Eric Blau, Creator of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well, Dies at 87

Obituaries   Eric Blau, Creator of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well, Dies at 87
Eric Blau, an industrious jack-of-all-trades who help introduce Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel to American audiences through the long-lived musical revue with the endlessly parodied name of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, died Feb. 17 in Manhattan. He was 87.

With composer Mort Shuman, Mr. Blau helped shape a couple dozen of Brel's melancholy, sarcastic, sentimental and bitingly comic songs into a theatrical evening which opened at the Village Gate in Manhattan in 1968 and ran for four-and-a-half years. It then played on Broadway for two months. The title has never quite disappeared from the theatrical landscape since then, forever revived by regional and community theatres, as well as Off-Broadway. It most recently played a year-long run at the Zipper Theatre, ending in February 2007. The title, meanwhile, has become part of the common language, adapted for the headlines of countless personality profiles.

Eric Blau, who was born on June 1, 1921, in Bridgeport, CT, to Hungarian-immigrant parents, first heard Jacques Brel when his friend Nat Shapiro, who worked at Columbia Records, played some songs for him. Mr. Blau was impressed by the composer's work. He and Shuman began translating some of the songs. Some of the resultant translations were used in a revue called O, Oysters! starring Mr. Blau's wife Elly Stone. Stone and Shuman also starred in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well….

The revue was Mr. Blau's greatest achievement in the arts — not that he ever stopped trying. In his time, he wrote novels ("The Beggar's Cup," "The Hero of the Slocum Disaster"), books, created other Off-Broadway musicals, was a children's television producer, a ghost writer and was a founder of the Communist-leaning journals Masses and Mainstream.

Mr. Blau's tribute to Brel came just in time; by 1978, the title of the revue was no longer accurate — Brel died that year at the age of 49. The Belgian, incidentally, was not able to attend the opening of the show that made him a worldwide household name. Opposed to American involvement in Vietnam, he stayed home. He finally attended a performance in 1970.

Mr. Blau's first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived his wife and his son Matthew, who lives in Brattleboro, VT, he is survived by two other sons, John, of Forest Hills, NY, and Peter, of Brooklyn; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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