Aristide Bruant , born Aristide Louis Armand Bruand onin Courtenay in the Loiret and died onin Paris , is a singer and writer French . His popular songs, his stage presence, his hoarse and powerful voice, and his stature have made him a monument to French realistic song. It is considered one of the greatest poets of the slang of the late xix th century and beginning of the xx th century.

It was one of the creators of the realistic song , movement that lasted until the mid xx th century including Edith Piaf as one of the last performers. This movement has left lasting traces even in contemporary French music.


Children and Youth

Aristide Bruant was born into a bourgeois family. During his childhood, he learned Latin through the care of the country’s priest, who cited it as an example of application. His family then sent him to the Impérial de Sens high school where, at the age of eleven, he collected the first prizes of Greek , Latin, history and vocal music. In 1862 he composed his first song.

As a result of setbacks, his parents must leave Courtenay for Paris , where the moves will follow one another. In order to flee the creditors from 1863 to 1867 , from Ménilmontant to Montmartre , they made five moves.

By the end of 1867 , he had to leave Imperial High School because his father – alcoholic and ruined – had not been able to pay for the last quarters. His father decides that Aristide is old enough to work and takes him to an attorney . He can support his entire family. But, because of the regular hunt for his parents by bailiffs, he must change his profession and becomes an apprentice jeweler, then worker-jeweler.

He then worked gold and silver and set precious stones in the back-shops of some jewelers. He follows his parents through Paris and the suburbs, frequenting restaurants for the poor, the cafes of workers, alongside the unfortunate, the rebels, the girls and the bad boys. He listens to their confidences and learns their contact in their jargon.

During the War of 1870 , he was engaged as a maverick in the company of “Courtenay guys”.

First successes

Demobilized, he works at the Northern Railway Company . For four years, he watched his colleagues live and compared their well-regulated existence to the adventurous life of outlaws he encountered. He is passionate about their language, starts to look for the origins of slang to François Villon and the shells and works on the slang dictionaries of the municipal libraries. While waiting to write slanging refrains, he composes tender romances.

In 1894, he is a candidate for the Académie française 1 .

Léon de Bercy in 1898 evokes the beginnings of Aristide Bruant in goguettes . This is where he finds his first audience 2 :

In the aftermath of the terrible Year – I will say a moment ago what was its conduct – at the age of nineteen, Bruant pour vivre, joined the Northern Railway Company. But he loves the theater, and the sedentary life, the office life weigh him: he dreams of freedom, and in the evening, during the hours of leisure that leaves him his existence as an employee, he runs the goguetteswhere he pushes “his” like comrades. He has the look, the trunk and the confidence in himself; his boldness and frankness serve him well: he is encouraged. It was then that he wrote his first songs, of a character still undecided but in a new, original way already; for he uses the colorful language of the street, the language of the people, with his picturesque elisions and patoisement. He is gradually getting rid of banal conventions; he becomes the impeccable rhymer and, after taking from the people his way of expressing himself, he will take the thought and give it back, to serve it: his way is found.

He is noticed by a singer who encourages him to perform at the Robinson, where he triumphs.

With this success, he tries his luck at the café-concert and performs at the Concert des Amandiers. Although the public was difficult, he triumphed again, which gives him more and more confidence. His repertoire includes comical songs and social songs.

An impresario notices it and is engaged at Darelli in Nogent-sur-Marne , where he knows again the success. He also begins to live in a certain ease. These successes encouraged him to audition at the Concert of the Epoch. There, it consists of a star suit: long jacket, elephant leg pants, clairet vest and top hat. The effect is wonderful, he knows the drunkenness of the reminders. Until he is incorporated into the 113 th line at Melun . Opportunist, he immediately wrote a military march: V’la the hundredth-thirteenth that passes . Adapted at the double by the bandmaster of the 113 ththis march becomes not only the march of the regiment, but that of most regiments of France.

His fame begins to spread. Upon his demobilization, he quickly crossed the steps. Trestles of the Concert of the Epoch, it passes on the scenes of the biggest cafes-concerts, the Scala and the Clock. Elegant singer, he wears a pinkish beige jacket and a flowered vest (of a good maker), as well as a custom top hat. It is from this period that date the first masterpieces he composed on the neighborhoods of Paris .

