The voice of an angel
Moshe Brand was born on the night of the 1st of February 1947, a beautiful blue-eyed newborn, weighting 4.5 kilos. His mother, Bronia Rosenberg, a Polish Jew and a survivor of Auschwitz, and his father, Fishel Brand, enlisted in the Russian army as a Polish resistance fighter, have met each other at the end of the war at Poking en Bavière station. This was love at first sight, the first light of hope for these two Holocaust survivors on their way to liberation.
The young married couple embarks in Marseille on a ship (such as the Exodus) heading for Palestine. They are making Aliyah. At this time, Bronia realizes that she is 3 month pregnant.
The hygienic conditions and the crowding aboard the ship are tough. The English army located in Palestine refuses to let the ship enter the Promised Land and they have to disembark in Famagouste (Cyprus) where they are put in a refugee’s camp.
On the 29th of November 1947, the UN votes for the dividing of Palestine. Moshe is 9 month old.
The Brand family arrives to Haifa port and settles down in the future state which later on, on May 1948, will become the state of Israel. A new life begins, perhaps a modest one, but finally free and .
Bronia is worried since her little boy is dumb; he still doesn’t speak and is hit by aphasia. He has almost 4 years when, looking at the man who delivers ice blocks on the street, he finally shouts his first word: “ice”, (at this time, big ice blocks were used as refrigerators). Since that day, Moshe recovered of his silence and made up for it, not only by talking but by singing, everybody was finally happy!
Around the age of 8, he is integrated as a soloist at the girl’s choir of Carméli School in Haifa, then, around the age of 11, he works his voice in a synagogue but prefers light music on opera and quickly starts to stick out on celebrations and marriages.
Moshé is experiencing an unperturbed and a happy adolescence and only thinks about singing. He is the class clown with his imitation of bird’s shouts; everybody is amused except for his teachers. He is suspended of school. So his parents send him to kibbutz Gesher located in the Jordan valley (kibbutz: a typical place of collective living and working in Israel).
Again, he is more interested in singing and makes his friends laugh. His father, Fishel, shortly receives a call asking him to come and pick his “clown” as soon as possible!
This is 1961; Moshé is allowed to return to school since he is only 13 years old. He finishes his apprenticeship and works at small jobs such as, for example, museum guard, fridge technician …but only his theatre lessons as well as his singing concerts fascinate him and he does it seriously.(between the age of 14 and 16, he is registered to dramatic art lessons at the town’s theatre ” Beit Rothschild “. He is enthralled when he acts in plays like Antigone, Peter Pan etc.). When his parents express their worry about his future, he exclaims loud and clear: “I am going to be a star or a beggar”!
One night, with a bunch of his friends, he wakes up people in the neighborhood while singing loud, perched on cars covers, causing a fight between the neighbors from a window to another : those who tell Mike to let them sleep and those who retort ” You are mad, let him sing, this is the new Caruso”!!
At the age of 16 he is urgently hospitalized for a severe ulcer in the stomach. The town’s coachmen joint forces to offer their blood, a very rare and costly commodity at that time, in order to save the adolescent’s life.
Years later, when his mother exclaims at the end of a concert “Mike, you are wonderful, just like a prince, you have blue blood running through your veins, he would gently reply” Mother, do not forget that I have a coachman blood running in my veins”.
1962, his younger brother, Zvi, is an accordionist in a small musical group of friends in his school. He thinks that the sound of the accordion fits badly the one of the piano and proposes Mike to join them and integrate his voice to replace the musical instrument. Mike’s first group is established, the «SKY-MASTER» (later on to become the « Chocolates »).
During a rehearsal, a neighbor who has contacts, knocks on the door and proposes them to arrange for them a concert in a big hotel on New Year’s Eve. This is the first concert.
Rumors are starting to hang around about this young singer with an extraordinary voice…
View of the sea. We are on 1963; Mike is happy, he sings with his group at the famous night club at the Dan Carmel hotel in Haifa: the Rondo. He is 16 years old and enchants with his favorite hits, this is the time of American hits and San Remo festival.
First public, the songs are romantic and the atmosphere is festive.
Mike continues his journey as a young singer and obtains contracts in prestigious hotels and cabarets. In 65 he leaves Haifa to perform at the Hilton hotel in Tel Aviv and then at the Sheraton.
But in 68, when he successfully starts making his first professional steps, his father Fishel dies, Mike arrives too late. He is only 21 years old…
He takes it very hard, shutting himself in a total silence and a refuse of everything. In his memory, he goes up on stage, in spite of everything, and sings his father’s preferred songs in Yiddish, as if nothing happened, his voice and his eyes full of tears…
This same evening, the public will cry and share Mike’s pain, without knowing why, amazed by so much sadness…
In December, at the Hilton, Mike meets Jonathan Karmon, a director and a choreographer of a folklore band, the Big Music Hall of Israel, who proposes Mike to integrate the group for an international tour of one year (U.S.A., South Africa…)
Mike becomes « Mikaël Sella » and acquires the art of the entertainment, singing the hits of his favorite crooners, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, The Platters etc…
He makes imitations of Jerry Lewis, Ray Charles, the audience is conquered.
February 69, He comes back to Israel. He sings at the Dan Hotel in Tel-Aviv and meets a famous manager of a hotel in Teheran who hires him to sing in his night club: The Baccara.
Mike obtains such a success that the Shah of Iran invites him to sing for him.
A night on May 69, Sylvie Vartan and Carlos (his secretary at that time) are in the same hall where Mike is performing, charmed by his talent they propose him to come to Paris, and they will introduce him to french talent managers, so he could try his luck.
