The composer of the soundtracks to”Demoiselles de Rochefort” (Young Girls of Rochefort) and “Parapluies de Cherbourg” (Windmills of Your Mind) has died at the age of 86. Vogue pays homage to him.
He was one of the greatest “grands compositeurs” of the music of French films. Who wouldn’t recognize the uplifting lyrics of the song sung by the twins played by Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac in Jacques Demy’s Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (Young Girls of Rochefort). Who wouldn’t be moved by the melodies of “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” (Windmills of Your Mind), the first French film to be entirely sung, by the same director, a key figure In Legrand’s story, with whom he would collaborate on 9 films.
Michel Legrand was also a pianist and singer. The son of a musician, this jazz fan, who first trained at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, would go on the work with a string of musical legends including Henri Salvador, Maurice Chevallier, Boris Vian, Claude Nougaro in France and Miles Davis, Bill Evans and John Coltrane in America.
He tested out many musical styles, including rock, as in 1956, when, upon his return from America, he worked on several titles with two fellow French music legends, working under pseudonyms; Henry Cording aka Henri Salvador (singer) and Vernon Sinclair aka Boris Vian (lyrics).
In cinema, it was with the director Jacques Demy that he would collaborate the most, starting with the film Lola in 1961, then Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (Windmills of Your Mind) which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Festival of 1964, before being awarded four Oscars. These we followed by Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (Young Girls of Rochefort) in 1968, Peau d’âne (Donkey Skin) in 1970 and six other films.
The composer, goes down in history as truly shaping the sound of French cinema.