Dear MANUELA, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
I must say that I am myself rather surprised, not to find myself at LOUISETTE with you, my dear MANUELA, but to find myself there as a minister, with a decoration in my pocket.
So there are people who make fun of medals, but I think there are cases where they are a particularly strong symbol. It is, for example – and it is too rare – when they come to thank and perhaps shed some light on modest and generous servants of French culture. For the «stars», the medal is too often only a compulsory course, a new take on a chasm, in a whole career focused on recognition. But in your case, dear MANUELA, I must be able to say that it is quite different.
You are an icon of another kind. Your success is not primarily “cathodic”. You touch thousands of people, but you touch them directly, giving of yourself, in an authentic, generous and special relationship every time, almost for each of us.
At each of your appearances, it is the story of this song of streets and cafes that is the soul of Paris, of a Paris that we would like to live forever and of which we have nostalgia, but at the same time nostalgia is a constituent element. And you, too, do to us, many times, “the trick of remembering”… Each time, your voice appears among us as if you were, in a way, our representative, the spokeswoman of the emotions of the people of Paris.
Indeed, dear MANUELA, you belong to the line of rare birds who know how to sing our joys and our sorrows – from the “sparrow” that was GAVROCHE for Victor HUGO to the PIAF, the MÔME PIAF of which you perpetuate, with your own stamp, vibrant and radiant, with your emotions and, dare I say, your guts, the legacy may be eternal.
When we hear you, we say “She wants to sing, it’s physical”, and especially “Don’t stop the music”. It is rather time that stops, and the clients of LOUISETTE share a unique moment, as if in suspense, a moment that is close to the great epoch of the muzzled balls, guinguettes, and all those words in «ette» that say well the charm of this Paris. And each time, the song is different because of the quality of commitment and self-giving that is yours, which transcends the refrain and sublimates the antiphon. It is a popular form of "eternal return" which is at the same time, each time, "neither quite the same nor quite another"… This is how you give us an impression of duration, almost eternity, in simple and beautiful moments that bring us together and that resemble you.
This “atmosphere” – well known… – you did not hesitate to share it and share it with the rest of the world. From the four corners of Europe to Japan and America, you have borne the colours, but I would rather say the indescribable nuances, which may at first seem impossible to export, of this sluggish and joyful soul, but also of an inimitable melancholy which is that of the suburbs, that of Clignancourt, those of heaps of rhymes in «-our» which made us dream and which, they too, say a little Paris and its surroundings...
Whatever the tone, what strikes me in your voice and in your way of singing is a tense energy, an exceptional vigour for 40 years, a bit like a cry from the deepest of ourselves. And here too, I believe that it is a collective energy, that of the people, to which you lend your voice. Around that energy are all these phrasings, these kinds of ornaments that are pure pleasure, the way you slap the “l”, the way you roll the “r”, and give the French language something a little exuberant and shiny, something of a Latin language with, in addition, on it, the mists of Paris…
In this force, in this intensity, it also necessarily, sometimes, as a tone of reproach, of grumbling, of protest – it’s so French! But I say this in good part, because it is also a matter of a spirit of resistance, of a France that does not allow itself to be reckoned with, something that distinguishes us in Europe and in the world, and which also explains, perhaps, our revolts and even our Revolution. «I have too much to do to be able to dream», as the song says; and we see that melancholy becomes almost militant, even if it remains above all human.
It is to you – and, through you, to all that you bring to life, to LOUISETTE too – that I wanted to pay tribute, far from the palaces of the Republic, but close to my heart and, I believe, to our values.
Dear MANUELA, dear Raymonde FIOUX, on behalf of the French Republic, I have the great pleasure of making you a Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters.