He was the Gentleman Burglar of music, one of the most sought-after composers of French song in the 1970s and 1980s. Jean-Pierre Bourtayre, the official melodist of Claude François (The telephone cries, Alexandrie Alexandra), but also of Michel Sardou (Vladimir Ilitch, Musulmanes), by Jacques Dutronc (L’Arsène, Gentleman burglar), died on March 4. He was 82 years old.

The complete list of Jean-Pierre Bourtayre’s performers resembles a cenacle of French song. In addition to the huge stars already named, we can cite Marcel Amont, Hughes Aufray, Charles Aznavour, Julien Clerc, Johnny Hallyday…, and even the astonishing Patrick Topaloff for whom he composed the tune of the pastiche song, J’ai I ate well, I drank well.

Also read: Dick Rivers, the heart of French rock

He was the son of the composer Henri Bourtayre, who wrote music for Tino Rossi, Luis Mariano and Maurice Chevalier. It all started for him in the early 1960s. For the rockers Les Chats Sauvages and their leader Hervé Forneri, aka Dick Rivers, he composed Oh! Lady, Cousin, cousin. After having matured his style from 1961 to 1968, working in particular for Hugues Aufray (Adieu Monsieur le professor, whose lyrics are written by the talented Vline Buggy), Bourtayre finally found his standard bearer, his favorite singer: Claude François. For him, he wrote the melodies of some of his biggest hits such as Y’a le Printemps qui chante (1972), Chanson populaire (1973), Le telephone cries (1974), Le Chanteur unhappy (1975). Without forgetting Cloclo’s latest title, which is still all the rage, Alexandrie Alexandra.

Jacques Dutronc sings Gentleman Burglar

Jean-Pierre Bourtayre also composed the theme tunes for the cult series Arsène Lupine with the late Georges Descrières. The lyricist Jacques Lanzmann had thus described the handsome thief of Maurice Leblanc: “He is the tallest, the most charming, the most elegant…” Artistic director of Barclay records, composed the theme of A bench, a tree, a street which allowed the French singer Séverine to win Eurovision in 1971.

“I salute this great name in French song (…). His work will remain eternally in our collective memory,” says Christine Lidon, president of the Sacem board of directors, of which Jean-Pierre Bourtayre was also honorary president.

Jacques Dutronc sings L’Arsène

Claude François sings Alexandria Alexandra