All about Jean-Michel Jarre, the French pioneer of electronic music

Jean-Michel Jarre is the pioneer of electronic music. He has released dozens of albums, toured the world and collaborated with the greatest composers in the music industry. Born in 1948 in the 4th arrondissement of the city of Lyon, he is the son of resistance fighter France Pejot and the famous film music composer Maurice Jarre. He rose to fame in 1976 with the release of his musical journey entitled Oxygen. In this article, we will take a closer look at his beginnings, his greatest hits, the women around him, as well as his grandiose shows and concerts in virtual reality.

The beginnings of Jean-Michel Jarre

Jean-Michel Jarre studied the piano from the age of 8, then during adolescence, he participated in harmony lessons at the Paris Conservatory. At the same time, he became interested in contemporary music and learned the electric guitar. In 1966, Jean-Michel Jarre obtained his baccalaureate, then a degree in letters at the Sorbonne. In 1968, he left the conservatory to join the musical research group GRM created by Pierre Schaeffer, and discovered a passion for electro-acoustic music and electronic instruments. Jean-Michel Jarre then composed his first pieces, some of which were published, from 1971, by the Pathé Marconi record company. At the beginning of the 1970s, Jean-Michel Jarre mainly composed music for shows, film music or credits for television programs such as “sport en fête” presented by Michel Drucker. At the same time, he takes on the role of producer and lyricist. Some of his productions will become great successes such as the titles:

  • “Les paradis perdus”, interpreted by Christophe in 1973, of which he is the author of the texts.
  • “Les mots bleus”, interpreted by Christophe in 1974, of which he is also the author.
  • “Ou sont les femmes”, interpreted by Patrick Juvet in 1977, of which he also signs the texts.

But Jean-Michel Jarre’s career really took off in 1976 with the recording of Oxygène, a musical album that propelled the artist to the top positions of hit parades around the world.

Cover of the album Equinoxe released in 1978
Cover of the album Equinoxe released in 1978

The composer’s greatest hits

  • Oxygen : released in 1976, this is one of Jean-Michel Jarre’s greatest successes. Composed with analog synthesizers like the ARP 2600 or the EMS VCS3, the album will sell more than 18 million copies worldwide. The iconic cover art features a painting by Michel Granger and track number 4 titled “Oxygen Part 4” remains the album’s most famous theme.
  • Equinoxe : released at the end of 1978, Equinoxe is Jean-Michel Jarre’s second greatest success. The album, composed with his accomplice Michel Guess, famous inventor of the digisequencer, will sell nearly 10 million copies worldwide. A new work by the painter Michel Granger is chosen to illustrate the visual of the cover. Equinoxe remains a more rhythmic work, in particular thanks to the use of drum machines and sequenced basses.
  • Magnetic fields : released in 1981, “magnetic fields” is an album dedicated to nature. To compose this 5th opus, Jean-Michel Jarre decides to use the first samplers (digital samplers) to integrate real sounds into the album, such as metallic noises or sound atmospheres.
  • Zoolook: released in 1984, the album Zoolook has won several awards. It was voted Best Instrumental Music Album at the Victoires de la Musique and received the Charles Cross Academy Grand Prix du Disc. In this album, Jean-Michel Jarre makes massive use of sampling techniques and incorporates multiple ethnic voices from Aboriginal, Chinese, Indian and Tibetan peoples. Hailed by critics, Zoolook only sold 90,000 copies in France.
  • Rendez-vous : in this album released in 1986, the artist pays tribute to the 7 astronauts who disappeared during the take-off of the American space shuttle Challenger.
  • Revolution : released in 1988, Revolution is an ethnic album which, like the album Zoolook, mixes samples and non-Western voices.
  • Oxygène 7-13: released in 1997, this album pays tribute to Pierre Schaeffer, the founder of the Groupe de Recherche Musicale GRM.
  • Waiting for Cousteau : this album was released in 1990 and pays homage to the sea and to the famous explorer in the red cap, Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Jean-Michel Jarre in concert
Jean-Michel Jarre in concert

The great concerts of Jean-Michel Jarre

In 1979, Jean-Michel Jarre organized the first concert in the world for more than a million spectators on the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The disc of this concert will be certified gold and its fame will spread throughout the world. From then on, it will offer a flood of gigantic concerts to the four corners of the globe. In 1981, Jean-Michel Jarre organized no less than 5 concerts in China (2 concerts in Beijing and 3 concerts in Shanghai). A little anecdote: during the concerts in Beijing, the Chinese authorities temporarily cut off the electricity in the surrounding neighborhoods in order to supply the stage and the live sound system with power! Among the greatest concerts of Jean-Michel Jarre, we can also remember:

  • Rendez-vous Houston : in 1986, this mega concert organized in Texas is a spectacular sound and light where the artist performs in front of more than 1.3 million spectators.
  • Meeting in Lyon: the same year, in honor of the visit of Pope John Paul II, the musician gathered nearly 800,000 fans in his hometown of Lyon.
  • Destination Docklands : this show organized in London in 1988 will bring together nearly 1 million spectators over 2 days.
  • The Paris – La Défense concert: on July 14, 1990, this mega-concert brought together 2.5 million spectators and allowed Jean-Michel Jarre to appear, once again, in the Guinness Book of Records.
  • Chronology Tour : in 1993, this first paying European tour crossed 14 cities in 7 different countries. In France, the 2 scheduled concerts take place at the palace of Versailles and at Mont-Saint-Michel.
  • Concert at the Eiffel Tower : organized in 1995, this concert dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Unesco brings together 1.5 million fans who come to applaud musicians from different cultures around the artist.
  • The Moscow concert : organized in 1997 to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the city brought together nearly 3.5 million spectators according to certain sources which take into account for this calculation the people present around the stage.
  • The Beijing concert in 2004 brought together a million spectators.

Women around the musician

  • Flore Guillard: Jean-Michel Jarre frequented Flore Guillard between 1975 and 1977. In 1976, Flore gave birth to Emilie, the musician’s first daughter.
  • Charlotte Rampling : In 1978, Jean-Michel Jarre married Charlotte Rampling and became a father for the second time with the birth of his son David. Their romance will last nearly 20 years.
  • Anne Parillaud : after breaking up with actress Isabelle Adjani, Jean-Michel Jarre married Anne Parillaud in 2005. Their marriage will last 5 years and the artist announces their divorce in 2010.
  • Gong li, a Chinese actress, officially shares the life of Jean-Michel Jarre since 2019.

Jean-Michel Jarre and the virtual concert

In 2020, following the Covid 19 pandemic, Jean-Michel Jarre is organizing a virtual concert for New Year’s Eve. This show, entitled “Welcome to the other side” takes place in a virtual setting of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral where Jean-Michel Jarre performs there virtually thanks to his avatar. This show is also produced in binaural, an audio technology that allows humans to determine the original direction of sounds. Released in 2021, Amazonia is the musician’s latest concept album, also produced in binaural. Amazonia allows you to live a very immersive experience by simulating the impression of really being in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

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