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Jacques Brel Officially the Greatest Belgian

Also on Ionarts:

Modernism in Knokke-le-Zoute (August 6, 2005)

Ionarts ♥ Belgium (March 18, 2005)

The Marquesas (September 24, 2003)

When it comes to popular song, give me words in French, from the 1930s to the 70s. The best of the best, perhaps, is not even French, a Belgian named Jacques Brel. Well, Belgium is 175 years old this year, and they have apparently looked back at nearly two centuries of history as an independent country and made their choice. As reported in an article (Le choix des Belges, December 21) by Jean-François Lauwens for Le Soir, there was one of these "people's choice" elections on RTBF, the French-language national radio and television network in Belgium. Who was the "plus grand Belge de tous les temps," in the opinion of a mass audience of francophone Belgians? It was, I am happy to say, Jacques Brel (my translation):
You can say what you want, but Belgium is still very much a Catholic country. For their Grootste Belg [Greatest Belgian] on VRT [the Flemish-language network], the Flemish voted for Fr. Damien and Abbé Daens. Tuesday night, during the final round of "The Greatest Belgian" on RTBF, the French-speaking public chose a battle between three personalities: a beatified churchman (Damien), a king so Catholic that he abdicated rather than agree to a law legalizing abortion (Baudouin), and someone who made fun of priests and the church, nevertheless known as « abbé Brel ».
Brel was apparently in third place until the final two hours of voting, when 30,000 votes came in for him. Another article (Non, Jacques, t'étais pas tout seul, December 22) by Pierre-François Lovens was published in La Libre Belgique. As I mentioned in this post in 2003, I did indeed buy, while in France, the special new collection of Brel songs that includes the five tracks Brel recorded for his final album but did not include. As far as I can tell, that new album is not available in the United States, but you can order it from I never wrote a review of the new songs, but they are worth having, I assure you.

1 comment:

(s) Edward Kastin and Ashley Bowles said...

Jacques is one of my faves!
+ Yep I got this album!, its ace!
40 tracks of genius!