Click to hear... "Shine"
was a woman of extraordinary accomplishment - an incomparable voice, an unforgettable spirit; a humanitarian and citizen of the world. Carole emerged from the shadow of her brother, the legendary blues musicologist Taj Mahal, to achieve fame and popularity in Europe and the French-speaking world. For more than two decades Paris, France was her adopted home and Dakar, Senegal was her favorite vacation spot. As a celebrity, Carole's presence reshaped the image of the female French singer. No "little sparrow," Carole stood 5'8" tall, a voluptuous beauty adorned in large bold jewelry and colorful shimmering dresses. She was dubbed "Black Mama," an endearment for giving birth to the soulful rhythm and blues sound present in French pop rock music.
Adored by fans and music industry colleagues alike, she died much too soon on June 7, 2001. Carole was just 49 years old. She is one of the few Americans who, at the invitation of the French Ministry of Culture, is buried along with Edgar Degas, Alexandre Dumas (fils) and Charles Fourier in historic Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.
She had the courage to follow her dream. Not since Josephine Baker has an American black woman been held in such esteem. Carole's influence on popular French music has endured, and she remains an icon in the French music industry today. From humble beginnings in Western Massachusetts to a place on the world stage, Carole Fredericks left her light in the hearts of many the world over.
She was born Carole Denise Fredericks on June 5, 1952, the youngest of Mildred and Harry Fredericks' five children. For a time, her mother sang with big bands while on Sunday mornings she was a soloist in the church choir. Mildred eventually earned a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education, and became the first black teacher to integrate the West Springfield, Massachusetts School system. Carole's father, Harry, was a jazz songwriter and arranger when not employed at Fisk Rubber Company or working on construction sites. He passed away before Carole was three years old.
Many years later, in an interview with the French magazine, OH LA! (June 18, 2001), Carole confided with admiration, "My parents preferred to sacrifice their passions to raise us. Mom was a school teacher and Dad was a factory worker. We received a very strict education. It was important, and I am very appreciative of this today."
Carole and her siblings were raised in Springfield and educated in the public school system.
All of the Fredericks children inherited a deep appreciation of music and the arts. From Carole's immediate siblings sprang a wealth of creative expression. Eldest brother Henry, became blues musician, Taj Mahal, an American icon in his own right. Brother Edward established Samuel's Gallery, a premiere art gallery in the San Francisco - Bay Area specializing in contemporary Black art. Third brother Richard focused his attention on audio engineering and technical production for live performances. Carole's only sister, Connie, was a stage and screen actress, television producer on both coasts and was in arts management.
By the time she was 20, Carole was living in Oakland, California. A year after her graduation from Classical High School, Carole persuaded Taj to send for her. Upon arrival in San Francisco, Taj put his sister to work as a background vocalist on a number of his albums - Mo'Roots; Music Fuh Yuh; Together; and Evolution. To supplement the income from session work, Carole was employed as a receptionist for the Standard Oil Company. She was a member of the New Generation Singers, a 71 voices gospel choir. She organized a trio; piano, bass and voice, and booked singing engagements on the weekends. One such singing date would change her life.
Again from the OH LA! Magazine article Carole explains, "I was part of a choir for three years and I was doing backup work. It was not enough to sustain a comfortable lifestyle and I started to get sick and tired of this life. I refused to get by on my brother's name. During this period, I was working in San Francisco at a French restaurant, La Belle Helene. Some of the patrons would often suggest that I go to France. They said I would do very well there. They were very convincing and without knowing a bit of French, I left it all. I bought a one-way ticket and I was off to Paris. Everyone thought I was crazy."
Carole arrived in France with the hope of pursuing a singing career in January of 1979. She knew no one. In a chance encounter, Carole ran in to the owner of La Belle Helene at the airport.
"He called his friends and I found myself working almost immediately. I started to sing everywhere. It was barely three weeks after my arrival that I was signed with CARLA MUSIC to record a disco album entitled Black Orchid." Click for audio samples.
