No doubt the mysterious Frenchman’s greatest gift to the world musically has been “Ballad for Adeline.”
Composed by Paul de Senneville and Olivier Toussaint in 1976, the co-writers could never have imagined how big the song would become, because disco was all the rage, and they did not believe that a low-key soft ballad would hack it in the crazy and fickle world of popular music.
Richard Clayderman (real name Philippe Pagès) actually auditioned for the two songwriters to play the song from a group of 20 pianists. Toussaint and de Senneville immediately liked the 23-year-old pianist, not only because of his soft and gentle nature and good piano skills, but also his good looks and flowing blonde hair, which would translate well on album covers and in the media.
The song was recoded and went on to sell 22 million albums, which was an amazing feat for a piano piece. It enjoyed mainstream radio airplay in the 70s and 80s, and was a popular piano piece for pianists. I remember learning to play it when I first took piano lessons in primary school, and it was a very popular piece for other piano students too. I still play it on occasion to this day. It defines the 80s as much as the Rubik’s Cube!
Richard Clayderman, who lives near Paris with his wife and kids and has a considerable concert touring schedule (in 33 years he has performed more than 2,000 concerts, recorded more than 1,200 songs and has sold 85 million albums), plays in Cape Town only at the Grand West Casino on 9 October. Tickets through Computicket.