RAYMOND LEFEVRE 2004
This is an interview that was made by Horacio Miguel Vazquez.
with the help of Françoise Pourcel. Thanks
Horacio, for allowing us to post it here!
Where are your family origins from and when and where were you born?
I was born in northern France in Calais on November 20, 1929.
When did you decide to become a musician? Are there antecedents or other professional musicians in your family?
My father had noticed when I was 6, that I was talented for music, and that I had a "good ear"; so I started music classes studying musical theory and piano lessons. My father was himself playing piano, clarinet and cello.
Among your teachers and masters, do you specially remember someone who influenced you most? ( piano, flute, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, conducting...)
I was very influenced by my flute teacher Marcel Moise, he was a great musician and a great teacher.
Which were your first professional steps?
When I passed the test to enter the High school of music in Paris (le Conservatoire), I was only 17, no relatives in Paris and most of all… no money. I had to do little jobs, like playing piano in nightclubs during the weekend, to be able to pay for the rent of a small room!
When and how did your relationship with Franck Pourcel and Paul Mauriat begin?
In the early fifties, Franck had heard about me as a pianist and orchestrator. At that time, he was already famous as a conductor and orchestrator, and could not
fulfill all his engagements. So he came to meet me and ask me if I could help him. It became the start of a collaboration, and most of all a wonderful friendship that lasted until his death.
I met Paul when he was recording for Barclay records under the label Bel-air.
We know your deep collaboration with Franck also included composition (like Schuss and Marching Violins)
Franck and I were very complementary in the way of composing or writing orchestration. I was more into rhythms and brass, he was more into violins! (I heard a lot through him and specially how to write a bow for a violin: in French "coup d'archets")
And composing with Paul?
The song "Colorado" was a big hit in Argentina recorded with Spanish lyrics by Violeta Rivas (Argentine pop female singer) in 1964 and "Chariot" as well.
With Paul, we were also very complementary. We worked a lot together at the beginning of the sixties; we were seeing each others every day, when one of us was uninspired the other one was OK; we were a great team.
I've never heard that COLORADO was a big hit in Argentina, neither that it was recorded locally!!!!!
Did you compose any "Louis de Funes" movie series with Paul Mauriat? In case you did, which ones?
I composed with Paul the music of a black and white film FAITES SAUTER LA BANQUE, and the soundtrack of the second film of the series LES GENDARMES (LE GENDARME A NEW YORK), and we co-composed the song DO LIOU SAINT-TROPEZ in the first Gendarme.
I am the only composer of the 5 films "THE GENDARME" as well as LES GRANDES VACANCES-JO-LA SOUPE AU CHOUX.
Who are the Classic and Pop Artists you love (composers, performers) and you think influenced you most?
My favourite classical composers are Bach of course, Beethoven, Mozart, but also Debussy and most of all Ravel.
My favourite orchestrator: Nelson Riddle.
Pop artists: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr
I think that all along your life you get influences of any sort.
When did you form your own first orchestra?
Very precisely in September 1956: that month I released my first record, did the orchestrations for the first record of a soon to star singer DALIDA (Bambino), and started to appear in a weekly radio-show live MUSICORAMA
How and when did you cross roads with Mr. Barclay?
He had heard about me in 1950, because he had a band but didn't know how to write music; so he asked me to write the score (not very good, I must admit!!!!!). At that time I was travelling a lot abroad as a pianist for a dance band (Bernard Hilda), we were touring constantly, we even performed for the opening night of the Beverly Hilton hotel in LA.
But my carrier really started with Eddy in 1956. He had heard that I was about to sign a contract with Polydor records, and convinced me to sign with his company (Franck influenced me to go for)
Which was your first whole instrumental album and when and where was it recorded?
As I answered above, my first recording was with Barclay. I cannot remember all the titles, one of them was Bambino.
As arranger and orchestra conductor you have been working with Dalida, Christiane Legrand and other singers.
Particularly we are always delighted every time we listen to your work for Paule Desjardins album featuring songs about Paris ( Mademoiselle de Paris). Your orchestrations and arrangements for this album are sincerely marvellous! Would you like to tell us something about this experience?
When I was on tour with Bernard Hida in LA, he had hired Paule as a singer for his orchestra. Except me all musicians were Americans.