Black Cat

Aristide Bruant is then sung by illustrious performers such as Paulus and his friend Jules Jouy , who will open the doors of the Chat Noir in 1881.

The Black Cat, fashionable artistic cabaret, had been arranged by Rodolphe Salis in a former post office located at 84, boulevard Rochechouart in Paris.

For his reception in this cenacle, frequented by the poetic elite, he composed the Ballade du Chat Noir , a song that remains famous until today. Bunting then trades the complete ceremonial-jacket against a gamekeeper’s outfit, black corduroy jacket with matching panties, sunk in big black boots, scarlet shirt and scarf, as a cloak a huge black cape and, like headgear, black felt with wide brim that his friend Toulouse-Lautrechas often sketched face, profile or back. He explains his transformation: “The guignol is over! … A new bunting is born! … And this bunting will say two words to the crowd of son-to-dad, lazy, incapable! … He will shout the the menacing hatred of the poor and rebels … as well as the pain hidden in the slums … ”

A singer in velvet costume, who puts his boots on the tables to sing slang songs, is a novelty that the Black Cat clientele appreciates. He is applauded every night. But the owner of the establishment does not pay him and just allow him to sell small formats in the room, which brings him only meager income. Fortune begins to smile at the singer when Rodolphe Salis, frightened by the thugs of the neighborhood, abandons the cabaret Boulevard Rochechouart , to install the Chat Noir rue Victor Massé , a small street parallel to the boulevard. With a thousand francs lent by an admirer, he then settles in a deserted place that he calls the Mirliton, from the name of a popular and cheap musical instrument.

The Mirliton

On the evening of the inauguration of the Mirliton , there are only three customers. Unhappy, he begins to insult them copiously: the public appreciates. This is how he creates his brand image. As opposed to the affected style of Rodolphe Salis , gentleman of operetta, he chooses coarseness. While Rodolphe Salis greeted his clients with the title of monseigneur, Bruant calls them villains. When Rodolphe Salis affected the dress of a general in civilian clothes, Bunting dressed as a gouape. At Bruant, to greet the arrival of a customer, we sing: “Oh that’s mouth, it’s hilarious. ”

Ensuite, debout sur une table, Aristide Bruant donne d’une voix forte ses instructions aux gens du monde par la renommée : « Tas de cochons ! Gueules de miteux ! Tâchez de brailler en mesure. Sinon fermez vos gueules. »

Si quelques jolies dames se montraient offensées, le maître de céans leur parle avec une très grande franchise : « Va donc, eh, pimbêche ! T’es venue de Grenelle en carrosse exprès pour te faire traiter de charogne ? Eh bien ! T’es servie ! » Il ajoutait même parfois : « Vieille vache ! ».

La verdeur de ces propos, ainsi que les affiches qu’il commande à son ami Toulouse-Lautrec, ne sont pas les seules raisons de son succès. On se déplace d’Auteuil ou de Passy pour l’écouter chanter les peines et les joies de la crapule, alors à la mode, avec, à l’époque, les ouvrages des écrivains naturalistes. Son répertoire de qualité se répand en même temps que les œuvres de Zola, de Paul Adam, des frères Goncourt, d’Oscar Méténier ou de Joris-Karl Huysmans.

Au Mirliton, le verre de bière est vendu treize sous, mais devant l’évolution de son public, Aristide Bruant décide d’instituer chaque vendredi une soirée « chic ». Ainsi, le vendredi le verre de bière est vendu cinq francs (cent sous). Des célébrités comme François Coppée, Lucien Guitry, le dompteur Pezon font partie des habitués de ces vendredis chics, entourés de bourgeoises endimanchées, ravies de s’entendre injurier par le « grand Bruant ».


