother of his sons Romain (b. 1974 ) who is a writer and Davy (b. 1978 ) who is a comedian; and lastly to a lifelong friend Anne-Marie Périer (the daughter of the actor François Périer ) who was the editor of the French version of Elle magazine.
Michel Sardou is due to start touring again in France on November 30 and will be singing the famous song once again all over the country.