PARIS – Genes — and a dash of humility — are the secrets of longevity for one of France’s biggest music stars, Jean-Michel Jarre, the septuagenarian electronic music pioneer who’s sold over 80 million records and is still going strong.
“My vitality is probably genetic — it’s coming from my mother,” he said before a Paris concert, referring to Francette Pejot, the French Resistance member and concentration camp survivor. “She was an extraordinary woman. She was a great figure in the French Resistance. And she was always thinking forward — I mean, philosophically, socially, in day-to-day life. And I think she gave me this strength.”
The electronic music star spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday in central Paris' Brongniart Palace without displaying any fatigue, despite constant performances, and looking younger than his 74 years. He flitted between observations on life and technical details on his new sound. His latest album entitled Oxymore, or “oxymoron,” released last week, is a groundbreaking electronic album recorded in 360-degree immersive sound, accompanied by a virtual reality experience in the metaverse.
This trippy recording, his 22nd album, comes full circle in his six-decade career as it seems to reference his first major recording, the 1976 album Oxygene that catapulted him to fame, selling an estimated 18 million copies — despite having been recorded in a makeshift studio at home.
That approach — huge success twinned with a down-to-earth attitude — is the signature of the man who remains humble despite being a household name in France and beyond. In 1977, he was named Person of the Year by US magazine People, one year before marrying British actress Charlotte Rampling. The marriage was dissolved in 1997.
Setting records for the biggest concerts in the world — a 1997 concert in Moscow at drew 3.5 million spectators, something he describes as an “accident” — has not changed his regular-guy attitude.
It was shedding his ego — something he learned early on, he said — that helped him be able to constantly move forward.
“It created kind of humility because at a very early stage, I realized it takes time to realize that success (like) failure are accidents in the life of an artist,” he said.
He says the secret of creativity for a performer is seeing music as something collaborative, and being “part of a bigger picture.”
Yet there are many signs of his enduring international stardom — sold out concerts, an army of PR staff waiting on his every need, and how he casually reels off the name of friends, such as Bjork.
There have also been rumors that Jarre will perform for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, something he said he would be “honored” to do. As of yet he has remained silent on specifics, saying simply that “nothing is official.”
Jarre remains deeply appreciated in France.
“It took quite a while to find the right balance and the right relationship with my home country," he said. "But I of course feel quite lucky and privileged to have a good relationship with my home.”
And don't mention retirement. Jarre got philosophical when talking about the future, smiling. “So as long as my body is able to carry me, I think — I hope — I will go on.”