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MUSIC

‘Great poet’ Dylan to get French honour after all

Despite his reported fondnesss for weed and well-recorded warbashing, US folk music legend Bob Dylan has swayed offical France with his work, and the "great poet" will now become a member of the Légion d'Honneur, it was confirmed on Monday.

'Great poet' Dylan to get French honour after all
Bob Dylan receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Barack Obama in May 2012. It was confirmed on June 3rd that Dylan will receive a similar French honour. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP

After weeks of controversy, the Legion d’Honneur awards committee confirmed on Monday the 72-year-old singer will indeed be given France's highest award.

The hallowed institution's initial reception to news that Dylan had been nominated by Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti was less positive.

Weekly satirical and investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchainé newspaper last month reported that Jean-Louis Georgelin, a French army general and Great Chancellor of the Légion d’honneur, was none too pleased to receive the name of Dylan, whose real name is Robert Zimmerman.

At the time, a representative from the Légion told The Local that there would be neither denial nor confirmation of any objections within the halls of the institution to the nomination of the anti-Vietnam War hero, which were said to be due to Dylan's pot-smoking, anti-war past.

The award's committee had since reviewed the "chaotic life and lyrics of an exceptional artist who is recognized in his own country and throughout the world as a major singer and a great poet,” Georgelin told Le Monde,

The general leads a 17-member panel that collectively decides whether to “receive” a nominee, based on that individual’s ”honour and morality.”

Having a criminal record, for example, would make a confirmation impossible.

"The board has now transmitted a favourable opinion to the president of the republic and the minister of culture will shortly be able to appoint Bob Dylan to the Légion d'Honneur," Georgelin confirmed.

While non-French citizens do not become full members of the Légion d’honneur, Dylan, if he accepts, will be allowed to wear the insignia alongside previous recipients such as noted anti-war activist Sir Paul McCartney.

The former Beatle was made an Officer of the Légiond’honneur by French President François Hollande in 2012.

Last year, Dylan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Barack Obama, the highest available civilian honour in the United States.

Dylan was a pacifist icon and leading voice in the campaign against American military intervention in Vietnam during the 1960s and 70s, and his protest song "Blowin' in the Wind" was a constant feature of anti-war gatherings during that era.

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MUSIC

8 of French duo Daft Punk’s most memorable moments

One of the era's defining dancefloor acts hung up their helmets on Monday, as French electronic music stars Daft Punk announced their retirement in a typically enigmatic fashion with a video showing one of them exploding in a desert.

8 of French duo Daft Punk's most memorable moments
Photo: AFP

From Da Funk in 1995 to Get Lucky in 2013, Daft Punk became the torch-bearers for French house music across the globe, winning six Grammy awards and pioneering the monumental sound-and-light shows that came to characterise the electronic dance movement (EDM) of recent years.

They did so while almost never revealing their faces — the ubiquitous helmets became another much-copied trope of EDM stars, but also afforded Thomas Bangalter, 46, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 47, a freedom from the fame that quickly encircled them.

“We have daily lives that are a lot more normal than the lives of artists who have the same level of fame as us, but who might be attached to being physically recognised,” Bangalter said in a rare authorised documentary by the BBC in 2015.

Here are some of the highlights of their career – although for our money nothing will beat the French army band’s performance of a Daft Punk medley at the Bastille Day celebrations in 2017, in front of president Emmanuel Macron and a plainly bemused Donald Trump.

1. “Daft punky thrash”

Bangalter and Homem-Christo met at school in Paris before an inauspicious start in music with the rock band Darlin’, which also featured a future member of the French indie band Phoenix.

One review in the British music press dismissed the band as “daft punky thrash” — which struck a chord with them.

Reemerging as an electronic outfit, they met with instant success.

This interview from 1995 is one of the few images of their faces:

2. Their signature look in “Around the World”

Early singles “Da Funk” and “Around the World” became club fixtures, and led to massive sales for their debut album “Homework” in 1997.

It was in the video for “Around the World” that they first donned the helmets that would become their signature look. It mirrored the tight control they exercised over every part of their career, which included ownership of their master recordings.

3. “One More Time”

They followed up with the even more successful “Discovery” in 2001, which spawned the hits “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.

There were some distinctively left-field choices in the years that followed, including producing the 2003 film “Interstella 5555” by Japanese anime master Leiji Matsumoto, which featured music from “Discovery”.

4. Human After All

While their next album in 2005, a more sombre “Human After All”, received mixed reviews, these were quickly forgotten amid the euphoria of their live shows over the next two years.

This included a headline appearance at US festival Coachella in 2006, performed inside a giant LED pyramid. EDM fans still speak about it with an almost religious reverence.

5. Tron soundtrack

In 2010, they released a soundtrack to the Disney reboot of Tron, which picked up a Grammy nomination.

6. “Random Access Memories”

But no one predicted the massive success of their last album, 2013’s “Random Access Memories”, for which they gave up their usual makeshift home rig for a full commercial studio– and used entirely live instruments.

The resulting work dominated album-of-the-year lists and helped lift their total worldwide sales to 12 million. It won four Grammies the following year including record of the year for “Get Lucky”, the millions-selling lead single featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

Their appearance at the Grammy Awards show was their last public appearance for three years.

7. “I Feel It Coming”

They showed up one more time for the Grammy ceremony in 2017, alongside The Weeknd, after collaborating on the Canadian artist’s most recent album.

Despite the Twittersphere erupting in excitement last month amid rumours they would rejoin The Weeknd for the Super Bowl half-time show, that did not in the end materialise. 

8. “Epilogue”

The video titled “Epilogue” announcing their split used footage from their cult 2006 film “Electroma” in which one of the robots sets the auto-destruct of the other.

A cutaway then reads “1993-2021” with two robot hands making a circle around a sunset.

Their publicist, Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the news to AFP by email, without giving a reason for the split.

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