At 79 years old, Serge Lama releases one last tribute album to the great French song, to love and to his first album, “I am sick”. Immersed in an extraordinary career dotted with tasty anecdotes.
Paris party. Why stop the song now?
Serge Lama. These things just happen. Before Covid I had planned a tour of the provinces, and after confinement I could no longer sing, it completely broke me physically. I had no choice. I have seen artists, like Trenet, sing sitting down. “There is joy” sitting, it is not possible. I remember Serge Reggiani, 70 years old, they brought him in and put him in front of the microphone, like an automaton. My body screams, creaks, screams. Even if everything is fine in my head, I feel handicapped. I don’t want people to see me like that.
This last disk is red, like the first. Do they answer each other?
Not really. The common point is love. All my songs, even the funniest ones, are about love. Here, “Les p’tites femmes de Pigalle”, that’s all, the story of a friend, wounded in the heart, who goes to Pigalle to drown his sorrows in the alcohol of sex. It was a sad text at first, and the composer diverted the piece. That was what launched the red disk. At the same time, Dalida asked me if she could sing “I’m sick”, so the radios played my two songs at the same time. I performed them until my last concert.
There’s a song I wrote for my wife, Luana, that goes, “That’s why I’m saying goodbye to you.”
So, for Serge Lama, love has no age?
There’s a song I wrote for my wife, Luana, that goes, “That’s why I say goodbye to you.” She is 44 years old and, despite her love, at one point I told myself that I couldn’t stay with her, I was afraid of spoiling her… And finally, she didn’t want this song either. We got married last year. Everything I do is for her, this album is dedicated to her. Our love story has lasted twenty years. I was with her even when he was still married…
For years I was very afraid of this moment where I was going to go to war.
“The Men I Love” is an ode to male sensibility. Are you in step with the times?
I wrote this song thinking of Johnny Hallyday. I loved Johnny. Except that the authors of it did not abandon him and it was almost impossible to pass this obstacle. But I was thinking maybe we could catch up with this one. And then not. So I saved it to talk about men who don’t give up but who know how to pick flowers. Like Camus: a modest man from below. His death was an important event in my life. On the same level as the Algerian war.
I have great admiration for Federer, for a long time.
Which you also got a song from.
For years I was very afraid of this moment where I was going to go to war. I went there and only beautiful memories remained. The arrival in Algiers, I had never taken the boat before, was magnificent. But what the hell did I do… I went to the casbah dressed as a soldier. They could have killed me! Except that I had seen this movie with Gabin, “Pépé le Moko”, where he descends into the casbah. I wanted to see this. I was shy but I dared to do crazy things… And I wrote a song called “L’Algérie”, more for myself than for the public, which came out as a single. Right after the launch I went to Nouméa for a month with a friend, it was great, I came back and they said, “You’re at 1 million”. I could not believe it.
I still have projects in mind. If only to write my biography…
In his new album he pays homage to Herman Melville and Roger Federer. Because they?
Melville is an extraordinary author, who says very profound things. I have read “Moby Dick” at least five times. And Federer, I didn’t know he was going to stop when I wrote the text. I have a great admiration for him, for a long time, even before he was known. He is the synthesis of everything that made tennis before him, a kind of absolute player.
And then there is “The Pensioner”. Are you ?
No, he’s an old man who lives in the suburbs. The elderly are threatened because we always think they have money. I put myself in the place of this old man. He is moving, all that. I, you know, am serene. I’m leaving excited, I still have projects in my head. If only to write my biography…
There are newspapers for which I do not exist and there are some for which I exist. And that’s fine with me.
How do you feel in current times?
Everything changed five years ago with the arrival of feminism. She had to move, but she’s going the wrong way. I’m afraid of a war of the sexes. I come from another era, with other excesses. But you know, I didn’t have any success with girls when I was young. She was very lonely and suffered a lot. And at 30, suddenly, hundreds of women jumped on me, ready for anything, really. I was not Weinstein, me. I almost felt violated. Before that, no one looked at me.
The media also looked at you a lot. How did you experience it?
There are newspapers for which I do not exist and there are some for which I exist. And that’s fine with me. It must be said that after the show about Napoleon the press was divided. I had been the first to play at the Palais des Congrès, where I stayed for three months. After that, I wanted to do the Châtelet. So I meet the director and he tells me: “I can give you three days, but no more. On the other hand, if you were doing a musical…” I walked out of there and told my producer, “Let’s play ‘Napoleon’!” It lasted three years. Afterwards, I did the comedian, I wandered. When I took over the song, I didn’t sing like I used to and I never stopped.
After my serious car accident I decided yes, I would get out of there and get my life back.
Your passion for this profession seems intact.
He invented me! It was for my dad, mostly. He was so dominated by my mother, but he was happy that I was a singer. To tell you, one afternoon I was making Bobino, it was a triumph. My mom walks into the dressing room and says, “If we hadn’t stopped you, you wouldn’t be here.” And she wasn’t kidding. She could have done it without it, I… She was a fate breaker.
So you stop, sure, there’s no going back?
For me, no, it’s no. And on the contrary, when after my serious car accident I decided that yes, that I would get out of it and that I would find life again, I did it. I told the doctor that he did not give me a chance: not only will I do it, but my name will appear on the front of the Olympia. I had seen Bécaud there, when he was a boy, and I told myself that he was the most beautiful thing in the world. And went. ￼