Richard Clayderman! Latin America’s Favourite King of Easy Listening

Living in Latin America and possessing a Scottish surname I am generally pretty forgiving of mispronunciations and altogether bizarre variations on the spelling and interpretation of my cultural heritage. The double “C” in McColl just blows people away and of course the lack of a vowel preceding the aforementioned consonant keeps the bureaucrats in official positions guessing. And then, there’s the issue of having three first names. This has created all sorts of problems when registering for broadband internet in my home, not to mention at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs each and every time I am required to renew my cedula. In fact, I don’t have three first names, but that is the way it was written when I first applied for my resident’s visa and to change this issue would require even more paperwork. So, of course I am content to leave it as it is.

But, it has always amazed me the reaction that people have when they ask me my name. It’s Richard, nothing too difficult or exotic about that. Sometimes I get the response: “Corazon de Leon”, and of course, I like this. On the Colombian Caribbean coast on various occasions they fail to end my name with the “d”, leaving it at “Richar”. And of course, this makes phonetic sense.

However, the most frequent reaction or riposte, to me telling a stranger (of almost any social standing) that my name is Richard is for them to respond: “Richard Clayderman.”

Why Richard Clayderman?

Images of Richard Clayderman

I took it upon myself to investigate a little further. Facts about Richard Clayderman that I had no idea about: 1) He is actually French not American as I had imagined. 2) His real name is Philippe Pagès. 3) He has sold over 80 million albums in 38 countries and given more than 600 concerts. 4) In 2012 he is doing 5 concerts in Brazil and 1 in Colombia. But, these do not clarify to me his popularity and reputation in Latin America.

I found a forum all about Richard Clayderman, some of the comments were quite telling:

In my opinion, Richard C is to pop, what Kenny G is to Jazz.

Richard Clayderman is crap…

Another funny thing is that a friend to my older sister ADORES Richard Clayderman, she loves everything about him. So I gave her all of my CDs – a good way to get rid of that crap \:D

I did have one Richard Clayderman album. I got it just to see what the fuss was about. Man, after one playing, I couldn’t wait to get that thing off my turntable. I ended up just throwing it away. I couldn’t live with myself if I actually gave it to someone…

He’s not saying ANYTHING with his music, and he doesn’t seem to have more technique than any average piano player….

So, I am not getting any closer to understanding why the knee jerk reaction to being a Richard in Latin America is for the person in question to say “Richard Clayderman”. I guess it is nothing simpler than he is incredibly popular for schmaltz easy listening music that was permitted through the eras of military dictatorships in the region and therefore became the only “foreign” music permitted? Could this be it? Was he a favourite of  Banzer, Pinochet, Galtieri and Rios Montt? Did they all relax of an afternoon after committing some nefarious deed with a mimosa in hand and Clayderman on the turntable?

Frankly, I guess that the most simple reason for Clayderman’s popularity is the accessibility of his music, his hardworking nature and his ability to make Grandmothers the world over going weak at the knees and spill their porridge. He probably falls into the piano-based equivalent of Cliff Richard and Christmas singles and more recently Gary Barlow.

Richard Clayderman’s Concert in Bogota

In any case, while his concert in Bogota may be a sell out on November 27. You will not find me among the devotees. I’d rather be cracking skulls with the simpletons head-banging around the corner from where I live.

I’ll just have to accept that until the older generation breathes its last and expires, only then will my name stop being a reference to Richard Clayderman. Until of course he dies and then there’s a mass outpouring of grief and sadistic dementia surrounding memorial services and candle lit vigils in his memory. Shudder the thought.

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