At 79, Serge Lama releases a final tribute album to the great French song, to love and to his first record, “I am sick”. Immersed in an extraordinary career punctuated with tasty anecdotes.
Paris Match. Why stop the song now?
Serge Lama. These things just happen. Before the Covid, I had planned a tour in the provinces, and after the confinement I could no longer sing, it completely broke me physically. I did not have the choice. I have seen artists, like Trenet, sing while seated. “There’s joy” sitting, it’s not possible. I remember Serge Reggiani, 70 years old, they brought him and put him in front of the microphone, like an automaton. My body screams, creaks, squeals. Even if in my head everything is fine, I feel handicapped. I don’t want people to see me like that.
This last disc is red, like the first. Do they answer each other?
Not really. The common point is love. All my songs, even the funniest, are about love. Here, “Les p’tites femmes de Pigalle”, that’s it, the story of a friend, wounded in the heart, who goes to Pigalle to drown his sorrows in the alcohol of sex. It was a sad text at the start, and the composer deflected the piece. That’s what launched the red disc. At the same time, Dalida asked me if she could sing “I’m sick”, so the radios played my two songs at the same time. I performed them until my last concert.
There’s a song I wrote to my wife, Luana, that says, “That’s why I’m saying goodbye to you”
So at Serge LamaLove has no age ?
There’s a song I wrote to my wife, Luana, that says, “That’s why I’m saying goodbye to you”. She is 44 years old and, despite the love, at one point I said to myself that I couldn’t stay with her, I was afraid of spoiling her… And, finally, she didn’t want this song either . We got married last year. Everything I do is for her, this album is dedicated to her. Our love story has lasted twenty years. I was with her even while still married…
For years, I was very afraid of this moment when I was going to go to war.
“The Men I Love” is an ode to masculine sensibility. It is in tune with the times ?
I wrote this song thinking of Johnny Hallyday. I loved Johnny. Except that its authors did not leave it and it was almost impossible to pass this roadblock. But I was thinking maybe we could reach it with this one. And then no. So I kept it to talk about men who don’t give in but who know how to pick flowers. Like Camus: a modest man from below. His death was a major event in my life. At the same level as the war in Algeria.
I have great admiration for Federer, for a very long time
From which you also drew a song.
For years, I was very afraid of this moment when I was going to go to war. I went there and only beautiful memories remained. The arrival in Algiers, I had never taken the boat, it was magnificent. But what the fuck did I do… I went to the casbah dressed as a soldier. I could have been killed! Except that I had seen this film with Gabin, “Pépé le Moko”, where he descends into the casbah. I wanted to see this. I was shy but I dared crazy things… And I wrote a song called “L’Algérie”, more for me than for the public, which came out on a single. Right after the launch, I went to Nouméa for a month with a friend – it was great – I came back and they said to me: “You’re at 1 million.” I couldn’t believe it.
I still have projects in my head. If only to write my bio…
In your new album, you pay homage to Herman Melville and Roger Federer. Why them?
Melville is an extraordinary author, who says very profound things. I have read “Moby Dick” at least five times. And Federer, I didn’t know he was going to stop when I wrote the text. I have a great admiration for him, for a very long time, even before he was known. He is the synthesis of everything that made tennis before him, a kind of absolute player.
And then there is “The pensioner”. It’s you ?
No, he’s an old man who lives in the suburbs. Old people are threatened because we always think they have money. I put myself in the place of this old man. It’s moving, all that. Me, you know, I am serene. I’m leaving enthusiastic, I still have projects in my head. If only to write my bio…
There are newspapers for which I do not exist and there are some for which I exist. And that’s fine with me.
How do you feel in the current times?
Everything changed five years ago with the advent of feminism. It had to move, but it’s going down the wrong path. I’m afraid of a war of the sexes. I come from another era, with other excesses. But you know, I didn’t have any success with girls when I was young. I was very alone and suffered a lot. And at 30, suddenly, hundreds of women threw themselves on me, ready for anything, really. I was not Weinstein, me. I almost felt violated. Before that, no one looked at me.
The media also watched you a lot. How did you experience it?
There are newspapers for which I do not exist and there are some for which I exist. And that’s fine with me. Must say that from the show on Napoleon the press was divided. I had been the first to play at the Palais des Congrès, where I stayed for three months. After that, I wanted to do the Châtelet. So I meet the director, and he says to me: “I can give you three days, but no more. On the other hand, if you were doing a musical…” I walked out of there and said to my producer: “We are going to play ‘Napoleon’!” It lasted three years. After, I made the comedian, I wandered. When I took over the song, I didn’t sing like before and I never stopped.
After my serious car accident I decided that it was yes, that I would get out of it and get my life back
Your passion for this profession seems intact.
He invented me! It was for my dad, mostly. He was so dominated by my mother, but he was happy that I was a singer. To tell you, one evening, I was doing Bobino, it was a triumph. My mother comes into the dressing room and says to me: “If we hadn’t stopped you, you wouldn’t be here.” And she wasn’t kidding. I could have done without it, me… She was a destiny breaker.
So you stop, for sure, no going back?
For me, no, it’s no. And conversely, when after my serious car accident I decided that it was yes, that I would get out of it and that I would find my life again, I did it. I said to the doctor who gave me no chance: not only will I do it but my name will be displayed on the front of the Olympia. I had seen Bécaud there, when I was a kid, and I said to myself that it was the most beautiful thing in the world. And it was. ￼
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Serge Lama: “I’m leaving enthusiastic”
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