Home: Overview: Biographies: Aristide Bruant

Aristide Bruant left his parents at age fifteen because they were unable to provide for him. He hung out in the lower-class bistros, and he learned to curse from vagabonds, prostitutes, and ruffians. Bruant began performing at cafe-concerts, and he was noticed by a regular at the Chat Noir, Jules Jouy, who invited him to the cabaret. In Bruant's first appearance at the Chat Noir, he dressed in a red shirt, black velvet jacket, high boots, and a scarf; he became a familiar sight in Montmartre. Toulouse-Lautrec produced many lithographs of Bruant.

In 1885, Bruant opened his own cabaret called Le Mirliton which means reed pipe. He sang in his abrasive voice while accompanying himself on guitar. His lyrics were about the victims of social injustice, the unwed mothers, the homeless, the prostitutes which he was trying to reform. Basically the people that wouldn't be recognized by the Parisians who frequented the club. Below is an example of one of Bruants songs from the book Paris the Musical Kaleidoscope by Elaine Brody:

They are those
With no more charm
Not a penny
In their hose.

Street-walkers,
Sidewalk-stompers,

They walk at night,
When there's no more light,
On the sidewalks.

Hair frizze
Breasts blase,
Feet worn away.

Christ with mild eyes,
Who died for our lives,
Warm the earth where
Holes are dug for them.

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