Marcel Zanini, the interpreter of “You want or you don’t want”, dies at the age of 99

Marcel Zanini, the interpreter of “You want or you don’t want”, dies at the age of 99

French musician Marcel Zanini, a major figure in French jazz and best known for his piece You Will or You Won’t, died in a Paris hospital on Wednesday at the age of 99, his son Alain Zanini told AFP.

“Jazz is my whole life. It’s a passion, a disease. Jazz is better than being in love,” he told AFP in 2005.

Marcel Zanini (Zannini with two “n” in his real surname), born September 7, 1923 in Istanbul, descends from a Franco-Italian father and a Greek mother who had left France in 1930 for Marseille in the south of Turkey .

After odd jobs – baker, carpenter, errand boy… – he found his way to the clarinet and saxophone at the age of 19 and was inspired by the post-war jazz explosion in the Saint-Germain-des-Presse district of Paris.

He went to New York in 1954, where for four years he visited jazz clubs and saw the biggest names in music of the time play: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Billie Holiday and others.

During his stay in the USA he wrote for the specialist magazine “Jazz Hot”. “Seeing Charlie Parker play is one of the greatest moments of my life,” he said. “It hit you right in the heart from the first notes.”

Despite acclaim in the jazz world, the general public tends to retain the bob-faced, mustachioed, big-glassed comical character of a vaudeville singer who began appearing on radio and television in the late ’60s.

His 1969 hit “You want it or you don’t want it / You want is good / If you don’t want to, it’s a pity / If you don’t want to, I won’t make it a disease” is a fifteen-minute adaptation of a hit by Brazilian Wilson Simonal, ” Nem vem que não tem”.

Hummed in front of a pair of black thigh-high boots, disarmingly simple, the song — rejected by several artists including Eddy Mitchell — was a massive hit. Everyone is talking about it, including Brigitte Bardot, who picks it up a year later.

If it doesn’t make him a fortune, it gives him tremendous notoriety. “And in the end, oddly enough, it got me known as a jazz musician,” he noted.

For decades after that success, he continued to produce jazz albums, alternating covers and originals, and perform in clubs. Sometimes accompanied on the guitar by one of his sons, Marc-Edouard Nabe, a writer exiled in Switzerland.

“I never gave up jazz. I listen to it and play it every day,” he liked to say.