Amanda Lear (born June or November 18, 1939 or 1946 or 1950) is a French singer, lyricist, painter, television presenter, actress and former model.
Having studied art in Paris and London, she began her professional career as a fashion model in the mid-1960s and went on to model for the likes of Paco Rabanne and Ossie Clark. Around that time she met the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and would remain his closest friend and muse for the next 15 years. Lear first came into the public eye as the cover model for Roxy Music's album For Your Pleasure in 1973. From the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, she was a million-album-selling disco queen, mainly in Continental Europe and Scandinavia, signed to Ariola Records. Lear's first four albums earned her mainstream popularity, charting within Top 10 on European charts, including the best-selling Sweet Revenge (1978). Her biggest hits included "Blood and Honey", "Tomorrow", "Queen of Chinatown", "Follow Me", "Enigma (Give a Bit of Mmh to Me)" and "Fashion Pack".
In the mid-1980s Lear positioned herself as one of the leading media personalities in mainland Europe, especially in Italy and in France where she hosted many popular TV shows. She had also developed a successful painting career, regularly exhibiting her works in galleries across Europe for the next three decades, and continued to make music, earning minor hits such as "Incredibilmente donna" and "Love Your Body". Amanda's 1980s musical output saw her experimenting with different genres and trying to revive her career by re-recording earlier hits to various levels of success. 1980s also saw her release two books: an autobiography My Life with Dalí and a novel L'Immortelle.
Since the 1990s her time has been divided between music, television, movies and painting. Despite frequent album releases, she failed to achieve success on charts with her music. However, her television career remained successful, with Lear hosting numerous prime time TV shows, occasionally making guest appearances in French and Italian TV series. She has also performed acting and dubbing roles in independent as well as major film productions. In the late 2000s Lear would reinvent herself as a theatrical actress, performing in long-running stage plays in France. To date, she has sold over 25 million singles and 15 million albums worldwide. Lear is also a widely recognized gay icon.
Early life edit:
Lear's origins are unclear, with the singer herself providing different information regarding her background and keeping her birth year secret even from her long-term husband. Contested facts include her birth date and place, her birth sex, names and nationalities of her parents and the location of her upbringing. Most sources claim 1939 was the year she was born in, but in a 1996 interview with Marc-Olivier Fogiel the singer revealed her birth year was 1946. Another recurring version is also 1948. However, in 2010, during an interview with a French newspaper Libération, Lear presented her identity card to a journalist, which read: "born 18 November 1950 in Saigon". As for her birthplace, Saigon and British Hong Kong appear to be most credible versions, but places like Singapore, Switzerland or even Transylvania have also been rumoured as the singer's birthplace by different sources. Amanda herself has long claimed to have British nationality. She was an only child to her parents who later divorced. In a 1976 interview for a German television show, Lear confirmed that her father was British and mother was Russian, and that they had already both passed away. However, she would later claim her mother had a French background.
It is believed she spent her early childhood in Switzerland. Raised speaking French and English, she learned German, Spanish and Italian in her teens, languages she later was able to use in her professional life. She relocated to Paris at the end of elementary school to study at Académie des Beaux-Arts, before joining Central Saint Martins in London in 1964.
1965-1974: Modelling and the Swinging London period edit:
In early 1965 Lear was spotted by Catherine Harlé, the head of a modelling agency, who offered her a contract. Lear returned to Paris for her first modelling assignment as a means to finance her art studies, walking for rising star Paco Rabanne. Just as Harlé had predicted, Lear's looks were very much in demand. Soon after her debut Lear was photographed by Helmut Newton, Charles Paul Wilp and Antoine Giacomoni for magazines like Elle and Vogue. She modelled for fashion designers including Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel in Paris and Mary Quant, Ossie Clark and Antony Price in London. After some time, Lear dropped out of art school to model full-time and went on to lead a bohemian and flamboyant life in the Swinging London of the Sixties. Lear's acquaintances at this time included The Beatles and fellow top models Twiggy, Pattie Boyd and Anita Pallenberg. She became a "stalwart of London's demimonde", an exotic name on the nightclub circuit and a regular fixture in the gossip columns.
