"Touche pas à la Blanche Hermine"
"Touche pas à la Blanche Hermine" "My family come from
around Nantes, Pornic, Saint-Aignan de Grand Lieu, Fay de Bretagne.
My parents were born at Nantes, and my grandfather ran a newspaper
called the Reveil in the lower part of the Loire valley, which later
went bust. My family were Nantais, but my name comes from the south-west,
a place called Ariege.
This is because my great-grandfather was a bear leader in the Pyrenees
before he landed up on the banks of the Loire. His surname was Carrache,
which means "square" literally and figuratively. When I try to trace
my talents it seems probable that this bear-leading side to my family
must be responsible. But I did have some violin player as an ancestor
in St Aignan, and my maternal grandfather painted some pretty good
watercolours; plus my uncle nearly went into films...
My parents got married in Ste-Reine de Bretagne, where my grandfather
owned a brick works (could that be a sign perhaps?). My mother's school-teacher
was the father of René Guy Cadou, one of the greatest poets of that
era. A long saga of hardship and struggles ensued during which my
two older brothers were born at Boulogne Billancourt, and which culminated
with my father getting a job at Tarbes. Here it was that I first started
to exercise my voice, on 1st February 1945, at the end of the war,
with my mother imposing strict rationing on me instead of on my brothers
- I very quickly put on weight, and now of course it's all I can do
to get rid of it...
My birth marked the end of the Tarbes era, and when I was five months
old we moved to Nantes and I discovered the bridge under which my
godfather had flown in a plane twenty years previously. When I was
one year old we moved to the vibrant town of Cholet, and there we
stayed until I got my Bac Philo (much to my parents' surprise). I'm
sorry to have to disappoint those who look to painful childhood experiences
to explain artistic flair, as my early life was beautiful and happy.
I loved my parents and they loved me. We lived on the outskirts of
the town, in an unpretentious rented place. At my school children
of farmers, policemen, public employees, workers and managers mixed
together to the general satisfaction of all concerned.
The poor bourgeois children didn't go there - it was a state school.
Later, at the Lycée I used to hang around with them a bit. We used
to go on holiday at Croisic where my grandparents lived, and there,
at the ship's club at Port-Lin, I experienced my first stirrings to
do with the ocean. Once I'd got my Bac philo I left Cholet to study
Beaux Arts at Angers. I still remember the emotional departure with
waving hankies on the station platform. I really enjoyed my studies
at Angers; sculpture, painting, lithography. I listend to Léo Ferré,
Brassens, Ferré, Brel, Ferré, Hugues Auffray singing Bob Dylan and
Léo Ferré. Things were hotting up during those marvellous years in
the run-up to the events of May/June 1968. At last the masses were
mobilising! All this brought about a radical change in me - I realised
that I managed to express my ideas much better through singing than
through drawing, and I also noticed that singing involved ongoing
interpretation, whereas once a painting has been sold, it was gone
As luck would have it, I met a poor old Groix islander in a café in
Angers. His magic words inspired me to get the next boat for Groix.
That was Easter 1969 - it was to lead to a total rethink and a new
start. That's how I came to be singing in 1970 in an extraordinary
era. We were broken in by an unfolding wave and at the same time the
driving force behind it. Actually, unless I'd been incredibly blinkered,
or deafer than Ludwig Van B I don't see how I could have been anything
but a singer, and sung what I have sung..."