Part two — Part one here
The success of Bambino was enormous: she received a gold record for 300,000 sold records of Bambino. But at this point Dalida’s journey of success was far from over.
Lucien Morisse, her lover and also her manager, landed a second hit with her: Gondolier.
The song was written in French and Italian – which improved the chances for success. The plan worked: Gondolier became Dalida’s second big hit – this time the song also enjoyed great success in Italy.
She may build an illusory world
In 1958, the following year, she received the Oscar of Radio Monte-Carlo: she won the Oscar of Radio Monte-Carlo for seven consecutive years thereafter.
The Discographie française wrote about Dalida:
“Her voice caresses you and makes you dream. She may build an illusory world, but it is very much needed. She creates a world with castles in Spain and a wonderful eternal love. It’s a fairy tale told in three minutes, as long as a chanson lasts.”
She may build an illusory world, that’s Dalida’s secret. For three minutes she enchants the audience.
Success in Europe
In 1959 Dalida became a European celebrity: by March she had sold over a million records – a sensation. She received offers from international tour managers – Dalida became a European phenomenon.
She toured France, Germany, Egypt and Italy: Dalida built up a special relationship with the Germans. She performed at the Deutschlandhalle in Berlin in front of fifteen thousand people. On the setlist: the German version of the song Le Jour où la pluie viendra. The song became a big hit in Germany: it took the first place in the newly created hit parade.
On December 26, 1958, Dalida arrived in New York: Norman Grantz, Ella Fitzgerald’s manager, had invited Dalida to come to Hollywood -–it was the heyday of the musical film. A genre made for Dalida.
Hollywood recognized the possibilities of the musical film: in 1956, the film High Society with Grace Kelly was a great success. Grantz offered Dalida a contract.
Even though Hollywood had been Dalida’s dream since childhood, she remained critical: in America she felt lonely. She was also afraid of betraying France, the country that had given her the chance to succeed.
She declined the contract. In December 1978, twenty years later, the same situation arose: at the last moment, twenty years later, she also rejected the offer from Hollywood.
The sixties were marked by the Olympia: in 1961, 1964 and 1967 she performed at the Olympia for a month each time. The success at the Olympia was a personal triumph for Dalida: after her divorce from Lucien Morisse just one year after their marriage, the radio station Europe 1 boycotted Dalida. It was the station that was responsible for Dalida’s success. Lucien Morisse, then general director of Europe 1, had ordered the boycott. The other stations seized the opportunity: RTL and France-Inter played Dalida non-stop. In the end, the boycott did Dalida more good than harm.
In the early sixties, Dalida lived a great life: With her new lover Jean Sobieski, she found an apartment in Neuilly. Her neighbors: Jean Anouilh and Pierre Fresnay. Dalida discovered a new world: the world of the “intellectuals”.
The evening of the premiere
On December 6, 1960, Dalida performed at the Olympia for the first time after the boycott: The music world had changed. To have a success with a song like Bambino was unthinkable in 1960. It was the heyday of the twist and rock ‘n’ roll. The idol of French youth: Johnny Hallyday. At the age of eighteen, he had already sold two million records. Dalida knew Hallyday. He showed her how to dance the twist.
December 6 was a tumultuous day for Dalida: in her dressing room she found a bouquet of flowers with the inscription, “To the ancient chanson, long live Edith Piaf.”
Dalida had a big job ahead of her that night.
After the fourth song, Je me sens vivre, there was an earthquake in the Olympia hall. A phenomenal success. The music world had changed since her first success, and Dalida had changed with the music: Je me sens vivre combines Dalida’s typical style with aspects of the “youth music” of the time.
The 1960s: a decade without comparison for Dalida. At the Olympia, she was not only successful. Here, she also met people like Marlene Dietrich or Johnny Hallyday – people who represented the culture of the past and the future.
In 1965 she recorded Zorba’s Dance (with music by Míkis Theodorákis) for the film Zorba the Greek with Anthony Quinn. The song became an international success: despite the emergence of the “Yéyé” generation, Dalida’s records were successful in the 1960s.
After a deep personal crisis in 1967, Dalida’s music changed: she now sang more melancholic songs like Avec le temps or Un Po D’Amore [the Italian version of Justin Hayward’s Nights in White Satin, the big hit of The Moody Blues].
Dalida no longer adapted to the musical taste of the time – she took her audience with her and broke away from other artists. Something that she could finally afford without losing her audience.
In 1968, Dalia was named Commandeur des Arts, Sciences et Lettres and received the Medal of the Presidency of the Republic from Charles de Gaulle: the end of a decade marked by professional successes and personal crises.
Simon von Ludwig
Main sources: Catherine Rihoit avec Orlando: “Dalida — Mon frère, tu écriras mes mémoires”, 2016 Plon and the movie “Dalida” by Lisa Azuelos.
Cover picture: Dalida in 1967, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons