Toulouse. Claude Sicre, the man who made Nougaro sing on the roof of the Capitol

By Gabriel Kenedi
Published on

May 8, 24 at 7:06 p.m.

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On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of the immense Claude Nougaro, - Toulouse went to meet several Toulouse artists, so that they could tell us about “their Claude”. For this second episode, Claude Sicre tells us about his meeting with Claude Nougaro, with whom he became friends after making him a proposal that was audacious to say the least: singing on the roof of the Capitol during the Toulouse Carnival!

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When we ask Claude Sicre to remember his first meeting with Nougaro, the singer of the Fabulous Troubadour, now retired in his countryside off the coast of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (Tarn-et-Garonne), replies: “I met him once first time in the corridors of a nightclub in Toulouse. It must have been in 1966 or 1967… but I didn’t speak to him! “.

We had to wait 20 more years for the two Claudes – who are 20 years apart – to really meet. And how !

A crazy bet: making Claude Nougaro the Carnival King

The two Claudes, Claude Sicre and Claude Nougaro, in the Arnaud-Bernard district. (©T. Chateau / Personal archives of Claude Sicre)

At the time, the Fabulous did not quite exist yet and Claude Sicre was the vice-president of Cocu, the association which organizes the carnival each year. The two Claudes therefore meet at the very end of 1986, on the occasion of New Year’s Eve.

Claude Sicre digs into his memory machine: “In 1985, we organized Carnival and we had problems with the town hall. There were very small riots on the Place du Capitole, when the carnival arrived, and the mayor at the time (Dominique Baudis) got angry. In 1986, we went to Bahia to do the carnival and in September, we asked ourselves the question of whether we would do the carnival again in Toulouse. The president of Cocu, Jean-Francois Laffont – we were both on the Place du Cap – pitched me the idea of ​​bringing Nougaro, I found it very clever, because the mayor would have had difficulty getting involved. oppose it, and that it would unite the people of Toulouse. But, in my opinion, it was necessary to find a somewhat extraordinary ideaboth to honor Nougaro, who had just been dumped by his Parisian record company, Barclay, and to show that in Toulouse, we knew how to invent and laugh, that we were not provincials gna gna gna…” .

And Sicre, who presents himself as “folklore engineer” immediately came up with the idea: “We crowned Claude, king of Carnival, we asked him to write a special song… and we made him sing on the roof of the Capitol… The president thought for 30 seconds at most, it was enormous anyway, then he slapped my hand and said Banco! “.

“You want to blackmail me over my father’s head? »

“I was tasked with contacting Nougaro. As I was friends with Bernard Lubat (historic drummer of Nougaro), he invited Claude Nougaro and his wife, Helene, to New Year’s Eve, to his mill in Uzeste (Aude). At the time, Nougaro didn’t really know me, because I hadn’t even launched Fabulous. The first thing he said to me when I told him my idea was: You want to blackmail me over my father’s head?. Because his father was a lyric singer at the Capitol. We laughed for a while, I spoke to him about the ambition of a Toulouse Capital of Culture, and very quickly, he asked me very practical questions. I explained to him that there would be security at the top, that he would be tied up and that then we would lower him with a crane onto a sound truck, that he would tour Toulouse and that we would finish at the Sports park (on Ramier Island, editor’s note). I didn’t hide from him that we were a little angry with the mayor… He told me: ‘I’ll take care of it!'”.

“Nougaro had a light outfit made for him, it was magnificent! »

Nougaro in his Carnival king outfit. (©Toulouse Town Hall / archives)

Nougaro on the roof of the Capitol? The idea, although a little crazy, was appealing! “I said to myself, in my little head, that there would be the young people at the Carnival, some of whom would discover Nougaro, that it would bring all the Nougaro fans but also many Toulouse residents who would like to see the feat! And it worked, we mixed these three audiences,” he adds, as an engineer.