La publication du premier volume de ses œuvres, monologues et chansons intitulé Dans la rue, illustré par Steinlen, fait sensation : de Maurice Barrès[réf. nécessaire]à Anatole France — « Le premier, Bruant a exprimé le pathétique de la crapule… »[réf. nécessaire] —, les critiques sont enthousiastes. Chacun [réf. nécessaire] salue le « poète sincère et vibrant, d’une rare originalité ». François Coppée le fait recevoir à la Société des gens de lettres en 1891[réf. nécessaire] ; il ne ménage pas ses éloges au comité des gens de lettres : « Je fais grand cas de Dans la rue et je le tiens pour un descendant, en ligne directe légitime, de notre Villon… »[réf. nécessaire].

C’est la réussite : ses chansons sont mises aux répertoires d’artistes célèbres : Eugénie Buffet, déguisée en fille de barrière fait applaudir À la CigaleÀ la Villette et À la Glacière, et lance À Saint-Lazare[réf. nécessaire] ; Yvette Guilbert, vedette du caf’conc’, interprète À Belleville et Au Bois de Boulogne[réf. nécessaire]. Bruant atteint alors une gloire internationale et en 1895, il abandonne son cabaret et part en tournée à l’étranger[réf. nécessaire].

Bunting claims to be a serious worker. In his seemingly simple poetry, the power of the shortcut and the precision of the term hide long research: “seven months for a song! He said about À Biribi [ref. necessary] . It takes less time to compose the melodies he wants nostalgic and devoid of frills, like that of the songs of his childhood [ref. necessary] .

The castellan

With glory, fortune rewarded his efforts; to the profits of the Mirliton were added comfortable copyrights and large seals. Thus, after ten years, he could afford a castle in Courtenay , thanks to Nini Dog Skin , Meloche , Toto Laripette and Filoche , heroic marlou who died with dignity on the scaffold.

In 1897 , the famous critic Adolphe Brisson told the story of a visit to Bruant, in Courtenay, in Intimate Portraits : “The poet of the beggars lives in a castle where he leads the train of a medieval nobleman, he hunts, he fishes he has a pack of faithful and trained dogs. His vassals are represented by a guard, the father Rata, a gardener, the father Bajou, and a farmer and a numerous domesticity. The rooms of his house are luxuriously furnished with sideboards, armchairs, trinkets. He tells me that he has bought twenty-five hectares of meadows, an arm of the river, an island, a mill. M. Bruant is another Marquis of Carabas! ”

The popular singer, the founder of the Mirliton, who one might have thought attached to Montmartre , his second homeland so often sung, said to Adolphe Brisson revealing words: “For eight years, I spent my nights in the bocks and smoke ! I screamed my songs in front of a lot of idiots who did not understand gout and who came, idly and snobbery, to be insulted at the Mirliton … I treated them like we do not treat street thugs … They m have enriched, I despise them: we are quits! ”

And contemplating his vast estate, the millionaire of the song of the humble, added: “We breathe here! … it’s not like Montmartre! … I’m really happy to be out of this cesspool! ”

Attempted political career

It was, however, to be seen again at Montmartre , the Champs-Elysees , or at Belleville . In May 1898 , the squire of Courtenay ran in the general elections in Belleville, in the workers’ district of Saint-Fargeau . On the walls of Belleville were read statements of Bunting the “Candidate of the People”: “All the enemies of capitalist feudalism will vote for the humanitarian poet, for the glorious singer of Belleville. It was at Belleville Saint-Fargeau that Bruant started, it was at Belleville that he had his first successes, it is to his old Belleville that he logically returns by recognition, etc. ”

Despite the numerous electoral meetings during which he sang part of his repertoire and his political program, he obtained only 525 votes.

Last years

Gradually, in the early xx th century, he retired from the song to devote himself to writing, but continues to give performances until a final back in 1924, where it is a triumph. He died in Paris the following year at 53 rue Christiani in 1925. He is buried in Subligny , in the Yonne 3 .


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Bunting has written songs, but also plays, and novels. Among the novels, there are The Bas-fonds of Paris , in 4 volumes ( Nini Helmet Or, The Bagn of the kids, The Ball fleas and In Belleville ).


