Merde. Pour un moment j’ai pense que j’avais trouve mon viel ami de quelques jour, Jean Paul Boissier. Mais, peut etre il est mort.
Back in the mid-70’s I was living in a crumbling Civil War era mansion with a lot of people, so things would occasionally happen in spite of my near autistic state. (I still live in this house in my dreams, trying to reconcile the background knowledge that we were driven out when it was torn down for OSU hospital parking space.)
Somehow, we ended up with a hitch-hiker from France staying with us for awhile. Why he was in Columbus, OH I’m not sure, but he found the right place if you had to be there. Turned out he was a songwriter, and at some point he undertook to teach me a couple of his songs. I still have them as they were written down and annotated in an old notebook, which I have to search through all my old notebooks to find whenever I try to learn them again. Somehow, between his very little English and my even smaller French he explained most of the images to me. Ah, je vois, ce n’est pas une lyric ordinaire. It took some similes and hand gestures, vraiment.
J’ai mis le feu, I set the fire, you know, the fire in the skull, like when you get sick… faiset mes poubelles, you know, garbage, [gestures of digging through something with one’s hands.]
I guess that took up most of our indoor time, I don’t think I ever got to teach him one of my songs. Well, I hardly could teach them to myself around then. I don’t remember much else about his visit. Some black hashish rolled with tobacco, some walking in the sunshine in the big field behind the Hospital Cafeteria, some passing the guitar back and forth, some big smiles.
I proclaimed my intention to write an English translation of the songs and he was all for that, then he could be a big hit on two continents. But, he didn’t keep in touch and I didn’t know how to reach him. I always pictured myself going to France one day and looking around and there he would be playing on a street corner. I let the time pass as if shutting my eyes tight enough would leave me where I was with all possibilities still intact. A couple years earlier, I would have just grabbed my backpack and hitched along.
I did end up learning and sometimes performing that one of the two songs, and finally a couple decades later I achieved a singable English version. Well, I guess I’m still working on it. Not quite satisfied. In recent years I looked for him on the internet a few times, with no success. Last night (early this morning) I was laying in bed sleepless again, and a long FaceBook chat in French with another non-French speaker led to my thinking about the song, failing to remember all of either the French or the English version. After a few hours I got up again, opened a beer and put the entire first line of the song into the Google box and there was a video result right at the top of the page. There could be a lot of “mis le feu” songs I supposed, but in the summary I could see the lyrics going on… those same ones that I thought I might be the only one who knew. …le seule solution…” It was a slightly different version, in 4 instead of waltz time, piano instead of guitar… but this is the song. (not really a video, just an audio recording with a picture of a fire to accompany it.) And that led to a whole page of videos of songs by Paul Boissier. (I guess they dropped the “Jean” at some point.) Damn, I thought, the sucker went and became functional in society. This led to finding both a Facebook and MySpace page, and I was excitedly getting ready to write to him when I read in the blurb on one of them something to the effect of (loosely tryanslating and from memory): “Gone too soon, before the inevitable national acclaim. They went on: Paul Boissard a marqué toute une génération de musiciens et poètes picards.”
I also found video and articles about a 20th anniversary celebration in 2007 for a collective cabaret named La Lune des Pirates, after one of Jean Paul’s songs. One of the nights of the anniversary was a Tribute to Paul Boissier. I guess that he had but to personally hand a song to the right person (here and there) to have it cared for and kept alive. No record company or publicity machine required.
I can’t find info on why he may have died. Later, I found on the main page of his DailyMotion site where they say he died some 20 years ago. This may have something to do with why the photos look pretty much like I remember him. But, I guess he made his mark. He lived.
et moi? “Maintenant, je reve sur des cendres… “-