Mickey Baker, the famous stranger from Montastruc

the essential
Bertrand Burgalat is the architect of the publication of the book “Alone”, Memoirs of the American rock and blues musician Mickey Baker, who died in Montastruc-La-Conseillère in 2012.

“Love is strange” was his only hit, in duet with Sylvia Vanderpool, in 1957. Tube taken – sacred honor – by Paul McCartney in his first solo album, in 1970, and put in the spotlight, in a most improbable way, by the soundtrack of the film “Dirty Dancing” in 1987. But Mickey Baker (1925-2012) was also a very active studio musician (alongside Elvis Presley, Ray Charles… and the yéyés), an arranger with multiple horizons , from rock to classical, the author of several methods of learning the guitar, his favorite instrument. The musician, singer and producer Bertrand Burgalat, who had long sought to publish the Memoirs of Mickey Baker, had met him in Montastruc-La-Conseillère, near Toulouse. What had reinforced his will to pay homage to him.

“I would have liked so much to do it when he was still alive. I often spoke about my project on Mickey Baker around me, since the 80s, says Bertrand Burgalat. But people did not realize its importance in the history of the rock, blues and rhythm and blues. Faced with this indifference, I decided to produce a documentary myself. But it was too late: Mickey was very tired, almost blind. He was going to die soon after. “

A tongue that clicks and strikes

Today, the testimony of Mickey Baker, transcription of 35 hours of interview carried out in 1976 and 1977 by Jesper Ismael, has become a book, “Alone”, published thanks to the enthusiasm of the publisher Jean Le Gall, in an excellent translation and a long afterword (on the last years of the musician) signed by our collaborator Yves Gabay. Mickey Baker details there, in a language which slams and which strikes, his very hard youth of small mestizo rejected by all, his learning of the music, his first successes and his exile in France in the Sixties. Without forgetting his life of patachon. , drowned in all excess and his intense passion for women. “What Baker tells is fascinating,” says Bertrand Burgalat. This man whose childhood was terrible had an incredible destiny: he learned everything himself and, self-taught, he became a teacher with very elaborate guitar methods, including classical ones. His testimony shows to what extent the France in the 1960s was a haven for black American musicians who fled racism. “

Bertrand Burgalat’s dearest wish would be that the book finally triggers a desire for documentary in a director who loves extraordinary lives. “Documents exist, in particular at the INA. And then there is Male Female, by Godard, where Mickey Baker appears alongside Chantal Goya… “A mine to explore… on a very nervous rock tune or in the sweetness of a ballad which whispers to us” Love is strange “.

“Alone”, by Mickey Baker (foreword by Bertrand Burgalat, translation and afterword by Yves Gabay, Séguier, 760 p., 22 euros).