Vichy singer dies, aged 104

Léo Marjane, star of the collaborationist Radio Paris from 1941 to 1944, has died at an immense age.

Her greatest hit was Seule ce soir, written by Charles Trenet.

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  • Dear Norman, when I informed you about this news, I was certainly not expecting to see such a miserable headline, but rather a tribute to an artist… For the record, Marjane was acquitted at the liberation. Is that the same blog which denounced the ridiculous Dutilleux story one year ago?

    • Dear Christophe
      In the eyes and ears of those who suffered under the German occupation and the Vichy regime – my family among them – she is eternally identified as the music that played over occupation radio. After the war she was, as you rightly say, acquitted of active collaboration – denouncing fugitives, sleeping with the enemy – but she cannot escape identification with the period of her greatest success. best, Norman

      • It is a fact, sad but true, that some of the greatest French writers of the twentieth century, for instance Louis-Ferdinand Celine and Robert Brasillach, were not mere Vichy sympathisers but nazi supporters and anti-Semites of the worst kind. But their work must be judged on intrinsic merit, and the same applies to Marjane.

    • Unfortunately, once tainted by the pungent scent of Eau de Vichy it is very difficult to wash off. The composer Canteloube, the writer André Gide, the fashion icon Coco Chanel, the vocalist Léo Marjane you have mentioned, and most likely also Edith Piaf – so many were tainted to a greater or lesser degree. But then that applied to the French population in general – there were so very many of what the French call “collabos”, a fact that in France they are mostly still in denial about until this day, and try to sweep under the carpet.

      • See, tons of sopranos have been performing or recording “Chants d’Auvergne” since the war, without feeling the need to “wash off” anything. As for Marjane: while I totally agree that no biographical note about her should ignore those years, Norman rightly remarks there were (basically) two categories of behaviours: people who just continued to live, work and do their daily job to earn a living, and people who did “more”. The problem I have with this headline is that it associates her unmistakably with the latter category. Of course a singer’s job means public exposure and broadcasting. But she continued to do her work, like bakers continued to bake bread (including for German occupants) during those years. Would you write “Vichy baker bakes bread” about every French village’s bakery 1940-44?

        • Canteloube aside, we still listen to recordings by, for example, the conductors Furtwängler and Mengelberg or the pianists Gieseking and the (virulently anti-semitic) Elly Ney.

  • If you do not know Patrick Bade’s book Music Wars 1937-1945 (published in 2012), it has a discussion of Marjane, especially on pp. 370-372.

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