While clubbing at Le Castel in Paris with Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones and the Guinness heir Tara Browne, Lear was introduced to the eccentric Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. The self-proclaimed enfant terrible in the world of art, at the time some 40 years her senior, was struck by Lear's looks and found a soul mate in her. She has since described their close and unconventional relationship as a "spiritual marriage" and remained Dalí's confidante, protégée and the closest friend through the next sixteen years. Lear would spend every summer with Dalí at his home at Port Lligat in Catalonia and accompany him and his wife on trips to Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and New York. She also took part in his art projects, posing for a number of Dalí's drawings and paintings, including The Dream of Hypnos, Angélique Rescued from the Dragon and Venus in Furs. On 11 December 1965 she married Paul Morgan, a Scottish architecture student, in order to obtain British citizenship. She was also romantically linked to Brian Jones, resulting in the ironic Rolling Stones track "Miss Amanda Jones" on their album Between the Buttons.
Lear appeared in several advertisements for major brands, modelling among others for a Chantelle underwear range and the Detchema fragrance by a French company Révillon Frères in 1967, and in 1968 played a minor role in a French comedy film Ne jouez pas avec les Martiens. In 1971 Lear modelled for a special Christmas issue of the French edition of Vogue, edited entirely by Salvador Dalí, and was photographed by David Bailey. She performed in a short-lived play along with the singer P.J. Proby in an Islington pub in London and 1972 saw her first on-stage appearance when she introduced Roxy Music and Lloyd Watson at the Rainbow Theatre in London in August. Lear has been briefly engaged to Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music and in 1973 was famously depicted posing in a skintight leather dress leading a black panther on a leash on the cover of the band's classic rock album For Your Pleasure, an image that has been described as "as famous as the album itself". Following the exposure to the music world she gained from the album cover, Lear went on to have a year-long affair with the married David Bowie and appeared in the live performance of his hit song "Sorrow" in the 1980 Floor Show, broadcast as a part of The Midnight Special TV series. Lear then contributed to the Dalí Museum, opened in the painter's home town Figueres in September 1974, by producing a series of collages decorating the doors of the museum, and was offered writing a monthly gossip column by a British magazine Tatler.
1974-1983: The disco period with Ariola Records edit:
In 1974, disillusioned by a shallow and conservative fashion industry and encouraged by her boyfriend Bowie, who paid for singing and dancing lessons, Lear decided to launch a career in music. Bowie recommended a Hungarian voice coach Florence Wiese-Norberg, with whom he also worked, and the pair subsequently recorded a demo track called "Stars", which remains unreleased to date. Lear's debut single, "Trouble", a pop-rock cover of Elvis Presley's 1958 classic, was released unsuccessfully by minor label Creole Records in the United Kingdom. A French language version of the track, "La Bagarre", was released on Polydor in France and while equally unsuccessful there, it became a minor disco hit in West Germany in early 1976. The track caught the attention of the singer, composer and producer Anthony Monn and label Ariola, which offered her a seven-year, six-album recording contract for a sum of money that Lear since has described as "astronomic". Her debut album, I Am a Photograph, released in 1977, was recorded in Munich with most songs composed by Monn. Lear, along with arrangers Rainer Pietsch and Charly Ricanek, wrote all the English lyrics. The album included Lear's first European hit, "Blood and Honey", as well as the follow-up single "Tomorrow" and covers of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and Leroy Anderson's "Blue Tango". I Am a Photograph's mixture of lush disco, schlager, kitsch and camp, topped with Lear's deep half-spoken, half-sung vocals and her characteristic Franglais accent was a successful combination. The second edition of I Am a Photograph, which also contained German No. 2 hit "Queen of Chinatown", included a free pin-up poster with Lear posing topless, a photo originally featured in a Playboy spread.
In 1978, Lear continued her line of disco hits with Sweet Revenge, an album that opens with a concept medley about a Faustian fairy tale of a girl who sells her soul to the devil for fame and fortune and in her eventual revenge over the devil's offer finds true love. The first single from Sweet Revenge, "Follow Me", powered by Lear's characteristic deep and recitative voice and the theme of the devil, was an instant smash hit. It reached the Top 3 in the West German singles chart as well as Top 10 in many European countries, and has been Lear's signature tune ever since. The Sweet Revenge album was certified gold in West Germany, France, Italy and Belgium and went on to sell in excess of four million copies, spawning further European hit singles "Gold" and "Run Baby Run" from the concept medley, as well as "Enigma (Give a Bit of Mmh to Me)". Lear took part in three Italian productions in 1978: a war-time parody Zio Adolfo in arte Führer, a softporn documentary movie Follie di notte, directed by Joe D'Amato, and a six-episode controversial TV show Stryx. Later in 1978 Lear and Monn teamed up for Never Trust a Pretty Face. The album featured a variety of genre exercises like the dance version of a war-time classic "Lili Marleen", the interpersonal ballad "The Sphinx", the cabaret-esque "Miroir", futuristic tracks "Black Holes" and "Intellectually", as well as the hit disco single "Fashion Pack (Studio 54)". In 1979, Amanda had her first art exhibition in Paris and on 13 March in Las Vegas married bisexual French aristocrat Alain-Philippe Malagnac d'Argens de Villèle, the former lover and then adopted son of a diplomat and controversial gay novelist Roger Peyrefitte. The couple had first met just three weeks earlier at a fashionable Parisian discothèque Le Palace, a French equivalent of Studio 54. Dalí and his wife Gala both strongly disapproved of this relationship and even attempted to persuade Lear to have the marriage annulled. As a consequence of this, and also the time taken up by Lear's successful career in music and television, she and her mentor began drifting apart. They still sporadically kept in touch via letters and telephone through the early and mid-1980s, especially after Gala's passing in 1982. Lear visited Dalí one last time at Púbol, Spain a few years before the painter himself died.
