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Flashback: Jean-Paul Goude’s Bastille Day Parade


Jessye Norman sings the French national anthem in Paris on July 14, 1989.

Bastille Day comes but once a year, and what luck that in 2012 it’s on a samedi. After you’ve secured a giant box of macarons and tracked down an elusive DVD of Jean Renoir‘s 1938 flick La Marseillaise (sip your champagne every time the proto-anthem is sung!), join us for a brief trip in the international time machine that is YouTube. Click below to journey back to 1989, when Jean-Paul Goude was charged with creating a massive parade as part of the French Revolution bicentennial. As if that wasn’t pressure enough, then-president François Mitterrand was adamant that he didn’t want anything nostalgic for the commemorative megabash. Inspired by the dual themes of the rights of man and world music, Goude delivered an incredible production that sent down the the Champs Elysées thousands of musicians, cheeky global stereotypes (the British contingent toted umbrellas and was accompanied by a persistent downpour, while the Russians moved in a flurry of faux snow), and an American marching band that played James Brown‘s greatest hits—meanwhile, the Godfather of Soul himself RSVPed non from his own kind bastille (South Carolina’s State Park Correctional Institute). Get more Goude in So Far So Goude (Assouline), which includes the 30-minute DVD from which this clip was taken.

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