Belgium // Brussels //

Éditions Jacques Brel

From the Manneken Pis, it’s a short stroll to place de la Vieille-Halle aux Blés, where the Éditions Jacques Brel ( is a small but inventive museum celebrating the life and times of the Belgian singer Jacques Brel (1933–78), who was born and raised in Schaarbeek, a suburb of Brussels, though he lived most of his life in France. A legend in his own musical lifetime, Brel became famous in the 1960s as a gravelly voiced singer of mournful chansons about death, loss, desire and love, all of which he wrote himself. Inside the museum, a sequence of life-size tableaux give the impression that you have just missed Brel – a cigarette still burns in the replica bar – and you can watch films of the man in concert in the small and cosy theatre-cum-cinema. Brel’s performances were famous for their intensity and if you watch a show you can’t fail to be affected, though actually liking the music is another thing altogether.

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