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The carnival took place in March 1987. “Nougaro had a costume of light made for him, a torreador-cantador costume, he was magnificent ! He sang his song. Unfortunately, it was not recorded, we only have little bits of it…, that’s a shame! Then, he got off on the sound truck and we set off through the streets of Toulouse, taking rue d’Alsace, rue du Languedoc and all that… We went to the Parc des Expos with the whole crowd and there, Nougaro sang again.”

Here is an archive video from the INA, which relates the carnival evening:

The start of a long friendship

Claude Sicre adds: “He was very happy to have done that. It earned me eternal gratitude! From there, we became very friends. Every time he came to Toulouse, he came to my house, to my neighborhood of Arnaud-Bernard, or invited me to his house.

“At home, he called it the Arnaud-Bernard favelas. It was not yet transformed as it is today. Everything was made of odds and ends, there were vague courtyards everywhere, apartments cobbled together over years of extravagant design, there were Spaniards, North Africans, Italians, Portuguese among many French people. originally from the countryside who spoke patois, my neighbor had chickens and a rooster in his garden, a fabulous world… It wasn’t the area, but there was definitely a little favela side, which Claude had experienced in Rio. Claude Sicre laughs today.

From Carnival to Nougayork

Nougaro and Sicre
Nougaro and Sicre (©Archives Claude Sicre)

From there to say – as legend has it – that the Toulouse carnival relaunched the career of Nougaro, who released a few months later, at the age of 56, the record Nougayorkhis greatest popular success?

” No! “, Claude Sicre responds clearly: “It was not the carnival that gave him his enthusiasm. He already had it! To take the risk of climbing onto the roof of the Capitol, with more or less well-respected guys like us, you already had to be pumped up! It’s true that the carnival was a success, but Claude was already a fu’n ! “, he assures, finishing in Toulouse Occitan (a fu’n = thoroughly).

And he adds: “To go to New York, he took financial risks, he sold his apartment in Paris, he used a large part of his money to promote himself because they no longer wanted him. . He simply believed in himself! He was a true adventurer, like all true creators. What is certain is that Nougayork was a great success, which redoubled his self-confidence. One day he said to me: you know, I was born unhappy. I’m always unhappy except when I’m on stage.”.

“Nougaro, it was music that first marked him! »

Claude Sicre further confides, about his friend: “Many people are mistaken about Nougaro by believing that it is a poet who set his verses to music. It’s an optical illusion! Nougaro, it was music that first marked him. Lyrical singing by his father then, what fascinated him, was jazz on the radio, Armstrong and the others. He wanted to be a jazz singer while singing a bit like his father. And that’s what pushed him to write. He loved written poetry, but sung poetry, therefore song, was above all, because he had a musical streak. Nougaro is first and foremost a musician, vocally, who wrote songs for himself to be able to sing what he wanted the way he wanted. And dance on them, because he was also a dancer. An artisan of art, a worker, inimitable, like all the real ones.”

Should we do more about Nougaro in Toulouse?

While the tributes follow one another on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the death of Claude Nougaro, Toulouse must still do more for its unforgettable singer, through the creation of a museum like the one in Sète for Georges Brassens, For example ?

“We don’t need a museum that buries Nougaro!”

“I know that the Town Hall wants to do something but it has to be a project that comes from the grassroots, that’s what they would like. There is of course Cécile’s barge, a place for intimate discovery of her father whom she loves deeply. A must for enthusiasts. But many people in Toulouse and elsewhere think that there should also be a more general public place… If there is a project that holds water, I am sure. that the Town Hall, the Region, the Department and even the State will provide their support”, estimates Claude Sicre.

Who adds: “But we don’t need a museum that buries Nougaro, we need to do something very alive, which mixes memories and young artists inspired by Claude, a place of reflection and creation at the same time, very popular and very scholarly to at the same time, as we don’t know how to do it in France, here too we have to imagine… Because the paradox is that it is a little unknown, but it’s not up to the administration to invent something! “This must come from those on the ground”, concludes Claude Sicre. To be continued!


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