Durosier, 68, Haitian Singer and Composer
By GARRY PIERRE-PIERRE
Guy Durosier, a versatile Haitian singer and organist whom Edith
Piaf once called "the living breath of Haiti," died on Thursday at his
home in Bothell, a suburb of Seattle. He was 68.
The cause was complications from pulmonary cancer, said his son
In a career more than 50 years long, Durosier also played the saxophone
and composed music. Like most Haitian musicians, he had an eclectic
style, ranging from big band sounds to Cuban music of the 50's.
His genre reached even those who left Haiti too young to have known his
music firsthand and those who were born in the United States to Haitian
parents. His cross-generational appeal was evident when Durosier
received a standing ovation after performing at Lincoln Center in June
1998 during a fund-raiser for the Haitian-American Alliance, a
community group based in Brooklyn. Reviewers said Durosier outshone
younger and more popular Haitian musicians like the singer Emeline
Michel and the guitarist Beethova Oba.
Born in Port-au-Prince, the capital, Durosier started performing at age
14. In 1947 he began playing the clarinet with the school band at St.
Louis de Gonzague School in Port-au-Prince. A few years later, he
began to play professionally when he caught the attention of Issa Saieh,
the maestro of the most famous orchestra in Haiti.
In the 1960's Durosier settled in Paris and was a regular performer at
jazz club Mars, playing the saxophone, and was at the center of a
growing intellectual and artistic Haitian community in Paris. After Paris,
Durosier lived in Asia, then spent 15 years in Canada before settling in
the United States a decade ago.
He wrote scores of songs and many, like "Her Name Is Michaelle" and
"My Brunette," became hits. However, his image suffered from his close
alliance with Haitian dictators François (Papa Doc) Duvalier and
Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, who ruled from 1957 to 1986, when
the younger Duvalier fled to exile in France.
In 1971 Durosier gave a special tribute at the elder Duvalier's funeral.
"We thank thee François Duvalier for having given so much to us,"
Durosier sang. "You are great and beautiful and just. Up there in the
skies you will watch over our Fatherland."
During an interview in November with the magazine Haitiens Aujourd'hui,
Durosier said that singing at the funeral was a matter of chance. A few
days after Durosier was invited to Haiti along with other celebrities like
Pelé and Muhammad Ali, he recounted, Duvalier died and he was asked
to sing at the funeral. Officials imposed the text of his song, he said.
"Today I have no regrets," he said in the interview. "I have one wish:
my musical legacy continue to rehabilitate Haitian music in the world.
would like to leave something valuable."
Durosier is survived by his wife, Marianne, and four children. A memorial
will be held in Bothell tomorrow. A concert tribute to Durosier will be
held at Brooklyn College in New York on Sunday. The tribute will bring
together musicians of his era like Joe Trouillot, Michel Pressoir, Egner
Guinard and Raoul Guillaume.