French singer Dick Rivers died on April 24th, the same day he was born. He was 74. This name won’t be known by American people, but he was a true and steady lover of American culture and American music since he was young. Born in Nice, on the French Riviera, in 1945, he had a prolific career: 50 years long and with about 35 albums.
I’m old enough to have listened to one his best hits, released in 1984, when I was a child. Named “Nice, Baie des Anges“, it was a catchy song, a tribute to his birthplace, Nice. Up to this point, you must think: why are they talking about this man on a blog named “Country Music France“? Ok, this singer was French, but what’s the point with USA and with country music?
Let me tell you, first, that Dick Rivers’ real name was Herve Forneri. He chose the name Dick Rivers as a tribute to one of his idols, Elvis Presley. Deke Rivers was the name of Elvis’ character in Hal Kanter’s movie “Loving you“, released in 1957. Dick Rivers didn’t wait his trip to New York in 1965, as he was 19, nor his meeting with his idol in Las Vegas in 1969, to be a great lover of Rock’n’Roll and of American music. All along his career, Dick Rivers was one of the French singers who most contributed to popularize American music in France, Rock’n’Roll, of course but also country music. And that’s why I’m talking about him today.
Indeed, in 1975, Dick Rivers released an amazing album named Mississippi River’s, recorded in the studio “In the country” in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and mixed in Quad Studios, Nashville. It was including an incredible number of American country songs. He chose to sing them in his native language, keeping the music and the meaning of the lyrics but translating them into French language.
Among the songs included in this album was “Louisiana Man“, the French version of Doug Kershaw’s song (“Song of a Louisiana Man“, 1961), a French version of Hank William’s “Jambalaya” or a song named “C’est pas toujours drôle d’être routier“, a French version of Buck Owen’s “Truck Drivin’ man” (recorded by Terry Fell in 1964 and sung by Buck Owens in 1965). There was also “Colinda“, a version of Lucille Star’s song, and a song named “Demain je lui téléphone”, that was the French version of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a country boy“. And of course, last but not least, Dick Rivers included in this album “Faire un pont“, his version of John Denver’s “Country roads” for French people, a success he kept on performing till last year.
In 1993, Dick Rivers travelled to Austin, Texas, to record a tribute to another of his idols, Buddy Holly, at Arlyn Studios. This album, named “Holly Days in Austin“, was including 20 songs of Buddy Holly translated to French langugage, in the same way he had did with several country songs in 1975.
In constant love with USA, wearing lizard boots made in Arizona, fan of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent or Buddy Holly, Dick Rivers once told to the French magazine “Paris Match“: “I was born in Nice but I’m at home in the USA“. Rest in peace, Dick Rivers. Au Revoir, Dick.