The “It Just Feels” Story – Before Sylvie Maréchal
In early May 2011, Heck Of A Guy published It Just Feels – Yet Another Leonard Cohen Song You (Probably) Haven’t Heard, a post which offered the basics about “It Just Feels,” written by Leonard Cohen (one of those few songs song written but never performed by Cohen) and David A Stewart and recorded by Sylvie Maréchal in 1992.1
In addition to providing a streaming rendition of the song and such fundamental data as its history, lyrics, and the album in which it appeared, that earlier post noted that this
… lesser known Leonard Cohen composition, offers not only an opportunity for most fans to hear an unfamiliar Leonard Cohen song, echoes of which resonate in another song Cohen debuted in 2009, but also provides a minor mystery for those fans to ponder:
Why did Leonard Cohen write one song and one song only
(“It Just Feels”) that is co-credited to David Stewart, best
known, albeit unfairly, as the half of The Eurythmics
not named Annie Lennox, for an attractive, then up
and coming French vocalist, Sylvie Maréchal, who has since
denounced the album(s) on which the song appeared?
Two weeks later, How Leonard Cohen Came To Write “It Just Feels” With Dave Stewart – According To Leonard Cohen appeared, focusing on how and why Leonard Cohen collaborated with Dave Stewart on this song.
The final post in this series deals with Sylvie Maréchal, the singer who performed “It Just Feels.”
Sylvie Maréchal Vs The French Music Industry
While Sylvie Maréchal is peripheral to our initial focus, the role Leonard Cohen played, her story is dramatic and revealing.
From the sparse material available, it appears that in the early 1990s, Sylvie Maréchal was an up and coming vocalist who performed in French and English and who had somewhat of a following in her native France. A review of French music companies in the May 22, 1993 issue of Billboard, for example, reports,
Sylvie Maréchal … sings equally well in both French and English and is another BMG artist with international potential.
In the same issue of that trade journal, Philippe Crocq, writing in “Remedy For A Down Music Market: Talent,” noted
The following artists made a significant impact last year… Sylvie Marechal: Produced by Dave Stewart for RCA, this bilingual (French/English) artist looks set for a long and successful international career.
As pale and thin as Patti Smith, 25 year-old French singer, “Sylvie Maréchal, has the rage, the bluesy voice, and the fitting physique. Sylvie Maréchal sings from her gut – from her innermost self. With a stream of anger, her bluesy rails, her unavowed tenderness, she screams her story.”
And it resonates.
Dave Stewart (ex-Eurythmics) chose to be the producer of her album, “Voie Lactée”, while Leonard Cohen wrote an original song for her, and Jean Fauque (one of Bashung’s lyricists) also contributed. She was born for greatness.
When you sing in your native language, you speak directly to those who can understand you, and you are much more attuned to their feelings toward your music. We will sing in French from now on “because French is beautiful”.
This profession of faith by Pierre Bundock reflects the position of the duo Bundock-Lanoie, chosen successor of the Bundock band.
Continuing in the same vein, this duo concocts a percussive blend of folk-rock, with medieval and acoustic sounds. Oboe, saxophone, and Irish flute join with simple, catchy vocal harmonies without forgetting the acoustic guitar.
Thanks to them, “it’s summer” all year round.
Sylvie Maréchal released a handful of 45 rpm records, including Mercedes Rouge (1988), La vie Lola and J’ai l’rock t’as l’blues (1990), and On s’fait du mal, which was produced by Dave Stewart (1992).
She released an album, J’ai l’Rock T’as l’Blues, in 1990 and a second album, Faith Healing , in 1992. Voie Lactée, released in 1993, is the French version of Faith Healing.3
“It Just Feels” was the second track on both Faith Healing and Voie Lactée.
Sylvie Maréchal Censures Album Featuring “It Just Feels”
It is at this point that researching Sylvie Maréchal’s role in the production and fate of “It Just Feels” reveals events that are, at most, tangential to the original goal of determining the motive forces for Leonard Cohen’s participation in composing this song but are so intriguing that they certainly warrant exposition here.
First, Sylvie Maréchal has made it clear that she is unhappy with one or both of the albums, Faith Healing (English, 1992) and Voie Lactée (French, 1993) of which “It Just Feels” is a part.4 were The following message is from the Sylvie Maréchal Fan Page:
Subject: site-Sylvie Marechal
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:27:07 +0200
Je Suis Sylvie Maréchal Et Je Tiens À Préciser Que L’album Originale Est Faith Healing Et Non Voie Lactée Qui A Été Une Obligation De Bmg France Et Non Ma Volonté Ayant Co-Écrit La Version Anglaise Avec Dastewart Et John Turnbull . Je Me Suis Remise Au Travail En Indépendant Et Mon Travail Est Visible Sur Dailymotion Et Youtube5
The fan page author explains:
The gist is that English Faith Healing came out first and it was not Sylvie’s will to have the album co-written by Stewart & Turnbull. After that, under obligation to BMG France, they had to release a French version of the album, Voie Lactee. She has since gone on to doing independent work.
