Born on 3 June 1950 in Lercara Friddi, Sicily, Italy, Frédéric François (real name: Francesco Barracato), is a French-speaking singer-composer living in Belgium.
Origins and childhood
Born on 3 June 1950 in Lercara Friddi in Sicily, in a very modest Italian family, he is the second child of Antonina (Nina) Salemi and Giuseppe (Peppino) Barracato. His mother was a seamstress in Lercara and his father was initially a miner in a sulphur mine in Lercara. He emigrated to Belgium in the coal basin of Liège, where he signed a three-year contract as a miner. In 1951, Nina and her two sons joined Giuseppe in Tilleur in a Red Cross Convoy. Francesco Barracato grew up in a family of eight children. Peppino used to sing Neapolitan songs and opera arias for pleasure and accompanied himself on the guitar. Young Francesco was only 10 when he sang O Sole Mio for the first time in public in a café frequented mostly by Sicilians in Tilleur, "Le Passage à Niveau" [The Level Crossing].
In 1963, he turned semi-professional as a singer-guitarist in a group called "Les Eperviers" [The Sparrow hawks]. He left the technical college in 1965 for the Liège conservatoire to study violin, where he took courses particularly in diction, declamation and voice.
In 1966, he joined a new group called "Les Tigres Sauvages" [Wild Tigers] and won the "Microsillon d'Argent" [Silver Microgroove Record] at the Festival of Châtelet in Belgium – a prize that included the recording of a single. He recorded two titles: "Petite fille" [Little Girl] and ""Ne pleure pas" [Don't cry], under the pseudonym of François Bara. His father bought the 500 records that were pressed and managed to sell them for jukeboxes. The winner also got to perform as a warm-up act for three confirmed artists: Johnny Hallyday, Pascal Danel and Michel Polnareff, his idol.
In 1969, his meeting with the Belgian producer Constant Defourny led to his first contract with a record company: Barclay-Belgique. He recorded "Sylvie" in July 1969, and released his first single under the name of Frédéric François, in homage to the composer Chopin, whose real first name was Frédéric-François. He gave his first performances as a solo artist in venues in the Liège region during the tour of The Best Group orchestra: he performed five of his own compositions, including Sylvie, of course. He released a new single, "Les Orgues de Saint Michel" [The Organ of Saint Michael], which was not at all successful, then another one, "Marian," accompanied by a second title "Comme tous les amoureux," [Like all people in love], which was written especially to represent Belgium at the Eurovision contest in 1970, but was not selected.
In 1970, Frédéric François recorded a new title "Jean", an adaptation of the song in the British film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Ronald Neame (1969). Distributed on the AZ label, this song crossed the Franco-Belgian border, thanks to Lucien Morisse, the programming director of Europe 1, who played it on his channel and enabled the young singer to have a number one single on the hit parade for the first time, though it was not enough to make him famous. He subsequently released two singles "Le pays d'où tu viens" [The Country you come from] and "Shabala": the first was broadcast on the Formule J programme of the Belgian radio corporation, the RTB. The fan base begins to grow.
In 1970, he married Monique Vercauteren, a miner's daughter, whom he had met a year earlier. He recorded a new song, this time spoken and not sung, "I love you je t'aime" as a duet with Monique. Their first child, Gloria, was born on 13 February 1971. "I love you, je t'aime" was played over and over on the Dutch pirate station Veronica, which broadcast from a boat anchored outside territorial waters. The 30,000 sold copies of this record are to be considered as the first real recognition on the part of the public. But Monique continued to work at the factory; Frédéric was not earning much from his music and experienced a certain discouragement when he composed "Comme on jette une bouteille à la mer" [Like a bottle thrown in the sea] and "Je n'ai jamais aimé comme je t'aime" [I have never loved the way I love you], with lyrics by Marino Atria.
Having stayed at the no. 1 spot of the Formule J hit parade for thirteen weeks, Frédéric François emerged from anonymity, which made his new label, Vogue-Belgique, decide to distribute "Je n'ai jamais aimé comme je t'aime," prudently only in French record shops in Pas-de-Calais, a region next to Belgium: 250,000 copies were sold. He considers this sixth single, recorded under the name of Frédéric François, as his first real hit.
His second child, Vincent, was born a few months later, on 15 May 1972. The real hit was to come in the summer of that year: "Je voudrais dormir près de toi" [I would like to sleep near you], which sold 500,000 copies and went to number one in several countries.
As hit followed hit, ("Laisse-moi vivre ma vie" [Let me live my life] (end of 1972– one million records sold), "Viens te perdre dans mes bras" [Come and lose yourself in my arms] (1973), "Chicago" (1975), tour would follow tour. That is when his second son and third child, Anthony, was born, on 8 January 1976. Frédéric François is classified among the "romantic crooners for young girls", (like Patrick Juvet, Christian Delagrange, Dave, Mike Brant). He could capitalise on his success until 1979, when the arrival of disco would dislodge him from the top of the pops.
