Irishman Paddy Sherlock sings at ‘Charlie Hebdo’ editor’s funeral

‘We played him out, following the coffin like a New Orleans funeral’

 

Irish musician Paddy Sherlock, who has been based in Paris for the last 25 years, was asked to play and sing at the funeral of Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphan Charbonnier (Charb) on Friday.

“I sang at the end – we played him out with Dirty Old Town, following the coffin like a New Orleans funeral. It was beautiful – there was a lot of feeling and raised fists.”

Sherlock was there because medical doctor and Charlie Hebdo columnist Patrick Pelloux, Charb and cartoonist Renald “Luz” Luzier had been at his gigs many times. Pelloux he has known for years as a friend – he has joined him onstage at his Paris gigs. The doctor in turn has got Sherlock to play in A&E and in palliative care wards. Sherlock also recorded a Christmas album with the Hebdo team a few years back.

“Two days ago, Pelloux called me in tears. He said you have to come and play that song, Dirty Old Town. It is a sacred song. Charb loved it – I guess he loved the Pogues. It was really sad. The mood was solemn. Luz, who survived the attack, gave a beautiful speech: he said, ‘If you are Charlie prove it.’ He wants people to stand up and be counted.

“We turned up with a big brass band. Instead of playing my trombone, I just sang it with guitar and the band. There were many well-known French musicians present. When they brought the coffin in, they had played The International.”

Paddy Sherlock and Patrick Pelloux in happier times

Sherlock left his house in Meudon with a police escort on Friday morning – not for security but to ensure he got to the funeral on time. He was driven in the wrong lanes and through traffic lights all the way to the hall in Pontoise. There were ministers, VIPs and huge security precautions. “I was touched they asked me to do it – and that Charb liked what I did.”

Sherlock tries to explain the effect of the killings. “Could you imagine if they had killed the Monty Python team, say after Life of Brian? The Charlie Hebdo guys were big stars here. They were all very prolific people. Cabu did some children’s books – people had grown up with them. I saw the reaction of my own children. People who never, never read Charlie Hebdo were touched. Guys who made drawings were killed.

What is the mood now in Paris? “There is confusion. Not anger. Sadness. The journalists were the bad boys in class at school – they weren’t really bad, just messers. But it was the size of the punishment compared to the crime that shocked.

“It opens the box to an insane thing we didn’t think would come. As artists, Charb and the other guys were in the front line of a war we didn’t know was going on – as if they were at Normandy and we just didn’t know.”

Sad and frightened

Charlie

He believes there has been a sea change. People are even more respectful of the police. People are talking more.

“I did an impromptu concert in my local cafe last week. We didn’t know the sieges were going to break . . . We did not want people to just stay at home watching the news. It was full of people who don’t normally go to gigs. It went on til 2 in the morning. People will see things differently now. Either support for the Front National will drop as the moderates come out now to vote. Or maybe the opposite will happen.”