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We did it our way: Lyrical Connections of Monte Carlo and Las Vegas August 14, 2011

Posted by jonathanwarren in Grace Kelly, Las Vegas, Monaco Royal Wedding, Monegasques in the USA, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, Princess Grace of Monaco.
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Claude Francoise on a Monaco yacht, 1966

Claude Francoise on a Monaco yacht, 1966

Claude “Cloclo” François spent his childhood in Egypt, before moving with his parents to Monte Carlo when he was 17, in 1956.  Having had natural talent and musical training all his youth,  François was soon to start a meteoric rise to stardom.

Frank Sinatra at the Monaco Train Station 1958

Sinatra in Monaco, 1958

1956 was a bustling time in the Principality.  Prince Rainier III and Academy Award-winning actress Grace Kelly had just been married.  The wedding celebrations took place to the flashes of hundreds of press photographers.  The event was covered in spectacular style by the acclaimed French poet and author Louise de Vilmorin, a former resident of Las Vegas, on assignment for Marie Claire Magazine and invited by the Royal couple.

Stars of Hollywood and Las Vegas were often seen in Monte Carlo.  Frank Sinatra, then a part-owner of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, had co-starred with Grace Kelly in the movie “High Society” which was released in 1956.  He frequented Monaco with friends, as did many other entertainers.

Claude François started his musical career in this energized environment, in the orchestras of Monaco and the French Riviera, and quickly moved into the pop music scene.  Often called the ‘French Elvis’, he had great success before opening his own stage production and record company, in 1967 at the age of 27, in Paris.

It was then that François and Jacques Revaux wrote a song in French called Comme d’habitude (“As Usual”), which became a huge hit in Francophile countries.

Canadian singer-songwriter Paul Anka re-wrote the lyrics in English for an American audience in 1970, as the song “My Way”.  It became the identifying song of both Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra during their long-standing residencies in Las Vegas.

Elvis Presley had a long-running show at the Las Vegas Hilton until he died in Las Vegas in 1977.  Claude François died of an accidental electrocution seven months later.  Only Frank Sinatra continued to sing the song.

Anka’s rendition, written with Sinatra in mind, came to define the man.  His star-studded 80th birthday party was titled: “Sinatra: 80 Years My Way.”  On the night of his death at the age of 82 in 1998, the lights on the Las Vegas Strip went dark for ten minutes, in tribute.

Claude Francois and the Claudettes 1966

Claude Francois and the Claudettes, 1966

Claude François had become known as the “King of Kitsch” in some circles for his flashy shows in his later career.   His showmanship and style now has him making something of a posthumous comeback.  A film of his life is soon to be released, partially filmed in the Principality of Monaco.

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