Back in Paris, Polydor records released a record with 4 songs, for which I was orchestrator and director. I don't remember the titles, and don't have the record!!!!!!
Would you like to share with us some memories and insights about some singers you worked with ?
I have been conducting for a famous live TV show for 15 years, so I think that I have worked with all the French
singers, and some foreigners at that time, except maybe Yves Montand (he was scared to sing live!). It was a very good
atmosphere, I never had any problems with anyone, except maybe with Michel Polnareff- he never even thanked me for my hit with
his song SOUL COAXING!
The easiest performer was Aznavour: we only spent 30 minutes to rehearse 6 songs!!!!!
Who Artist/s most enjoyed to work with and why?
My favourite ever is Jacques Brel, not only for his talent but also because he was a wonderful human being. I'll
always remember when we spent an afternoon together in his kitchen, chatting about everything while sipping beer! What a
Which was your first instrumental hit in France?
It has always been very difficult for French orchestras like Franck, Paul or myself to be broadcasted on
radio, because the French radios like the singers better. We had to fight all the time; in the foreign countries, it seems that
the public and the entertainment business like the music better than the French, that's why most of our hits were abroad.
Personally I had some hits with the soundtracks of the films THE GENDARME and LA SOUPE AU CHOUX.
What did mean to you Gilbert Becaud's "The Days the Rain Came" cover reached the U.S. Top 40 list in 1958?
Was it noticed in France?
No anybody talked about in France; I was young at that time, inexperienced, and did not get a lot of royalties
on that recording!!!!!!
You repeated this (and also improved) ten years later with "Ame Caline/Soul Coaxing". Did it help to
establish your international career?
Soul Coaxing was a success in Japan but not as big as LA REINE DE SABA. I have been told that it's been the
biggest hit for the past 40 years!!!!!!!!!
How were you able to maintain your own orchestra project alongside your Franck collaboration, Palmares
de la Chanson TV series and Movies musical work?
When I started the TV show LE PALMARES DES CHANSONS and composing and conducting for the films, Franck and
I stopped working together, but we were very close, very good friends until he passed away.
Which Franck album was your last collaboration an why?
The last Franck's LP written in collaboration is Lex Baxter's LA FEMME.
Listening your "Cordes dans le vent" (25cm/10') album it's surprising your "modern" arrangements in a
pre-Beatles era. Your rhythm arrangements seems more middle sixties than late fifties. We only can imagine what
extraordinary time was when jazz, dancing twist, late 50' born young rock&roll and classic influences merged in your
arrangements. Which was your musical search in that time?
I am surprised by your question. I had no time to listen to music at that time, I was working a lot, and I just
wrote the music according to my feelings.
Which recordings and arrangements in your whole career you feel most satisfied with?
Maybe LA MER (Charles Trenet), ET MAINTENANT (Gilbert Becaud) and an arrangement on PRELUDE EN MI for violin
(JS Bach), and some more...
Have you ever done recordings in other countries apart France? Where and when?
Sometimes, because of a musician's strike, I had to go to London, and I also did live radio-shows in Berlin,
Munich, Copenhagen, and live concerts in Japan.
A Japanese friend of us informed a new Raymond Lefèvre Orchestra Japan Tour is announced soon closing this
year, with your own son as conductor. Would you like to talk about it ?
I am lucky to have a son Jean-Michel Lefevre walking in the same tracks! We have the same musical feeling.
I don't want to go to Japan anymore, it's too far, so he is touring instead of me, and he is a great conductor. I feel very blessed, because my music would stay in a closet, if he didn't like the job. He writes his own scores, and he is very successful!
How do you see the Instrumental Music and Pop Music today?
I am very perplexed on that matter. With a computer and a synthesizer, the new generation does not have to
write music the way we used to do. I am not against the technical evolution at all, but it is very different; we'll see!
Are you participating in any new musical project?
A company in Taiwan wants to make a deal on the past catalogue and new recordings. I am still thinking! Also the
Japanese would like to produce a unique concert with a symphonic orchestra when I hit 77 years old!!!! (7 is a very important
number in the Japanese culture)
But, I've just got 75 last Nov 20, so.... Let's see...what's going to happen!
Thank you very much Maestro for your kind agreement to let us know a little more about you and aspects and persons involved in your career as well, and thanks a lot Françoise for your kind help and collaboration.