Illustration of Steinlen for the song of Aristide Bruant in Montrouge .
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  • In the street (1889-1895) , 2 vols., Couv. and ill. by Steinlen, at the author’s, nd This collection contains most of the songs of Aristide Bruant.
  • Songs and monologues of Aristide Bruant , 3 vols., With music, drawings by Borgex, Courtenay Castle, Aristide Bruant, nd (1897?).
  • Songs and monologues by Aristide Bruant , 1 volume, illustrations by Steinlen, G. Pion and others, nd, publisher H. Geffroy, Paris.

Many songs were illustrated by Emile Butscha and Louis Borgex .


  • The Man with big feet : comic scene.
  • Bat ‘Af’ : drama in 8 pictures.
  • Heart of French : drama in five acts and eight paintings. In collaboration with Arthur Bernède, created in Ambigu October 23, 1912.


Another portrait of Bruant made by Toulouse-Lautrec .
  • Les Bas-Fonds of Paris , 4 volumes, Jules Rouff, nd (1897?); Éditions Des Équateurs, coll. “Ecuador Literature”, 2015, 717 p. ( ISBN  978-2849903926 ) .
  • Loupiote , Tallandier, 1908. Arthur Bernède drew a drama in five acts represented at the Molière Theater on March 5, 1909.
  • At the Bat ‘of Af , contemporary bookstore, 1911.
  • The Three Legionnaires , Tallandier, 1912. Written with Arthur Bernède.
  • Clench the ranks , 1913. Written with Arthur Bernède.
  • The Alsatian , Tallandier, 1920.
  • Head of Boche , Tallandier, 1919.
  • Madame Tête de Boche , Tallandier, 1919.
  • Pavé flower , Tallandier, 1920.
  • Captive , Tallandier, 1921.
  • The Broken Heart , Tallandier, 1921.
  • The Princesses of the Sidewalk , Great Sensational Novel Unpublished, in-8, Paris, Ferenczy, 1925.
  • The Loupiote , Tallandier, 1935.
  • Father La Loupiote , 1929 ( ASIN  B0018H7CPK ) .
  • Tighten your ranks! (2 vols The Virgin Wife and Mildah’s Heroism ), 1936; ( ASIN  B0018H9D9I ) .
  • The Bride of Lothringen , Tallandier, Paris, 1920.
  • Bat. Af. Les Amours de la Pouliche , Great sensational novel, Tallandier, Paris, 1910; ( ASIN  B0018H67KG ) .

Slang Dictionary

  • The slang in xx th century , French-slang dictionary, achieved largely by Leon de Bercy, Flammarion, 1901 1905 with a supplement. Studied by Denis Delaplace in Bruant and the French slang , Éditions Honoré Champion, Paris, 2004 ( ISBN  978-2745310163 ) .
  • A. Bunting and Leon de Bercy, The slang in xx th century (2009), edited by Denis Delaplace an inverted version (slang-French) and reasoned, Classiques Garnier editions, coll. “Classics of Slang and Jargon”, Paris, 1523 p ( ISBN  978-2-8124-0040-7 ) .


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  • The Mirliton , 1885-1906. Monthly then bi-monthly then weekly.
  • The Lantern of Bunting , 1897-1899. Publication in weekly deliveries, 24 pages, directed by Aristide Bruant.

Sound recordings

By itself

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Aristide Bruant has recorded many of his own songs, or “old songs collected and harmonized by Bunting”; available sources attest to more than a hundred records, some of which were recorded before 1906 4 . It can be assumed that the first records of Bunting are those published under his own brand – Records Bunting (Directory of records Bunting recorded by Aristide Bruant himself) -, manufactured by Orpheus; a catalog of 56 titles 5 , published in 1906 on the back of a collection of songs from Paul Delmet 6 . At Pathé, Bruant recorded at least 38 titles, as evidenced by the digital republication published by EMI in 1997 (double CD B00000GBI4).

Bunting also recorded for small publishers now missing (Duval, Phrynis, Ideal), and at Odeon.

  • Happy little ones
  • Belleville-Ménilmontant
  • Nini dog’s skin
  • At the Villette

By others

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His songs were recorded by many artists, at the time of Bruant, and since are regularly recorded.