The crossing of the wilderness would last three years, until 1982. This low ebb took its toll with psychosomatic effects: he suffered serious attacks of spasmophilia which would become less frequent only when he started having hits again, thanks to free radios, which had just made their appearance, and played the title "Adios Amor" [Goodbye love] at every turn – an adaptation by the lyricist Michel Jourdan of a Germany song by Andy Borg. 500,000 copies the single sold in a few weeks, followed by "Aimer" [Love] (adaptation M.Jourdan/Andy Borg) in 1983. This return to grace enabled him to go on tour again, which would take him to Haiti where he sang for the first time in that country.
In 1984, he signed with Trema, the record company of Michel Sardou and Enrico Macias. Up until then, Frédéric François had sold mainly singles, in spite of thirteen LPs at Vogue. He released a new album "Mon cœur te dit je t'aime" [My heart tells you that I love you], which went three times gold.
The creation of the Top 50 that same year would prove a decisive turning point in his career, since for the first time in recording history, singers were ranked according to their actual sales and not on subjective criteria. And yet, showbiz circles in Paris were still reticent. He was 34 years old when he performed at the Olympia for the first time, thanks to his impresario, Moïse Benitah, who managed to convince Jean-Michel Boris and Paulette Coquatrix. The show was sold out. And the craze for his new song "Je t'aime à l'italienne" [I love you, Italian style] was such that his name would be in lights once again the following year (1985) on the great music hall on the right bank, while his first book Les yeux charbon [Coal Eyes] (Carrère-Lafon) was a homage to his family and his public.
On 14 April 1987, his Father Peppino Barracato died. The success of his new album "Une nuit ne suffit pas" [One night is not enough] (first joint effort with a female lyricist, Michaele) and the preparation of his third Olympia show in 1988, helped him to overcome this shock.
In 1989, he sang in twenty-five cities in Canada, as well as in the United States (April 1989) in Miami and in New York, where he gave five performances in three different venues: Brooklyn College and Queen's College at the CUNY, and the Town Hall Foundation.
For three weeks, from 1 to 18 March 1990, Frédéric François performed at the Olympia. The first evening, as he went off stage, he was told that his fourth child, Victoria, had been born while he was performing the last song of his show, "Je t'aime à l'italienne." Two years later, he would perform on that fabled stage for an entire month – the longest run in his career.
In 1993, he left Trema to create his own production company, MBM, in order to gain complete creative freedom, and signed a contract with BMG for the distribution. He released the last vinyl single of his career, "L'amour c'est la musique" [Life is music]. Then came his first CD entitled "Tzigane" [Gypsy] (as well as a first excerpt from the same single title in Belgium).
On 20 December 1996, he was received in a private audience by Pope John Paul II in Rome, with other distinguished guests. Note 8. On that occasion, he sang for the first time in his life before the Pope, accompanied by 70 musicians and the choruses of the Rome opera.
His mother, whom he always admired, died on 17 August 1997. Frédéric François dedicated to her his eighth appearance at the Olympia in March 1998, followed by a tour that attracted more than 300,000 spectators. He knew that he was going to sing for the first time in his life in his native village of Lercara Friddi in Sicily on 30 May 1999. A few months before that event, he recorded an album with Italian classics ("Volare", "Come Prima", "Ciao Ciao Bambina") entitled "Les plus grandes mélodies italiennes" [The Greatest Italian Melodies]. He also introduced a family song known to many Sicilians "La porta abanidduzza" [The door ajar], and for the first time in his career, he sang in the Sicilian language. He considered it as a return to his roots and a way to celebrate thirty years of success.
In 1999, the Editions LCJ Productions released a VHS of the film "Les dédales d'Icare" [The maze of Icarus] Armand Rocour (1981 Belgium); the song of the film Je voyage [I am travelling], was performed by Frédéric François who was playing his first role in a film.
Frédéric François entered the 21st century by publishing his second book, Ma vie [My life] (Editions Hors Collection) with the journalist Serge Igor, where he talks about his life as never before, and opens his personal photo archives for the first time.
His tour in 2002–2003 featured more than 100 consecutive performances in France, Belgium and Switzerland. He decided to pay homage to Tino Rossi by covering his biggest hits in 2003: Méditerranée, Marinella, Ave Maria, Petit Papa Noël.
In 2004, during his eleventh appearance at the Olympia, he sang in English for the first time in his career, Elvis Presley's song, "Love Me Tender", to a standing ovation. In 2005, after three years without any recordings, he released a CD with 15 songs, including "Et si on parlait d'amour" [And if we spoke of love]. It sold 200,000 copies in a few weeks.
In October 2005, he published his third book, "Autobiographie d'un Sicilien" [Autobiography of a Sicilian] (Editions Ramsay), where he presents his values and ideals. That year, some of his lady admirers would give him another nickname than the famous "Frédo," by calling him "La voix de l'amour" [The voice of love].