This October 26, 2008 entry at Contre Culture Info, indicates both the interest Sylvie Maréchal generated in some fans and her unhappiness with the albums.
[Google English Translation.]
Late 80s, Sylvie Maréchal 22 when his first album: ” I rock you got the blues . ” Then a revelation on the French stage. A singer with a unique voice that sounds perfect for rock and blues. At the time this kind of voice is really rare for the remark, even today. She spends the Francofolies de La Rochelle , she is pampered by Francis Cabrel, Jean-Louis Foulquier , it happens in television. Francis Cabrel even sings on this album on the song “rainy day”. A second album released a few years later, “Milky Way”, an album produced by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. Everything seems to plot Sylvie Marshal who also participate Francofolies de Montreal.
Over time I have always felt that Sylvie had disappeared overnight. Who listened to me in 1989 and after, I never understood this absence, disappearance after two albums. A few days ago, I came across his MySpace. How? I can not remember. Anyway, I had a lot of fun to find and replay his voice so deep and genuine. It is therefore with some interest that I wanted to learn more about its artistic past and especially to know what she became, as I learned that a third album was ready after “Milky Way”, but never out. What a mess!
Through our conversation, I understood how Sylvie is a genuine artist and free. If it disappeared overnight, simply because it’s had chosen to sing in English, so her record company dropped him and the media too. For that alone! How can you fault an artist, to do what she wants and not what others want? Cultivate a difference is there better to do when you’re an artist.
Today she is a painter and she is working on a new album with her husband Jack Tocah, with whom she formed a duo. Their music between rock and blues experimental emotional intensity, marked by the voice of Sylvie always so deep and genuine passion for artistic creation.
To follow his news, go to: MySpace page
It is therefore with great pleasure that I inform you that interview.
[The interview below is translated into English by Coco Éclair with the words spoken by Sylvie Maréchal in bold. The Google English translation is included in the footnote for comparison.6]
While it is obvious that Sylvie Maréchal is bitter about at least the French version of the album and had a near-catastrophic reaction (“I became a complete alcoholic with depression”) to its release, resulting in her “purposely boycott[ing] the French version” and cutting herself off from the French music industry, her reasons, again perhaps because of the translation barriers, are nonspecific. She complains, for example, of lack of support, lies, and the audio production choices on the album.
There were no responses to my requests for information sent to Ms Maréchal, her partner, Jack Tocah, and Dave Stewart.
An email to Patrice Clos, webmaster of the French Leonard Cohen Site, however, resulted in this clipping of an interview with Dave Stewart by Stephanie Theobald published in the 26 August /1 September 1994 edition of The European, found in Dominique Boile’s incredible archives:
While Stewart does not name the female singer, he was the producer for some of Sylvie Maréchal’s records, the timeline fits with Sylvie Maréchal’s clash with the French music industry, and Sylvie Maréchal would certainly qualify as a “French Janis Joplin,” given her own profession of being influenced by Janis Joplin and her performance, released as a 45 in 1988, of Mercedes Rouge (Janis Joplin – adapted Vivien Savage).
Today, Sylvie Maréchal’s artistic career appears limited to a few videos from the albums she recorded in the 1990s and performances given in the past 1-3 years on YouTube, ads to sell her albums on eBay and other sites, the Sylvie Maréchal and Jack Tocah Myspace page, and the rare mention of her in postings on current web sites – like this one.
- A precipitant of this discussion was Arlene Dick’s serendipitous meeting with Dave Stewart, an account of which can be found on Arlene’s Leonard Cohen Scrapbook at Dave Stewart is a “Big Fan of Leonard Cohen.” [↩]
- This translation has been contributed by Coco Éclair. The Google English translation which follows was originally used in this post and is not without its charms, including attaching a diagnosis of rabies to Ms Maréchal:
Pale and thin with Patti Smith, Sylvia Marshall, French singer of 25 years has rabies, the voice of blues and physical need. “Sylvie Marshall sings with her guts, until thoroughly after itself, with its caravan of anger, his bluesy groans, his unspoken affection, screaming his life.” And it resonates. Dave Stewart (ex-Eurythmics) chose to be in the direction of his album Milky Way while Leonard Cohen has written an original and Jean Fauque (one of the lyricists of Bashung) also contributed. When we are born for the upper hand. “When you sing in your language, you speak directly to those who understand you and you can feel what they felt better listening to you. Now we sing in French “Because French is beautiful.” This profession of faith of Peter Bundock reflects a position taken by the duo-Bundock Lanoie, successor appointed group Bundock. Continuing in the same vein, this duo concocts a blend of percussive rock-folk and medieval-sounding acoustic. Oboe, saxophone and flute Irish joined in vocal harmonies and catchy single, but still leave the acoustic guitar. Thanks to them, “It was the” year-round. [↩]
- The complete discography can be found at Sylvie Maréchal: Discography, and a complete set of lyrics can be found at Sylvie Maréchal: Lyrics. [↩]
- The vagaries of French to English translation makes it impossible to discern if the complaints were directed to only the French version or if the problems extended to both the English and French versions. [↩]
- Google Translation of original message into English: “I Am Sylvie Marechal And I want to clarify that the original album Faith Healing And Is Not Milky Way which was an obligation of BMG France And My Will Not Having co-wrote the English version with Dastewart [Dave Stewart] And John Turnbull. I went back to freelance work and my work can be seen on Youtube and Dailymotion.” [↩]
- Google English translation of interview:
Late 80s, early 90s, your singing career is at the top. How do you explain this success and what memories do you keep your golden years?
