February 1, 1939 – March 11, 1978
This story was completely put together by Findadeath.com friend Gary Thelen. Thanks for educating me Gary. I would never have known about Claude if it weren’t for you. Well done.
The French singer who did the most to popularize rock and roll music in France was Claude Francois. His career can be compared to that of Elvis Presley in America. His accidental death in 1978 sent shock waves through the Gallic music world and even inspired a number of female fans to attempt suicide in order to join him in the next world. Two of them succeeded.
Claude François, affectionately known as “Clo-Clo” to his fans, was born in Ismailia, Egypt, on February 1, 1939. His father worked on the Suez Canal. He showed an interest in playing the drums while growing up in the Near East but his parents made him take violin lessons. When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, the family returned to France and settled on the Riviera. He finished the French high school, or “lycee” and earned his college admission or “Baccalaureat.” Rather than go to college, he found a job in a bank and began playing the drums in various musical groups. That lead to singing with groups and a recording contract. His first major musical success was the song “Belles, Belles, Belles” which reached number one on the French charts in October of 1962. It sold 1.7 million copies. This launched his career in singing and recording. HE eventually founded his own recording label called, “Fleche” (Arrow) records.
For the next 15 years, Claude was one of the most popular recording artists in France. In 1976 he decided to attempt a repeat of his success in the UK and America. He recorded an English language album, and did a musical special for the BBC. He died shortly after this successful debut, and just prior to him reaching the US shores.
On March 11, 1978, Claude was at his Paris apartment at #46 Boulevard Exelmans, with an American girlfriend named Kathleen, and a French secretary.
In the afternoon he took a shower in preparation for a trip to the recording studio. After finishing his shower, he noticed that the light bulb in the socket hanging over the shower was burned out. With his feet in the water, he reached up to change it, and was instantly electrocuted. Efforts to revive him failed. He was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m.
The funeral took place in the church at Auteuil, near Paris, on March 15. 400 people filled the church, with many more standing outside. He was buried in the cemetery of the village of Dannemois, also very near Paris in “Essone” department (91). Claude purchased an old mill there in 1964, and remodeled it. He first came to the area while visiting Brigitte Bardot, who lived nearby. Today the estate is a hotel, discotheque, showroom and museum.
When his mother Chouffa died, she was buried next to Claude.
Twenty years after the death of Claude Francois, the city fathers of Paris decided to honor him by naming a small public square on the Boulevard Exelmans after Claude. It’s very close to the apartment where he died. The signs were erected, and the formal dedication of the Place Claude Francois took place on March 11, 2000.
Thank you Gary.
5 thoughts on “Claude Francois”
Is this the guy who gets a writing credit for the song ‘My Way’?
Oh, that man… He was as stubborn and obnoxious as one could be. He had his Claudettes (the way Ray Charles had his Raelettes), and they were subject to his temper tantrums. He could give the occasionnal blessing, but most of the time it was a put-down. His jealousy wore him down and he was not even a very good businessman.
Funny/not funny bit of trivia about his apartement. Well he had bought it after “Belles belles belles” hit the top of the charts. It was a cool investment for a young man, quite cheap, and for some reasons- a woman had slit her wrists and died. In the bath. Comes early ’78, and Clo-Clo’s death. And then a third person joins the fun and decides to buy the place and sleep. But where? Not in the bedroom, but in the bathroom, having changed the two rooms’ position. So the man died of a cardiac arrest in his bed, which sat exactly where the bath once stood.
He also had two young sons, the youngest of which spent his childhood secluded because of, you know, the young female fans.
Nowadays Clo-Clo is still popular, people still dance and sing to his music, there’s been a bopic (quite a good one), but he’s also hated for his music, singing, attics and general mistreatment of people. To me the finest tribute to him is the song “Adieu Clo-Clo” by the wonderful Boo Radleys on their “Kingsize” LP of 1998.
This man’s untimely death was terrible, but it also carries a message about safety that probably saved at least one other person’s life at some point, I would have to imagine. RIP.
I know what you mean about safety.
Cloclo should never have touched that electric light bulb with wet hands, let alone while standing in a bathtub full of water, because it’s very, very dangerous.
What a waste of talent and a completely preventable death.