Summer of 69, Mike ends his engagements and travels to Paris, but does not manage to reach Sylvie. Alone, after few days of wanderings, just at the moment when he intends to leave, in a last telephone call at the airport, with only five dollars left in pocket, he manages to reach Carlos who lodges him and intrudes him to Jean Renard (compositor and lyric writer among others of « Que je t’aime » for Johnny Hallyday.)
Fascinated by the easiness and the vocal power of Mike’s first musical notes on his piano audition on summertime (Gershwin) and by the purity and the gentleness of this young talent, he introduces him to his publisher Gérard Tournier. The team is established and signs up this new promising young singer at CBS. He recorded his first single singing in phonetics since at that time Mike only speaks Hebrew and English. Little Moshé from Haifa (as Jean Renard calls him) becomes Mike BRANT and experiences his first success and standing ovation by performing « Laisse-moi t’aimer » in front of a deeply impressed professional public, in Midem de Cannes on the 21st of January 70.
Monique Lemarcis, program planner on RTL, believes in this new talent and is the first to broadcast his song on the radio waves; the telephone lines explode: this is the beginning of a Media success.
The mounting and huge popularity surprises Mike and overwhelms him. Within few months, television shows, interviews, magazine covers, comes one after the other, Mike is on the first page.
We are at the beginning of the 70th, he is 23 years old, this is a life of a star.
People discover the physical charm and vocal ability of this young Israeli who sings with a new accent. The sales of his album are putting him at the top of charts with one million and two hundred thousands copies sold. The happiness of being on stage provides him an irresistible charisma, the crowd is frenzy and the number of his fans increases each day.
23rd of November 71, against Jean Renard opinion, Mike needs space; he feels ready and makes his first step as an “English star” at a concert of his friend Dalida, at the Olympia. Contract and collaboration breach between these two mean. The Medias are not soft on Mike, his physics, his rangy silhouette (almost 1m90), his shyness due to the language barrier and to his modesty are often interpreted as a sign of pretension and thus, misunderstood.
71: Mike is going back to his country to refill his energy. In spite of his fears of having to perform for the first time in his country, since his huge success in France, he is welcomed as a hero.
Gérard Tournier contacts him with Charles Talar who becomes his new producer. Michel Jourdan, (lyric writer of G.Bécaud, C.Aznavour, J.Iglesias etc…) will become and remain Mike’s loyal accomplice and adapt for him the lyrics of « Che sara »: Qui saura.
Mike assuages his desire for creation and composes « C’est ma prière » which becomes a hit song, then, on 73 « Rien qu’une larme ».
Summer 73, a broad concert tour across France, with more than 200 galas, indeed, up to 3 song recitals on the same day.
Despite the love Mike has for the stage and the public, he is physically and emotionally exhausted: the concerts are mobbed by a frenzy crowd, the fans are throwing themselves on him and not letting him sing, this is hysteria. Mike is afraid, worried and oppressed.
The artist is a prisoner of his own image of a “glitter” singer whereas all he wanted was to be known for his talent and voice.
On the 6th of October, Yom Kipour war starts in Israel. Mike, exempted of the army because of the ulcer operation he went through when he was adolescent, feels the need to support his compatriots by going on front to sing and donate his blood to soldiers of his age. His younger brother is a soldier in the Sinai; Mike has also kept a pain of the tragedy his mother went through during the war, in the concentration camps.
He comes home deeply affected and weakened by the horror of reality.
74, Mike’s contract with Talar-Tournier comes to an end. Simon Wajntrob, a business man, proposes Mile to become his producer. He speaks Hebrew, their common origin and the “fatherly” and charismatic side of this ambitious man, living a life of luxury, reassures Mike who wishes to make a change and have a new liberty. He signs with him his label: WIP.
A new world opens for Mike but he is saturated and his production is diverted: exhausted, he cancels his summer concert tour and leaves to have a rest.
But when coming back, his work rhythm is restored, days of recording, TV, radio and interviews stages are harassing.
Mike is tormented; the pressure and the fatigue make him become very touchy.
The Media hype becomes an infernal machine; he is hunted down from all sides and is unable to lead a stable private life. He suffers of the burden of loneliness and of a paranoia sometimes justified. Even his apartment is robbed. He closes up.
Following the advices of Johnny Hallyday, Mike goes to a private clinic in Geneva to take a rest.
When he comes back, again, he is caught in the hustle and constraints of the show business and he realizes, deceived, the disloyalties of both the profession and star system.
On the 22nd of November 74, he goes through his first suicidal attempt in Geneva; he jumps of the 5th floor of the hôtel de la Paix in Geneva. Retained thanks to a hill of his boots which got stocked in the guardrail of a balcony, three floors below; he comes out of it but with a broken leg, many chirurgical interventions as well as a many weeks convalescence at the Canton hospital in Geneva. Nobody understands this and millions of his fan’s expressions of love fill his room at the hospital. Mike, without a real explanation, promises never to repeat this foolish act…
Forced to respect and secure a return on contract, Mike begins to work when he is not yet fully physically and mentally recovered. He comes back to Paris to record, in the middle of April 75 « Dis-lui », a promising song which restores his confidence in himself. The projects keep coming; he signs a contract on a new apartment in Neuilly. It is also planned that he will receive the keys of a newly bough apartment in Tel Aviv… return to the origins…
On the night of the 23rd of April, he throws his crutch in the Seine, his knee is better now and he hurries up to listen to the mixing of his new recording.
One night in spring, he goes to sleep at his friend’s house, rue Erlanger in Paris…
On the 25th of April 1975, around 11 o’clock, the birds are scared: Mike jumps out of the 6th floor. He is 28 years old…
A star joins the sky, a star that, 30 years later, still shines in our hearts, with his voice and his sensibility.
Yona Brant for EMI MUSIC
Album “Mike BRANT Forever”