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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Friday, March 19, 2010


Two years ago today, we moved into our house in Southwest France. (There are pictures of it here.) The area sees an extraordinary country music festival each July in a market-town very close to here, and an even bigger so-called Jazz Festival every August in the otherwise tranquil Marciac. (Three years ago the main acts here were Taj Mahal and Joe Cocker: terrific, but not exactly jazz.)

This year's performers at the country festival will include Bob Dylan's old friend Hugues Aufray (not exactly "country"). He is 80 years old. Here is his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Aufray, Hugues [1929 - ]
Hugues Auffray [sic] was born in an agreeable suburb of Paris on August 18, 1929 but when his family fled the German occupation of the city in 1940 he was sent away to a Dominican monastery school in the Tarn, in south-west France. In 1945 his now-divorced father moved him to a school in Madrid. He returned to Paris in 1948, hoping to become a painter but busking for money either side of military conscription in 1949 (in the Alps).

On his return to Paris he married a dancer, had children and for almost 10 years worked only by singing in local bars and cabaret. In 1959, pushed into entering a radio competition, he won a record deal and found immediate popularity.

In 1962 he visited New York City, encountered the excitement of the Greenwich Village folk-revival movement and met Bob Dylan. The two formed a personal bond as well as Aufray being inspired by the young American’s songs. On Aufray’s return to France he introduced the acoustic folk style to French pop (which, God knows, would have been improved by almost anything), toured to great acclaim performing a number of Dylan’s songs.

In the spring of 1964, just before returning to the States to record Another Side Of Bob Dylan, Dylan visited France and stayed with Hugues Aufray in Paris. Aufray began working (with Pierre Delanoë and Jean-Pierre Sabar) on translating an album of Dylan songs into French. This famous album, Aufray chante Dylan, duly appeared in 1965 to widespread European and French-Canadian acclaim (and was also issued in the UK).

The songs, refreshed by their French-language titles, were: ‘La fille du nord’, ‘Ce que je veux surtout’ (‘All I Really Want To Do’), ‘Ce n’était pas moi’, ‘Oxford Town’, ‘Corrina Corrina’, ‘Cauchemar psychomoteur’, ‘Les temps changent’, ‘La ballade de Hollis Brown’, ‘La mort solitaire de Hattie Carroll’, ‘Dieu est a nos côtés’ and ‘Le jour où le bateau viendra’. When CD-reissued in the 1990s it came with the extra tracks ‘L’ homme orchestre’ (‘Mr. Tambourine Man’) and ‘N’ y pense plus tout est bien’ plus a live 1964 cut of the latter and four live 1966 tracks: ‘Les temps changent’, ‘La fille du nord’, ‘L’ homme orchestre’ and ‘Cauchemar pychomoteur’.

In another lifetime, 30 years later, Aufray released a 2-CD set, Aufray trans Dylan, the first disc comprising re-recordings of more or less the original album’s worth of Dylan songs, and the second new translations (all his own work) of newer material. This was still mostly drawn from the 1960s but did include a ‘Mais qu’est-ce que tu voulais?’ (‘What Was It You Wanted?’) and an ‘Au couer de mon pays’ (‘Heartland’, the Bob Dylan-WILLIE NELSON song).

A year later, on the live 2-CD set Au Casino de Paris, 17 of its 27 songs were by Dylan and included ‘Comme des pierres qui roulent’ (‘Like A Rolling Stone’) and the song Dylan himself had had an English-language hit with in France, ‘Man Gave Names To All The Animals’, or as Aufray had it, ‘L’ homme dota d’ un nom chaque animal’.

In the summer of 1984, Aufray made surprise appearances on stage with Dylan - at Bob’s Paris concert of July 1 and then two nights later in Grenoble - in each case playing guitar and sharing vocals with Dylan on ‘Les Temps Changent’.

Aufray has remained a law unto himself, often disappearing from public view to his farm or his ranch for long periods, sometimes not giving the French public what it thinks it wants, touring Africa and generally espousing rural and ecological causes like a decent human being.

[Hugues Aufray: Aufray chante Dylan, nia, Barclay 80.289S (mono) & BB106 SS (stereo), Paris, 1965; Fontana TL 5329, UK; Barclay CBLP 2076, B-8019 & 45503, Canada; CD-reissue Dial 900 2217, France 1992 & Barclay 519 9 308-2 (with only 2 ‘bonus tracks’), Paris, 1993 (the 1997 & 2000 reissues have no extra tracks); Aufray trans Dylan, nia, Arcade 3006762 2-LP version Arcade 3006766), Paris, 1995; Au Casino de Paris, Paris, Feb 1996, 2-CD set Arcade 3032272, Paris, 1997.]


Anonymous Johannes said...

Hi Michael,
what's the name of the Country Music Festival you're mentioning and where exactly is it being held?
Thanks and best wishes,


11:50 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Dear Johannes
It's called Festival de Country Music Mirande; this year it's from July 13-18, and all the detail you'll need is on this website:

6:09 pm  

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