It's hard work and commitment that we get a positive result and I have fond memories and great events, like Léo Ferré, which was short but intense and with Gabriel Yared me a lot learned humanly and musically.
Do you now this success would have been like?
Francis Cabrel was present on your first album (he sang on rainy day), have you kept in touch with him or others in the profession?
I kept no contact with the Parisian show business.
You were always very discreet even your finest hours. It is true that at the time the "people" was less present in the mass media. Over time, it seems that you disappeared overnight. How have you experienced withdrawal marked by a disagreement with your record company, while you were in full glory (first part of Deep Purple)?
The disagreement was serious and I lived very poorly. I was sacked and I did not supported. When we started to lie to me, I take the nerves and I tear myself.
And what do you think of this lack of media interest, while you were perhaps the most promising French singers on the international level?
That is where the bottom lies. For me, it was the second follow up album to the International directly. Written and produced in London with an original song by Leonard Cohen and Dave Stewart, I think there were grounds for serious work on this album, not "Milky Way", but "Faith Healing" the only version that would exist and none of the French version Buzy controlled by the major. Buzy did a crappy job because she missed the labial sound of the voice, so that at the finish it did not sound at all. I purposely boycotted the French version, even at the Francofolies in Montreal, which earned me a fight with Foulquier final.
That's why "Faith Healing" was never released and I think it will come out now. What a mess! What a shame for me vis-à-vis all the staff who supported me English, passed. I was part of the family, for me it's as if I had betrayed.
Over time, do you think you were really an artist unmanageable?
It is the job as they say, that made me unmanageable.
Do you think it is more difficult to live music today? By the multitude of groups and broadcasts via the Internet, music eventually became more precarious? No I do not think so.
There are more ways to exist by himself and it's a good thing even if life is more precarious today, there is the freedom to create.
What do you think of the evolution of music, at what is found in creation, but also in terms of distribution?
I think music is primarily an art and must be respected. As long as he remains free and wild okay, but when we want to make a product, then there is danger.
There is very little information about yourself on the internet, no site, just your MySpace, which shows what you do today and that does indeed no sign of nostalgia. Yet you have marked the French scene. How do you explain this absence, and how the lives you?
I fell in love with the bassist Jack Tocah at the Deep Purple tour and he became my husband, composer and my savior. I have not seen since the years pass with Jack, we started as a duo and we have our self-produced debut album Otcha, which nobody wanted, or distribution or broadcast.
When the staff got fired in January 1994, I became a complete alcoholic with depression worsened and more. It took me to pick up first alcohol to be able to treat depression. 13 years to survive. Today I came out otherwise I would not have answered, because without Jack, I would no longer of this world.
You can read at your nice comments counter on YouTube . Internet users say they remember your voice, you miss them. This means that some, like me, do not forget thee, despite his long absence in the media. It is true that you had, and you always have this very distinctive voice that sounds so much blues, rock, and that your style is very rare today and even back then. "Are you aware?
Yes, I am aware.
Could we see you in a typical broadcast nostalgia, with artists like Desireless, Jean-Pierre Mader, or in a touring nostalgia, as it currently exists?
The extract you make me listen, this is a piece of modern experimental blues, where the intro is very dark. On your MySpace, there are also some very beautiful pieces, but the example of "the silence". Do you have an album in preparation?
Experimental modern blues, that's what it is. The duo Sylvie Marshall / Jack Tocah is uncompromising and unpredictable. It is not a particular style of music but simply the creation of art in the sense that art is free as our music, one side unclassifiable. We'll get to work to make a second self-produced too.
What are your ambitions now?
Live music and stay free, and if a label wants us well as we are, then it's ok.
I especially want to thank Sylvie for her availability and her answers, and Jack Tocah for everything he did. He will understand, I am sure. [↩]