Nostalgia Sunday – Mike Brant
It would be an understatement to say that the American influence in Israel is huge. TV shows, movies, music, fashion, fast-food and retail chains… let’s face it: all that’s missing is Target and WalMart. And Cosco. But back in olden times – the 1950s, 60s and 70s – Europe held far more sway over Israeli cultural tastes.
One Israeli pop singer who truly made it in terms of international success was Mike Brant. Who?, you ask, and I answer: Shame on you for not knowing about one of Israel’s most famous exports of all time! A sex-on-legs power balladeer, Brant achieved international fame in the early 70’s, mainly in France, which is why folks from the US never heard of him. But Quebecers did – take a look at this crowd of Canadians as they sit, transfixed, while their idol sings his biggest hit from 1970 “Laisse-moi t’aimer” (“Let me love you”).
Can you believe those pipes as he hits the high notes. Unbelievable. And he makes it looks so easy. No wonder that when French actress Sylvie Vartan caught Brant’s act in a Teheran night club (yes, that Teheran), she immediately invited him to come and meet French producer Jean Renard, who had made Johnny Halliday into a star. And if you don’t know who Johnny Halliday is, then again, shame on you and click here.
Brant’s string of hits included “Qui Saura”, a French version of “Que Sera” that José Feliciano had performed at the San Remo Music Festival. And if you don’t know what the San Remo Music Festival is, I have no words. How have you managed to evade these major cultural milestones till now? Just click here.
Play that song for any Israeli woman aged 45 and over, and she’ll begin singing and weeping at the same time. Why cry? Because Brant’s life ended tragically, rock star style, with a descent into drugs and a purported suicide in 1975 at the age of 28 when fell or jumped from a Paris hotel room window. Supposedly, his Haifa grave is a site for fan pilgrimages. I don’t know, I haven’t been. What is for certain is that he is greatly revered by Israelis of a certain age who recall the European cachet that Moshe “Mike Brant” Brand imparted to us. So close your eyes, lean back, clear your mind of all previous prejudices and repeat after me: “I love Europop… I love Europop,” and enjoy.
A long biography of Brant, written in pidgin English but with great photos, can be found here.