Complex and Alive: Catherine Ringer

Without striving for it, she is. Complex. And alive. And I also believe she is mostly unafraid. Catherine Ringer sang as part of Les Rita Mitsouko, a band that included her late husband, guitarist Fred Chichin. And still she sings. I recently discovered one of her duets with Iggy Pop, “I Put a Spell on You”. Their chemistry is¬†riveting! Aside from having a versatile and wonderful voice, chemistry is one of Ringer’s specialities. I’ve watched videos of other duets, and there is always an erotic chemistry or an acknowledgement of shared erotic knowledge.

Catherine Ringer and Les Rita Mitsouko are fairly recent discoveries for me, though they’ve been around since 1980. But somehow I missed them at the height of their popularity. Perhaps because they were a band from France and I was living under an American rock without knowing it. A few years ago when I was mourning the cancer death of one of my oldest friends, Marcia Kerwit, I happened to stumble across the original video of “Marcia Baile” – the band’s tribute to Catherine’s dance teacher, the late Marcia Moretto (also a victim of fatal cancer). It was a strange coincidence and the oddly joyful and charming video – with Ringer making sugar skull faces and flipping a mermaid tail – became part of my mourning too, and an affirmation of life, for however long it lasts.

Photo copyright Renaud Corlouer

I keep finding new music from this artist, all on YouTube. I’ve got my favorites and I’ve found a few things that leave me slightly less awed. But in every video, Ringer practically evolves before your very eyes. And though the clothes and image often change – there’s something less practiced and posed, and much more organic. She simply is – at any given moment – and whether she chooses her “is” of the moment as skinny punk, French elegance, or reckless slattern, nothing can stop her from living and singing. She fully enters the song and doesn’t transcend it so much as she allows us to transcend our own stuff and simply experience pure pleasure, anguish, irony, humor, love, or a complex mix of all of the above.

Here are my favorites, in no particular order:

Marcia Baile

Singing in the Shower (with Sparks) – I find this immensely erotic!

Live version of Singing in the Shower – oddly, with little stage interaction between Catherine and Russell Mael.

Y’A D’La Haine Systeme D

Les Histoires D’amour (sung with Vanessa Paradis, whom I haven’t liked anywhere else)

Padam… Padam

Don’t Forget the Nite

Bad Days

Hip Kit (also with Sparks)

Ringer has also composed and sung on movie soundtracks. So far I haven’t heard these pieces, but look forward to finding them somewhere on the internet.

Another interesting thing about Ringer. Before her singing career, she performed in some erotic films. I guess people tried to make this into a scandal at some point – I’ve seen some stupidly ugly interviews, like this one, but Ringer gives better than she gets. As you might expect.