Frédéric François likes to share snippets of his private life. That is why the album released on 14 June 2006, entitled "Mes Préférences" is emblematic, because it marks out the highlights of his career and family life: a song sung for the first time in public at the age of ten ("O Sole Mio"); his first recording (Petite fille); his first big hit ("Laisse-moi vivre ma vie"); the song written in honour of his mother while she was alive "Mamina" ("My little mamma" in Sicilian); the tender declaration for his latest little child, Victoria "Fou d'elle" [Mad about her]; the title which he composed for the sixth anniversary of his father's death, "Le Strapontin de papa" [Dad's folding chair].
Frédéric François said "Merci la vie!" [Thank you life] twice in a year's time: The first time on 22 October 2007, with his CD entitled, literally, "Merci la vie!" [Thank you life], and the second time on 22 October 2008 with the publication of the book with photos devoted to him, with more than 300 shots by Patrick Carpentier, "Merci la vie !" (Editions Du Rocher). Nevertheless, he fell ill on 26 October 2008 a little before his concert at the Forum of Liège, overcome by an excessive dose of cortisone. He was hospitalised twice at the Liège Academic Medical Center. He stayed there for nearly a month the first time, from 28 November to 22 December 2008, and fifteen days the second time in February 2009. Whilst on his hospital bed, the live album then the DVD version of the Frédéric François tour from the Olympia to Forest National were released, which mixed recordings of his performances on stage in Paris and in Brussels.
The doctors recommended complete rest. He put his career on hold for a year. He would sing again in public, exceptionally, during the Télévie programme on the Belgian RTL-TVI channel for cancer research. He is seen performing Frank Sinatra's Something' Stupid with his daughter Victoria, a duet created together in March 2008 on the Olympia stage on his daughter's eighteenth birthday. He resumed his activities on 31 October 2009 by resuming his tour where he had left of: on the stage of the Forum in Liège.
In 2010, he released a new album, "Chanteur d'amour" [Singer of love], followed by an object book "Une vie d'amour" [A life of love], and appeared at the Olympia from 11 to 20 February 2011, then at Forest National on 5 March 2011 [reference necessary]. He released a CD entitled "40 Succès en or" [40 golden hits] included in a DVD.
After a year on tour, on 3 and 4 March 2012, he returned to the Olympia, with his friends Liane Foly and Roberto Alagna as guests.
He also appeared in the "Vivement Dimanche" programme on France 2 on 20 October 2013, to promote his new album "Amor Latino" [Latin Love] (which was released on 21 October 2013), and he sang "Qu'as-tu fait da moi" [What have you done to me] and "Amor Latino", on that programme.
After that show, Michel Drucker said that he had attracted the season's biggest audience thanks to Frédéric François. The "Amor Latino" album was a new development in the "Frédéric François" style: a real "musical blend" came into being, with the creation of new musical styles: classic-pop, rock-tango, r&b – tango, electro-swing, etc.
He celebrated his 14th run at the Olympia from 28 February to 9 March 2014, then went on tour until 2015. On 18 August 2014, he released a "Best of" collection of 3 CDs and on 20 October, the CD "30 ans d'Olympia- Live 2014" [Thirty years of Olympia – Live 2014] was released.
In December 2014, his daughter, Victoria Barracato, produced his new clip: Fidèle. For the end-of-year holidays, Frédéric François released an album "Magie de Noël" [Magic of Christmas], which included the standard Christmas songs, several universal songs and one original work: "Avant Noël" [Before Christmas].
Whilst he's just celebrated 40 years in show business, Frédéric François is giving sold out concerts, his record sales have exceeded 35 million copies, ranking him number three in number of records sold among singers with Belgian nationality, behind Salvatore Adamo and Jacques Brel. He has had 85 gold records, singles and albums together, 15 gold awards for his sales of videos and DVDs. He has sung 350 songs in four languages.
1971 : Je n'ai jamais aimé comme je t'aime, Vogue
1972 : Je voudrais dormir près de toi, Vogue
1972 : Laisse-moi vivre ma vie, Vogue
1973 : Quand vient le soir on se retrouve, Vogue
1973 : Un chant d'amour un chant d'été, Vogue
1973 : Viens te perdre dans mes bras, Vogue
1973 : Pour toi, Vogue
1974 : Il est déjà trop tard / Viens me retrouver
1974 : Si je te demande Vogue
1975 : Chicago, Vogue
1984 : On s'embrasse, on oublie tout, Vogue
1984 : Mon cœur te dit je t'aime, Trema
1985 : Je t'aime à l'italienne, Trema
1987 : Une nuit ne suffit pas, Trema
1988 : L'amour s'en va l'amour revient, Trema
1989 : Qui de nous deux, Trema
1990 : Est-ce que tu es seule ce soir, Trema
1993 : Tzigane, MBM-BMG
1995 : Les Italos-Américains, MBM-BMG
1997 : L'amour fou, MBM-BMG
1997 : Je ne t'oublie pas, MBM-BMG
2001 : Un slow pour s'aimer, MBM-BMG
2005 : Et si l'on parlait d'amour, MBM-BMG
2007 : Merci la vie, MBM-Sony/BMG
2010 : Chanteur d'amour, MBM-Sony/BMG
2013 : Amor Latino, MBM-Sony/BMG