One of the song writers for Black Orchid was another American singer Ann Calvert. Through Ann, Carole met Baltimore native Yvonne Jones. Together they formed a trio of background vocalists that were in demand by leading recording artists - Dalida, Johnny Hallyday, Huges Aufray, Carlos and Sylvie Vartan.
Carole was determined to learn French as quickly as possible. As her command of the language improved, engagements extended from the studio to the stage. By 1985, Carole was earning a comfortable salary as a singer and performing in concerts for Laurent Voulzy, Michel Berger, Frances Gall and Eddy Mitchell.
In 1985, Carole was featured in the Gibert Becaud spectacular. Later that year, she toured Scandinavia with Mieille Matthieu. Then for the first time Carole's celebrity status opened doors to film roles. She was cast in Je vous aime by Claude Berri and in Romajn Polanski's Pirates opposite Walter Matheau. Other film roles followed.
Carole's determination to master the French language greatly contributed to her success. Not only did the language come easily to her, she understood its nuances which allowed her to sing in French as if it were her first language. Carole was singing with leading Francophone artists - Johnny Hallyday, Mylene Farmer, Francois Feldman, Patricia Kaas, Julien Clerc, and Liane Foly.
Her reputation as a gifted singer willing to lend her musical talent in support of another artist and bilingual skills brought her name to the attention of pop music composer Jean-Jacques Goldman.
|Note: "If you are listening to modern French music today, chances are you are listening to a song written by Jean-Jacques Goldman. He is one of France's prominent independent recording artists, producers and songwriters." www.rfimusique.com|
"[Carole] arrived in France in 1979. Shortly afterwards she launched a career as a studio musician - i.e. one of those people with extraordinary technical skills who put her talent at the service of other singers. In the course of her career Carole provided backing vocals for a lot of different singers and that is how I came to meet her myself"...Jean-Jacques Goldman.
Carole's good fortune resulted in a telephone call from Jean-Jacques. "Hello Carole, it is Jean-Jacques Goldman, I would like you to sing on my next album and tour with me."
"That was a turning point for my life. He had seen me shine in my little corner; he allowed me to take center stage," said Carole.
A beautiful friendship evolved that would shape the rest of career. Jean-Jacques and Carole collaborated on a number of significant film soundtracks and albums projects.
Jean-Jacques asked Carole to record Brother, the theme song for the film L'UNION SACRÉE by Alexandre Arcady in 1989. In between projects with Jean-Jacques, Carole continued to go out on tour this time with Mylène Farmer and she was in the studio working on albums for Vanessa Paradis, Véronique Sanson.
Jean-Jacques invited Carole to join him and second guitarist, Michael Jones, on stage. Almost immediately, Carole was catapulted into prominence with the release of their debut album Fredericks Goldman Jones. The album went Diamond, selling 600,000 copies in the first 6 months, 1 million copies in the first year. This magnetic rock trio took world stages by storm. Fredericks Goldman Jones toured extensively throughout Europe, South East Asia, Japan, Africa and the French-speaking world.
Fredericks Goldman Jones released a second album Sur Scène in 1992. The album reached Platinum sales.
Carole was asked to sing on a album project with Eric Clapton and Elton John. She sang on Runaway Train for the Elton John album The One.
Before the Iron Curtain collapsed, Fredericks Goldman Jones visited Moscow to record their third album Rouge. The album featured the voices of Russia's Red Army Choir. Fredericks Goldman Jones and the Red Army Choir embarked on a international tour. The album skyrocketed to Diamond status.
