French singer Michel Sardou was awarded the “freedom of Connemara” at a ceremony at the Irish embassy in Paris recently. The award is to thank him for 30 years free advertising for the region thanks to the huge and enduring hit, “Les lacs du Connemara” (the lakes of Connemara). Anyone who knows contemporary French culture probably knows this rousing, epic ballad from the 1981 album of the same name. It went straight to number one upon its release and has become a classic of chanson française.
According to to a report in the Irish Times, Sardou admitted that he had not visited Ireland when writing it and that he chose the names from a tourist brochure. As such it is another in the long list of tourist songs such as “Oh Danny Boy” and ” Swannee” that were written without any knowledge of the location.
Music by Jacques Revaux, lyrics by Pierre Delanoë?
“I have a very romantic idea of Ireland,” he is reported to have said. “It is a land of legend, mysteries; harsh and wonderful at the same time. Everyone had [John Ford’s] The Quiet Man in their head. Ireland wasn’t really like that, but that image stayed in France.”
This might be a little oversight on his part, as the writers for “Les lacs du Connemara” are listed as Jacques Revaux and Pierre Delanoë – two of the world’s most successful songwriters. Revaux, for example, wrote the melody for “Comme d’habitude“, later better known as “My Way”. Delanoë’s site even states clearly that the two wrote the song.
Either way, thanks to Sardou and Delanoë’s stirring but maudlin lyrics, generations of French people often make Connemara their first big stop in Ireland. “We see French people driving around playing it in their car,” said a local official. Sardou has since visited Ireland many times, notably for the horses, and has plans to buy a house in Connemara.
UPDATE: The site of the French authors’ society, Sacem, lists Michel Sardou and Pierre Delanoë as the lyricists of “Les lacs du Connemara“.
Check lyrics that I did here.