  • In 1898, the Pathé catalog (cylinders) offered several recordings of the repertoire of Aristide Bruant sung by a certain Buffalo (he usually announced his name at the beginning of the recording). For example: The Black Cat .
  • Also at Pathé, other artists have engraved works of Bruant. Charlus has notably interpreted Five minutes at Bruant , which is a potpourri of several songs, with the atmosphere of the cabaret.
  • Yvette Guilbert 7
  • 1949: The Brothers Jacques , 78T White Rose (rue Saint-Vincent) . They are the first to repeat this song by Aristide Bruant.
  • 1953: Germaine Montero , 78T Germaine Montero sings Aristide Bruant
  • 1954: LP Germaine Montero sings Aristide Bruant ( 1954 )
  • 1956: 45T Germaine Montero (sings Bunting)
  • 1965: 45T Germaine Montero, 4 successes of Aristide Bruant
  • 1969: LP Germaine Montero sings Bruant
  • 1962: Patachou , on the album Patachou sings Bruant
  • 1963: Yves Montand , the Canuts (on the album Chansons populaires de France
  • 1964: Monique Morelli , on the album Bruant
  • 1970: François Béranger , À la Goutte d’Or (on the album Une ville )
  • 1978: Marc Ogeret , on the album Ogeret sings Bruant
  • 1981: Renaud , Lézard and Rue Saint-Vincent (on the album Le P’tit Bal on Saturday evening and other realistic songs
  • 1983: Georges Brassens , Belleville-Ménilmontant , At Place Maubert and À la Goutte d’Or (on the album Brassens sings Bruant, Colpi, Musset, Nadaud, Norge )
  • 1989: Véronique Sanson , Saint Lazare (on the album À l’Olympia 89 )
  • 1990: Véronique Sanson , Saint Lazare (on the Symphonique Sanson album )
  • Song Plus Bifluorée , on the album Pourquoi les Girafes?
  • Parabellum , Saint Lazarus
  • 1993: Marc Robine The Canuts ( The time of the cherries , EPM 983462)
  • 1996: Les Soupeurs Saint Lazare on the album Les Soupeurs live in live public concert (Frenchsong CON 01)
  • 2003: Les Soupeurs The round of the pots, with the rocket, with the bats of Af. on the album Les Soupeurs put the cover back (Frenchsong FS 06)
  • 2012: Toto Laripette 22 goualantes of Aristide Bruant (Frenchsong FS 08)


  • René Goscinny , in the album Asterix at the Olympic Games ( 1968 ) adapts Nini Dog SkinIn Lutèce, we like Nini boar skin!
  • In the British television series Doctor Who , the look of the fourth incarnation of the Doctor was inspired by the portraits of Bruant by Toulouse Lautrec.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Letters of the French Academy ( pref.  Hélène Carrère d’Encausse , ed. Christopher Thornton ), Paris, Les Arenes,, 232 p. ( ISBN  978-2-35204-102-3 ) , p.  126.
  2. ↑ Conference made May 6, 1898, at the hall of Lac-Saint-Fargeau, the citizen Leon Drouin de Bercy, to present Aristide Bruant to the Electors of the first division of the XX th arrondissement of Paris  [ archive ] , in Montmartre and his songs, poets and singers , by Leon de Bercy; adorned with 5 portrait-loads by Charles Léandre, publisher H. Daragon, Paris, 1902, p.  53-54 .
  3. ↑ Bertrand Beyern, tombs guide of famous men , Le Cherche midi ,, 385 p. ( ISBN  9782749121697 , read online  [ archive ] ) , p.  274.
  4. ↑ Source: Catalog of the BNF ; re-editions (33 laps and CDs).
  5. ↑ At least ten titles in this catalog are referenced (without dating) on the catalog of the BNF, including Little Merry: realistic song , o 46 ( FRBNF37792593  [ archive ] ).
  6. ↑ “Paul Delmet” Les Chansonniers Montmartre , o 2, March 25, 1906, Universal Library.
  7. ↑ In the song of my life (ed. Grasset, 1927), Yvette Guilbert asked: “How to sing without sobbing Saint-Lazare? “