Part three — Parts one and two

For Dalida, the seventies began with a change of style that particularly affected her music. In October 1971 she said about it:

“I have decided to sing chansons only if they have a certain poetic value. It is poetry, even the saddest, that expresses human values. Poetry and trust in life are the very last hope.”

Dalida reinvents herself

Iolanda wanted to present her new musical style at the Olympia: But the owner of the Olympia, Bruno Coquatrix, did not believe that she would attract the audience with her new style. Dalida herself was also doubtful: she was not sure if her audience, used to chansons like Bambino, would accept melancholic chansons.
“I don’t sing intellectual chansons, but chansons that come from the heart,” she said. This was also the reason why the audience was enthusiastic about Dalida’s new musical style: she dared to sing chansons that dealt with the sad sides of life.

Songs about loneliness

After her first appearance at the Olympia in the 1970s, Dalida knew that her audience would embrace her new songs.
Her engagement at the Olympia in 1971 set Dalida’s musical direction for the rest of the decade.
The songs Dalida was singing now were more mature and at the same time more touching: “Avec le temps” describes the transience of life and love. “Pour ne pas vivre seul” [Eng: For the sake of not being alone] analyzes that one always needs another living being – no matter if it is a human being or an animal – in order not to feel alone.

For the sake of not being alone
One keeps a dog
Tends a rosebush
Kisses a stranger’s mouth
For the sake of not being alone
One pretends to love
Lives from memory
Goes to church. 

The Grande Dame of the chanson

In 1973, she had a reunion with her friend Alain Delon: the two artists had been neighbors in the 1950s. Together they recorded the song “Paroles, Paroles”, which became a hit in several languages. In the same year, Dalida recorded many songs that are still among her most famous today. These include Gigi l’amoroso, Il venait d’avoir 18 ans [He was just 18 years old] and Je suis malade. Gigi l’amoroso became her biggest hit worldwide, Il venait d’avoir 18 ans was recorded in many languages, even Japanese. Dalida had now become the grande dame of the chanson.

Dalida as a Hollywood diva 

At the end of the 1970s, American show business took notice of Dalida: on November 29, 1978, she appeared on stage at the legendary Carnegie Hall. Once again, Dalida reinvented herself. 

The beginning eighties heralded a new form of music with the disco style. The new musical zeitgeist did not fit into Dalida’s previous repertoire.
Dalida now sang disco songs like Monday, Tuesday and Lambeth Walk: Dalida succeeded in harmonizing her previous style with the new zeitgeist.
The reaction of the public was phenomenal: She was the first star on Broadway, wrote the Evening Times.
Despite her new image as a Hollywood diva, she didn’t solely work for the Western music market: she recorded many Arabic songs such as Helwa Ya Baladidi. Iolanda returned to her native Egypt and was received with acclaim. The Egyptian public loved Dalida’s new image as a Hollywood diva – Egyptians were proud to welcome Dalida to Egypt.

Broadway in Paris

1980: More than twenty years after the beginning of her career, Dalida shone on the stage of the Palais des Sports in Paris. From January 5 to 20, 1980, she gave a Broadway-style show: during the show Dalida changed costumes twelve times. The show lasted two hours and ten minutes. On stage Dalida was accompanied by eleven dancers and thirteen musicians: This would have been nothing new on Broadway in New York, but in Paris it was a sensation.
The highlight of the show was a sophisticated choreography – she worked with Lester Wilson, who became famous for his involvement in Saturday Night Fever.

Dalida created an American Show at the Palais des Sports in Paris – a once-and-only event.

A forty-year career

Until today, it’s unique for a French artist to remain famous and in demand for four decades: Throughout her career, Dalida changed her musical style several times to stay in tune with the times.
In the 50s, the foundation of her career was laid: Bambino. The 60’s were the era of Un Po D’Amore and the 70’s and 80’s were marked by keeping up with the musical spirit of the times.

After forty years of musical success, Dalida had proven that she was capable of reinventing herself not once, but many times.
The year 1986 was the final turning point in Dalida’s career: she played the leading role in the Egyptian film The Sixth Day by Youssef Chahine: a dream come true. Finally Dalida could play the leading role in a movie.

On May 3, 1987, Dalida passed away in her apartment in Paris. 

Simon von Ludwig

Article series on Dalida

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 1968 at the beach of Senigallia (Italy), Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons

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