Michel Legrand

Rest in Peace, Michel Legrand. Though it seems like you could write about little else these days besides politics and the death of the great artists of the 1960s, Legrand is a big one.

A composer of film scores and film songs, he straddled the world between the New Wave and the middle brow establishment. He was the French Mancini and Lalo Schifrin and Bachrach, and made music with Miles and Coltrane. Few of us can forget the first time we ever watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (and I’ve written in the past about Jacques Demy’s next film, The Young Girls of Rochefort).

Not long after discovering that, my wife and I watched The Donkey Skin (Le Peau D’Ans) and were blown away by the twisted Freudian fairytale.

It was years later when my mother gave me a CD of Legrand playing solo piano. I put it on for some background music one day, and my wife came into the room, spatula in hand, and recognized one of this songs, singing its chorus from memory.


Legrand made music for 250 films…and looked good doing it.

“Is this from Le Peau D’Ans?!”

I looked it up and it was. Music is alchemy to me, and I was amazed that she remembered it so many years later, having heard it once. I guess it’s not so amazing, considering that’s what musicians do, put aural nuggets into our brains that we can’t forget. They add spiritual substance and feeling to narratives, and everything else.

His niece, incidentally, is Victoria Legrand, a graduate of Vassar and one half of the band Beach House. Rest in peace, Uncle Michel.