Patachou, Parisian Chanteuse

Patachou singing “Brave Margot” in 1954

When I was in college, I spent a semester in Paris. I soon discovered all the romantic images I brought with me–the Eiffel Tower, corner cafes, Parisians bustling about with baguettes tucked under their arms–were, well, pretty accurate. About the only thing that was missing was an accordion playing in the background, and even that, come to think of it, was sometimes present courtesy of street musicians in the Metro.

For many years a major contributor to the Parisian soundtrack was Patachou (June 10, 1918-April 30, 2015). Patachou was the stage name of Henriette Eugénie Jeanne Ragon. “Patachou” comes from “pâte à choux,” or “cream puff dough.” A 1958 article in The New York Times  noted “This is roughly the equivalent of Doris Day taking on the pseudonym of ‘Redi-Mix Batter.'”

A kind of anti-Edith Piaf, Patachou captured the joie de vivre of Parisian life. No painful romances for her. Her attitude reflected the reason she got into the music business in the first place: to boost business at the cafe she and her husband owned in Montmarte. Happy songs, delivered by a feisty young woman helped to draw–and hold–a crowd.

Watch Patachou perform “La chansonette”

You don’t have to speak the language to sense the affection the French felt for Patachou. Simply watch this short piece from Tele Matin.

Patachou profile and interview on Télélematin