In late 1979, Lear recorded Diamonds for Breakfast, which was her commercial breakthrough on the Scandinavian market (No. 4 in Sweden and No. 10 in Norway), producing hits "Fabulous (Lover, Love Me)" and "Diamonds", plus regional single releases "When", "Japan" and the autoerotic "Ho fatto l'amore con me". The album abandoned the Munich disco sound with its lush strings and brass arrangements in favour of an electronic New Wave rock style. Lear spent most of 1980 on European promotional tours for the album and its many accompanying single releases, from Greece to Finland. She also made her first visit to Japan, where both the single "Queen of Chinatown" and the Sweet Revenge album had topped the charts and were awarded with gold certifications. Two non-album singles followed the Diamonds for Breakfast album in late 1980: a pop cover of Eric "Monty" Morris's early ska hit "Solomon Gundie" and the chanson-esque "Le Chat de gouttière", the latter with both music and lyrics written by Lear and recorded for francophone markets.
The Lear/Monn album success saga neared its end in 1981, when Lear had become increasingly uncomfortable with the expectations and pressures of the music business in general and her own record label in particular. At the artistic and commercial peak of her international career, but with the so-called "anti-disco backlash" beginning to take its toll, she had tentatively started recording tracks for a forthcoming album with producer Trevor Horn in London. However, Ariola did not approve the material and informed Lear that she was to return to Munich and provide the company and the market with another Monn product. The result of these sessions was Incognito, only partly co-written by Lear, with New Wave material fuelled with rock and electronic elements. Incognito generated minor European hits: "Nymphomania", "Red Tape" and the French language ballad "Égal", and still met with relative success in Scandinavia. It was also her breakthrough album in South America, with three tracks recorded in Spanish: "Igual", "Dama de Berlin" and "Ninfomanía". Another non-album single followed in early 1982, a synthpop take on pop classic "Fever". This would be Lear's final collaboration with producer Anthony Monn. Shortly thereafter she took legal action against the Ariola label on the grounds of artistic differences to be released from her recording contract. The lawsuit was unsuccessful and she remained with Ariola until the end of 1983, as stipulated in the original contract. In 1982 another Italian language single, the ballad "Incredibilmente donna", was released on the greatest hits compilation Ieri, oggi.
The double A-side single "Love Your Body"/"Darkness and Light", released in the spring of 1983, was produced by Monn's sound engineer Peter Lüdermann rather than Monn himself. These were Lear's final Munich recordings for Ariola and her final promotional appearance on West Germany's most important music TV show at the time, Musikladen, in June 1983. Lear's international career momentum was slowing and effectively came to an end in December 1983 with her sixth and final Ariola album under contractual obligation. Tam-Tam, a collaboration with Italian composers and producers, was a modern and minimalist early 1980s synthpop album with a soundscape dominated by Roland TR-808 drum machines and sequencer-programmed synthesizers. Lear again wrote all the English lyrics for the album. Although she performed some of the songs from the album on the Italian TV show Premiatissima, she did not promote Tam-Tam in West Germany or any other parts of Europe and neither did the record company. As a consequence, Tam-Tam passed by unnoticed by the international record-buying public.
1983-1999: Television career and comeback attempts edit:
Lear went on to launch a very successful and lucrative career as a TV presenter with future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, soon becoming something of a household name in Italy. She hosted many successful TV shows there, including Premiatissima and W le donne (aired in France as Cherchez la femme). The singer also recorded a string of dance singles for various European labels: "Assassino" and "Ritmo Salsa" in 1984, followed by "No Credit Card" and "Women" in 1985. A minialbum entitled A L, with four covers of classic songs, including Marilyn Monroe's "Bye Bye Baby" and "As Time Goes By from the film Casablanca, was recorded for Five Records and released in 1985. At the end of 1985, Lear appeared in a series of TV spots for Fiat, advertising their Christmas promotion.
