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Les Corons: a superb tribute by Pierre Bachelet to the “black mouths”

The 3e album by Pierre Bachelet, was released in June 1982, just 40 years ago. Against the advice of the producers of his record company, Polydor, the singer had decided to include a song written in tribute to the coal miners of the Nord and Pas-de-Calais: The Corons

Photo Stephane Compoint

Pierre Bachelet was born in Paris in May 1944. After beginning his professional career in the production of documentaries and advertising films – he graduated from ENS Louis-Lumière – he changed paths and composed film music, the most famous being, in 1974, that of a opus erotic which is a worldwide success: Emmanuelle by Just Jackin. Other film scores follow until the artist decides to start singing. A successful reconversion: in 1980, Pierre Bachelet achieved great success with an album, She’s from elsewherewhich marks the beginning of his collaboration with lyricist Jean-Pierre Lang.

In 1982, Pierre Bachelet feels the need to compose a song that pays homage to this north where he lived for a few years during his childhood, in his father’s hometown: Calais. Although not very rooted in Flanders and Artois, the singer is keen on this project which he is patiently maturing. On reflection, he decides to focus the text on what best symbolizes this endearing region, both in his eyes and in those of the public: the life of underground miners. His friend Jean-Pierre Lang is himself a Parisian of Corsican origin, without any northern roots. This does not prevent the two men from writing and composing in a very beautiful way The Corons.

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Pierre Bachelet insisted on incorporating this song into the album which was to be released in June 1982. The producers of Polydor were against it: the text was judged ” too sad “, and moreover ” unsuitable to be launched at the beginning of summer, when people are already thinking about holidays and are looking for titles conducive to celebration and relaxation. An opinion shared by his friend Patrick Sébastien who confided 10 years ago: “ I didn’t believe it for a moment, in this song. Pierre Bachelet holds firm, and his tenacity proves him right: not only does the song rise to the top of the charts, where it remains for almost two months, but very quickly it acquires the status of an unofficial anthem of the mining basin.

All you have to do to take full measure of the very strong bond that has been created between the inhabitants of the region and this song is to go to the Bollaert-Delelis stadium in Lens on a match night. Since February 19, 2005 – 4 days after the death of Pierre Bachelet, swept away by lung cancer –, the 2e couplet of Corons is broadcast by the stadium loudspeakers at half-time of each Racing Club de Lens match. The refrain, taken up by the entire audience (link) is awe-inspiring, and anyone who has experienced that moment, which is frequently said to be ” he takes to the guts “, keeps a fond memory long after having forgotten the adventures of the match.

What are you talking about The Corons ? Memories of a child who was born in the mining area and lived in these straight streets where, tightly packed against each other, are aligned the small brick houses where the families of miners live. The Corons talk about coal and miners who go down to extract it from the galleries at the bottom of the pits. The song also talks about the silicosis that attacks their lungs, and the firedamp that sometimes bereave their loved ones. But above all The Corons refer to a ” childhood happy in the mist of washing machines “. With the landscape the slagheaps in the absence of mountains “.

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The success of this song is all the more astonishing since, for many years, the former miners wanted to forget, not their harsh working conditions, too often punctuated by tragic accidents, any more than the handkerchiefs, black dust which lined their bronchial tubes, but the terrible disappointments they experienced when the wells closed one after another, plunging the region into bitterness and desolation. They are the children and grandchildren of the miners », very proud of the experience of their elders and their dignity, who have resolutely appropriated this song to make it a hymn to the glory of their ancestors.

The last collieries in the northern basin closed more than 30 years ago. And yet, all the Ch’tis, young and old, recognize themselves in The Corons, a song that has become a marker of their identity. Dany Boon, the native of Armentières, was not mistaken: he incorporated in his film Welcome to the Ch’tis a match scene in Lens where we see Kad Merad, alias Philippe Abrams, the man coming from the south for professional reasons, discovering alongside Dany Boon, alias Antoine Bailleul, the formidable atmosphere of Bollaert (link) on a game night. The Corons : difficult to be insensitive to it, even if one was born and if one grew up hundreds of kilometers away!

Link : The Corons by Pierre Bachelet in photomontage

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