Iconic French singer and actor Jean-Paul Vignon dies at 89

Iconic French singer and actor Jean-Paul Vignon dies at 89
Iconic French singer and actor Jean-Paul Vignon dies at 89 Copyright Getty Images
By David Mouriquand
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The French singer and actor “fulfilled the American image of the romantic, singing Frenchman”, leaving behind him an eight-decade career as a singer and actor in films including ‘Asphalte’, ‘The Devil's Brigade’ and ‘Shrek.’


Jean-Paul Vignon, the crooning French vocalist and actor who made an eight-decade career on both sides of the Atlantic, has died aged 89.

His family announced that Vignon died on 22 March after a battle with liver cancer.

Born on 30 January, 1935, in the port city of Dire-Daoua in Somaliland (later known as Djibouti), Vignon was raised in Avignon, France. He briefly studied medicine in Marseille and law at the Sorbonne in Paris but decided to pursue music full time.

He began his artistic career as a musician, performing as part of a cabaret in Paris. He was signed as a vocalist to the French imprint Disques Vogue and recorded the autobiographical song 'Djibouti'. He later opened for Edith Piaf.

He also starred in French 1950s classics Les Promesses Dangereuses and Asphalte.

Vignon soon took his talents to the US, where he debuted in 1963 at the famed New York supper club The Blue Angel, where he opened for stand-up comic Woody Allen. He made multiple appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, singing a duet with Liza Minnelli on one of those occasions. He was also a regular guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Jean-Paul Vignon in the US
Jean-Paul Vignon in the USGetty Images

He went on to release his US album 'Because I Love You' for Columbia Records, played a supporting role opposite William Holden and Cliff Robertson in the World War II film The Devil’s Brigade, and began a hosting career on the Canadian show The Sensuous Man. The show was produced by Dick Clark and ended each week with Vignon reclining in a bathtub.

In 1974, he recorded the single 'You' with a then relatively unknown Farrah Fawcett.

Throughout his career, he frequently lent his Gallic accent to TV shows and Hollywood productions, appearing on shows like Falcon Crest, L.A. Law, Columbo, and starred as Monsieur Lazare in Days of Our Lives and André in Gilmore Girls. He was also behind the voice one of the Merry Men in 2001's Shrek and narrated a segment in the 2009 romcom 500 Days of Summer.

In a 1994 profile of him by the Los Angeles Times, he was described to have “fulfilled the American image of the romantic, singing Frenchman.”

The profile went on to say that “ironically, rather than compare his voice to such renowned Gallic crooners as Maurice Chevalier and Gilbert Bécaud, Vignon says that he has a Bobby Darin kind of voice, able to sing fast and passionate or gentle and slow.”

He is survived by his longtime partner Suzie Summers; his daughter Lucy Brank and Marguerite Vignon Gaul (from his marriage to late American actress Brigid Bazlen); and granddaughters Leah and Hannah.

Additional sources • Variety, LA Times

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