After four years as a TV entertainer for Italian Canale 5 and French La Cinq, Lear returned to music. Secret Passion, a post-disco Hi-NRG-New Wave affair produced by Christian de Walden, was recorded in Los Angeles and Rome for a major French label Carrere Records. The album was to be her comeback in Continental Europe, Scandinavia, the Eastern Bloc, South America and Japan, as well as a breakthrough attempt in anglophone countries including the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Canada and Australasia. These were the only major markets that Lear had not conquered during the Ariola years. The launch was planned for January 1987, however, just before promotion began, Lear was seriously injured in a near-fatal car accident and took months to recover. Secret Passion's commercial success was less than hoped for, and the lead single "Wild Thing" was ultimately only released in a few countries such as France, Italy and Greece. The accident was nonetheless a starting point for another phase in her career, this time as a writer. While in the hospital, Lear began writing her first novel, L'Immortelle, a surrealistic tale of the torments of a woman doomed to eternal youth and beauty. Watching everyone else grow older and eventually losing all her loved ones, the woman is still as beautiful but unable to stop the merciless passage of time.
A series of re-recordings of her old hits appeared on the market in the late 1980s, starting with a synthpop version of the biggest hit, "Follow Me", in 1987. The following year Italian band CCCP Fedeli alla linea recorded a cover of her song "Tomorrow", newly called "Tomorrow (Voulez-vous un rendez-vous)", for which Lear contributed guest vocals. The single was a minor hit in Italy and Amanda's first chart success in that country in six years. In 1989 DJ Ian Levine remixed "Follow Me" and "Gold" in a Hi-NRG fashion, while Lear hosted Ars Amanda on Rai 3, an Italian chat show where she interviewed both Italian and international celebrities and politicians in a bed. To maintain her popularity in Italy, she recorded Uomini più uomini, an all-Italian language album, which included mainstream pop material written among others by Toto Cutugno and Paolo Conte. No single was released to promote the album and it turned out a commercial failure. The same year Amanda re-recorded some of the songs in French and cut a new dance single, "Métamorphose", for a French-Italian re-release of the album, called Tant qu'il y aura des hommes. In 1990, released a new up-tempo promotional-only single, "Do You Remember Me?", and took part in Thierry Mugler's fashion show.
Amanda continued to record more dancefloor-friendly repertoire in the 1990s, with the 1992 song "Fantasy", which became a hit in clubs around Europe, especially gay. Cadavrexquis, her next album, released in 1993, featured heavily club-oriented material, including "Fantasy" and re-recordings of three songs from the disco era. Both the single and the album failed to enter any mainstream charts. Meanwhile, Lear appeared in Arnaud Sélignac's TV drama Une Femme pour moi, and then modeled for the fashion house Grès in Paris in 1994 and again for Thierry Mugler in Berlin in 1995. In May 1995 Lear debuted her new, erotic TV show Peep! in Germany, also known as Beware of the Blondes, which she would host for one year. The show became remarkably popular, achieving over 50% of market share, and used her new song "Peep!" as the opening music theme. In June, she performed during a tribute concert to the 1970s disco music. In November, the singer released the album Alter Ego, an upbeat eurodance offering. The album again was not successful and did not produce any elusive international comeback hit, with singles "Everytime You Touch Me", "Peep!" and "Angel Love" failing to enter music charts. As an active supporter of people suffering from HIV/AIDS, in 1996 Lear made an appearance as a model for Paco Rabanne during an annual charity event Life Ball. During her concert at Le Palace in Paris in November 1996, the singer announced her definitive departure from touring and performing live, and although she would sporadically still give concerts in the following years, her live acts have limited mostly to short TV appearances ever since.
Amanda released Back in Your Arms in spring 1998, an album consisting of re-recorded 1970s disco hits and remixed versions of tracks from the 1995 album Alter Ego. The album failed to make much impact on the market, but the re-recordings have since been featured on many mid-price compilations in Europe. Back in Your Arms was soon re-released with a slightly different track list and title, and a new remix of "Blood and Honey" was released on a single. Her next acting and television ventures were a French movie Bimboland, in which she starred alongside Gérard Depardieu, and an Italian makeover TV show Il Brutto Anatroccolo. On the set of Il Brutto Anatroccolo Lear met male model and actor Manuel Casella, some thirty years her junior. Lear and Casella began a long-term relationship and were featured prominently in the tabloid press in both France and Italy, before splitting in 2008.