For their next album, Fredericks Goldman Jones recorded a live performance at an intimate Paris night club. The album featured the sweaty trio singing in English three R&B classics - Knock on Wood, Think and Tobacco Road. The result was - Fredericks Goldman Jones Du New Morning Au Zenith. In a breakout performance, Carole took command of the stage supported by Becky Bell and Yvonne Jones, Jean-Jacques, Micheal Jones and the entire band. The album was a Platinum hit. The gritty club atmosphere, performance spontaneity and realism were captured on film then released as a music video.
|Note: The Fredericks Goldman Jones Du Morning Au Zenith video remained popular with fans long after the live performance ended. The video was reissued in CD and DVD formats and was included in the 2-DVD set: Jean-Jacques Goldman INTEGRALE DES CLIPS 1981/2000|
In 1995 Jean-Jacques wrote a new album, D'EUX for Céline Dion. Carole and Yvonne Jones were asked to provide background vocals for the album. D'EUX became a breakthrough international hit for Céline Dion and was released in the United States under the name The French Album.
Note: D'EUX aka The French Album remains the French best seller of all times: more than six million copies were sold in the world, including close to four million copies in France.
At this point, Carole begins writing songs for her own solo project.
Carole recorded Springfield, the first of two solo albums, in July 1996. Named after her hometown in Western Massachusetts, Springfield was dedicated to her mother, Mildred, who passed away just before the album was completed.
"She is no longer of this world but she is always with me. The gift that I have, I received it from her," said Carole.
Springfield pays tribute to those who influenced Carole's music and became her idols - Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, Sam and Dave, and Mahalia Jackson. She decided to sing what she knew best - gospel and the blues. Collaborating with Jean-Jacques Goldman, Erick Benzi, Jacques Veneruso, Gildas Arzel, Christophe Satterfield and Yvonne Jones, Carole wrote 12 original songs for the album.
Springfield also showcased, You Had It Comin, a rare duet with older brother blues musician Taj Mahal. Recorded entirely in English, Springfield was released to rave reviews in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Carole embarked on a solo European tour with her band Les Dragons.
Carole was joined by Maria Popkiewicz and Yvonne Jones in the studio to add vocals to En Passant, the newest solo album by Jean-Jacques Goldman.
Run Away Love, a single from the album Springfield debuted as the theme song to an action film Une Chance sur Deux starring Vanessa Paradis, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Alain Delon.
Carole recorded Personne Ne Saurait, a duet with the all boy group Poétic Lover. The song was written by Goldman and Jacques Veneruso. The CD single generated "best in sales in its class for autumn 1998" on the pop charts. A celebrity, Carole made the rounds for talk shows and television interviews.
Jean-Jacques took time out to write a second album for Céline Dion, S'il Suffisait D'aimer. Carole returned to the studio to lend her vocal support on the album.
Carole followed the success of Springfield with an all French album Couleurs et Parfums in 1999. The album name was no accident - "I love color," she said. "It's like life, the sun, it's smiling. As for perfume, I always wear the same mixture of an extract of coconut oil and of Nocturne de Caron. That is my signature."
Couleurs et Parfums was the natural evolution of an artist coming into her own. Again Carole surrounded herself with good friends and musicians - Yvonne Jones, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Jacques Veneruso and newcomer, Frédéric Kocourek. Together they created a rap, rhythm and blues inspired album. Everything came together...Carole's early experiences in America and her love affaire with France found full expression on Couleurs et Parfums' 11 original tracks.
Four hit singles emerged from Couleurs et Parfums...
- 1st: "PERSONNE NE SAURAIT" (debuted in August 1998 with Poétic Lover)
- 2nd: "QU'EST-CE QUI T'AMENE ?" (debuted April 30,1999)
- 3rd: "RESPIRE" (debuted September 27, 1999)
- 4th: "LE PRIX A PAYER" (April 16, 2000 debuted with only radio promotion )
Carole ended the 20th Century with a performance on December 31, 1999 at the world famous Lido in Paris.
She was just getting started...
OH LA! Magazine June 18, 2001
Carole Fredericks' life and musical legacy live on in French language materials for American students and CDs...
CAROLE FREDERICKS CONTEST IN THE NEW ENGLAND REGION
The Carole Fredericks Contest, the first of its kind in the New England area, was launched on September 7, 2010 and will run through March 26, 2011. See contest details and download a flyer at the Consulate website: http://www.consulfrance-boston.org/spip.php?article1859
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