Jacques Steyn  

Passport to France

Tribute to golden French international hits

Passport to France front cover Passport to France - back cover

  • Jacques Steyn and the J-Box Orchestra.
  • All instruments are digital and virtual.
  • Arrangement, instrumentation, performance: Jacques Steyn.

My arrangements show my rock and jazzy background.

See the Info on the songwriters below.

Click on song names to view details, and to listen to snippets

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Charles Aznavour (1924-2018: 94)
Aznavour In a 1998 global survey by CNN and users of Time Online, Charles Aznavour was named Entertainer of the Century. He received 18% of the total vote - more than Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.

His career spanned over 70 years and many other famous performed joined him on his stage - from Liza Minelli to Sting, Luciano Pavarotti and a very long list of others. Aznavour recorded more than 1'200 songs, interpreted in eight languages.

He wrote more than 800 songs and sold 180 million records.

Aznavour's parents (Michael Aznavourian and Knar Baghdasarian) were Armenian, but fled Armenia to France during the genocide and expulsion of the Armenians by the Ottoman government of Turkey between 1914 and 1923. Charles was born in 1924 in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris. with the name Shahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian.

He began acting at age 9 on both stage and in film and later became a dancer and performer in nightclubs. While he opened for Edith Piaf at the Moulin Rouge she mentored him and convinced him to focus on singing.

A very long list of other famous artists performed with him on his stage, and an even longer list recorded his songs. He kept on touring until his death in 2018 at age 94. His last tour included Latin America, Russia, Australia, Japan, and several European countries.


Michel Legrand (1932-2019: 87)
Legrand Michel Legrand was born in Paris in 1932, and like Charles Aznavour, of Armenian descent. His grew up in a musical home. His father (Raymond Legrand) was a conductor and composer, and his mother (Marcelle Ter-Mikaëlian) was the sister of conductor Jacques Hélian.

Legrand was a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, conductor. He wrote music scores for more than 200 films and TV productions. He was nominated for a long list of prestigious awards such as Academy Awards, Golden Globe awards, Grammy awards, Emmy Awards and many others. He won 3 Oscars and 5 Grammys.


Joseph Kozma (1905-1969: 64)
Kozma József Kozma was born in Budapest (Hungary). His name is also written as Joseph Kosma.

He began playing the piano at age 5, wrote his first opera at 11, and among others studied with Béla Bartók at the Liszt Academy. In 1928 he studied in Berlin and became acquainted with Bertolt Brecht, Helene Weigel and Hanns Eisler. He married a fellow student, Lilli Apel. In 1933 the couple emigrated to Paris.

In Paris he became acquainted with Jacques Prévert (a French poet and screenwriter and Jean Renoir (a French film director, screenwriter, actor, producer and author), regarded by film critics as the 4th greatest director of all time.

In the 1930s Kosma wrote music for many of Jacques Prévert's poems, which were recorded by popular singers. Most of his compositions were known only in France. The piece Les feuilles mortes (Autumn Leaves) became an evergreen internationally known song, and included as standard in jazz repertoires.


Jacques Brel (1929-1978: 48)
Brel Jacques Brel was born in Brussels, Belgium. His family of Flemish descent but spoke French. From his early teens he loved writing, from poems and essays to short stories, and eventually plays. When he was 15 he learned to play guitar.

From 1952, when he was 23, he wrote songs and performed them at family gatherings and in cabaret in Brussels. The next year he got a recording contract from Philips Records, and was convinced to move to Paris where he performed at various cabaret venues, initially without much success. He began touring and releasing more songs on record.

In 1956 he formed a partnership with a classical pianist François Rauber who did the arrangements of his songs. That year they released Quand on n'a que l'amour (When You Only Have Love) which became a French hit.

The following year he performed with the already famous French singers Maurice Chevalier and Michel Legrand. Later in the year he won a music award, Grand Prix du Disque.

From then on he was set on a music performance career in the limelight, touring several French speaking countries, including Madagascar. In 1966 he decided to retire from music performance altogether, being tired of the performances and hectic schedule. He nevertheless afterwards completed 4 more studio albums and also got involved with film as actor, eventually appearing in 10 films.

In the 1970s he developed a passion for sailing and bought a boats, Askoy II, with which he planned a 3-year voyage around the world. He and his wife got as far as the French-Polynesian Marquesas Islands near Tahiti and decided to settle there. Here he wrote 17 new songs, and recorded 12 of them on his last album, called Les Marquises.

They lived on the island until his last days. By 1978 his lung cancer developed to such an extent that he flew back to Paris where he was hospitalised. He died later that year at the age of 48.


Claude François (1939-1978: 39)
Francois Claude François was born in 1939 in Egypt. His father was working as a manager for the Anglo-French Suez canal company on the Suez Canal. His mother was Italian, from the southwestern area of Calabria. She was very musical, and had Claude take piano and violin lessons, while he also learned how to play drums.

As a result of the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, together with many others the family was expelled from Egypt. They moved to Monaco. There Claude played drums with an orchestra at the luxury hotels along the French Riviera, and also began to sing. He soon moved to Paris.

In Paris he recorded some American rock and roll numbers. He wrote French lyrics for American songs. In 1963 two such numbers became hits in France: Si j'avais un marteau (the song If I had a hammer) and Marche Tout Droit (Walk Right In). His career was set.

In 1967 he co-wrote Comme d'habitude (As Usual) with Jacques Revaux which became a hit in French-speaking countries. Paul Anka wrote the English lyrics as My Way, which became an international hit.

By the 1970s disco became the craze, and Claude shifted from rock to disco.

He had an international career performing all over Europe, including the Royal Albert Hall in London.

In 1978 while taking a shower he was bothered by the light fixture not being straight on the wall and accidentally electrocuted himself - so the story goes.