2000-present: Recent career edit:
Lear contributed vocals for a cover of Giorgio Moroder's 1970s hit "From Here to Eternity", recorded in 2000 with Eric D. Clark. The song was a minor club success in the USA. In December 2000 Lear's husband, Alain-Philippe, died in an explosive accidental fire at their house in the South of France, which was left in ruins. 20-year-old cat breeder Didier Dieufis was also killed in the fire, and a number of Dalí's works were lost. In 2001 Lear threw herself back into work and put on an art exhibition in 2001 entitled Not a. Lear, followed by a new album Heart, dedicated to the late husband. The album offered club-friendly tracks like "I Just Wanna Dance Again" and a cover of "Love Boat", the title song from a cult 1970s TV series of the same name, both issued as singles and featuring remixes by some prominent names in the world of French dance music such as Laurent Wolf and Junior Vasquez. Containing new dance-oriented tracks as well as ballads and a number of cover versions, Heart was greeted as a long overdue return to form.
In 2002 Lear starred in Le Défi (Dance Challenge), a movie about an eighteen-year-old dropout who dreams of becoming a star in breakdancing and the ensuing conflicts with his conservative mother. Lear played the mother's understanding and encouraging best friend and a fashion victim, what gave her an opportunity to demonstrate her comedic talent. She also cut a title song for an Italian TV show Cocktail d'amore which she hosted at that time and released a single "Beats of Love" with a Belgian boy band Get Ready!, which became a minor chart success. Both tracks were included on a re-release of Heart, newly titled Tendance, in 2003. Next year Lear worked on a dubbing for French and Italian versions of a Disney/Pixar's blockbuster The Incredibles, while her 1978 song "Enigma" enjoyed a massive success in Central and Eastern Europe after being featured in a Kinder Bueno TV advert. In 2005 the singer became a judge on Ballando con le stelle, the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars, and released two new dance singles, "Paris by Night" and a remake of Barry Manilow's "Copacabana", as well as two compilations, Forever Glam! and Sings Evergreens. In 2006 Lear opened another art exhibition in New York, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's Amanda Lear, and in July was decorated with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres in recognition of her contributions to French arts and sciences. A new compilation was released, the 3 CD The Sphinx - Das Beste aus den Jahren 1976-1983, fully covering the singer's Ariola output. In October, the album With Love was released in France, and consisted of covered evergreens and jazz standards by Amanda's favourite divas, such as Eartha Kitt, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone. With Love won critical acclaim in France and was released in the rest of Europe in early 2007. Lear made several appearances in movies, including acting in Oliviero Rising and dubbing for the French version of Dragon Hunters, and hosted television shows such as La Folle Histoire du Disco in France and Battaglia fra Sexy Star in Italy.
In 2009, Amanda reinvented herself as a stage actress, accepting the part of Cécile in a comedy Panique au ministère, which debuted in Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris. The show was so successful that it was taken on tour and has been broadcast live on French TV. Her next album, Brief Encounters, was released in autumn 2009, preceded by the single "Someone Else's Eyes", a duet with Italian singer-producer Deadstar. The album consisted of two discs, with down-tempo songs and ballads on the first one, and a set of dance tracks and remixes on the other. Next month, Lear released an autobiography Je ne suis pas celle que vous croyez... and an EP Brand New Love Affair, this time featuring purely dance-oriented material. The title song was released as the lead single, with an animated music video. The Brief Encounters album was partly re-recorded and remixed, and subsequently released in Acoustique and Reloaded versions. Boy George remixed "Someone Else's Eyes" in 2010, which was followed by a single "I'm Coming Up".
In April 2011 a new single, "Chinese Walk", was released, and the singer joined the judging panel of the Italian TV show Ciak... si canta! on Rai Uno. In September Lear returned to theatre for the lead role in Lady Oscar, an adaptation of Claude Magnier's 1958 play Oscar, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris. The play turned out another success and would run for over a year. Her next studio album, I Don't Like Disco, was released in January 2012, accompanied by another single, "La Bete et la Belle", and promoted by several TV appearances in France. A deluxe version of the album was released the same year, with bonus tracks and the new single, "Love at First Sight". In September 2012, Lear appeared as a catwalk model on Jean Paul Gaultier's fashion show in Paris and 2013 saw her playing the leading part in a play Divina in Paris.