"I was afraid to flop": how Jack Lang created the Fête de la Musique 40 years ago

Minister of Culture in 1981, Jack Lang remembers the creation of this national holiday, and salutes in particular Jacques Higelin, who helped him a lot that evening.

Rap, classical, musette, rock or samba played by pros or amateurs: towns, villages and unexpected places will vibrate for the Music Festival, like every June 21 for 40 years and a crazy idea signed Jack Lang, Minister of Culture of the time.

On BFMTV, the former minister remembers the creation of this national holiday: “I was afraid to flop. I had real stage fright. Imagine if people hadn’t left their homes!”, s he amused.

Jack Lang remembers in particular the support of Jacques Higelin, who helped him 40 years ago: “He rented a truck which was deployed, crossing the city like a sort of musical nomad, taking his musicians with him. It’s been fabulous.”

“The Music Festival was not very well received by certain newspapers, or by certain political leaders”, recalls Jack Lang. “But there were enough enthusiastic supporters, all over France, for us to decide to repeat the experience.”

Since then, the enthusiasm has not wavered. Many artists, from Julien Clerc to Mick Jagger, took part. And the initiative has been exported to more than a hundred countries including Australia and the United States.

Youssou N’Dour and Ukrainian techno

In Paris, among the many initiatives, a Radio France truck will criss-cross the streets, soundtracked by a DJ, Young Pulse in tribute to Jacques Higelin. This tank must start at the beginning of the afternoon near the Parisian Statue of Liberty, dedication to the “Make Music Day” which must start in New York from the Statue of Liberty.

In the very courtyard of the Elysée, Youssou N’Dour and the Ukrainian DJ Xenia, among others, will turn up the volume. Emmanuel Macron will attend this event with his wife Brigitte in the main courtyard which offers this year “an unprecedented concert bringing together international artists of various genres”, according to the Elysée.

Jack Lang, who is the guest of honor this Tuesday for a musical stroll between Villeurbanne and Lyon, before returning to Paris in the evening, wishes to dedicate this 40th edition to Steve Maia Caniço, who died in 2019 during a police operation controversial during the Fête de la Musique in Nantes.

Jérôme Lachasse with AFP

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