Thursday, July 29, 2010

NO MORE MANOLE. Madalina Manole a Birthday Suicide

One of Romania's greatest stars, folk artist turned pop-rocker Madalina Manole turned up dead on her 43rd birthday (July 14th, a gloomy wednesday full of woe), leaving a note for her husband Mircea Petru. She had a one year-old son. She had a prosperous career (with a comeback album released in 2010) but depression is a disease that blinds people to hope and can leave them flailing for meaning and ultimately grasping for the means to end it all.

Fans, depressed and saddened by the demise of a woman they had admired for over 25 years, did not get much comfort from the Romanian Orthodox Church, who would not allow a massive tribute in a church because of her crime — the sin of suicide.

Her fatal means was an overdose of Furadan, a powerful insecticide that is so toxic that the powdered version was banned in the U.S.A. and many other countries. A bit of Furadan, the size of a seed, can instantly kill a bird. The liquid version is also dangerous. A teaspoon of it is fatal to a human and because enough residue can linger on crops and kill small animals, most farmers have voluntarily suspended using it. Many countries have also banned sibutramine hydrochloride monohydrate, something else found in Madalina's system. A diet drug, it's considered dangerous and potentially addictive, and where it is legal, warnings from the manufacturer indicate it shouldn't be used by a patient suffering depression.

You'll note in the pictures below, that Manole looks very thin-glamorous in the picture on the left, and more zaftig in the one on the right, where perhaps the rest of her is a bit more fleshed out as well. As we know from songs such as "Sophie" by Eleanor McEvoy, the neurotic desire to be thin, and the failure to recognize a proper and human weight for a woman, has led to many, many deaths.

Madalena (first name actually Magdalena-Anca) was just 13 when she had her first taste of fame, singing "Pentru noi nu poate fi alt cer" ("For Us There Cannot Be Another Heaven"). It was featured in the film "Nelu." She blossomed into a true beauty, and at 23, she had her first smash hit with "Fata Draga" ("Lovely Girl') written by her future husband ┼×erban Georgescu. He wrote most of her early hits, and her next few albums offered an intriguing blend of pop modernity and a respect for Romanian folklore. Her songs and singing were good enough to interest PolyGram, who seemed to think that she might have some crossover appeal, despite the language barrier...since beauty knows no language barrier. Hottie Manole got many endorsement deals for various cosmetics and hair products.

Through the 90's Madalina was a tremendous star, and the TV appearances and concert touring put her on the kind of high that helped her ignore the precarious lows…."the auditoriums and the tens of flower bouquets I was receiving, the joy on people’s faces when they were seeing me live on the streets of their towns, the dolls I was receiving from children at each show, the autographs and the letters from my fans, the songs they sang along line by line, all of these made me forget of the things less pleasant from my life as an artist; the longing for the loves ones at home, the scandalous newspaper articles, and the things that at artist has to give up, sacrifice, or keep a diet."

A casualty of her lifestyle and her maturation, was her marriage to mentor ┼×erban Georgescu, who was wealthy, powerful, but also fifteen years older. It seemed that after the painful divorce, she found love again via Petru Mircea, and the child she miraculously delivered at the age of 42. They married in October of 2009, four months after the boy was born. Within another four months, February of 2010, she had a new album out, but newspapers were reporting that she was exhausted, and there was some question about how many TV appearances and how much touring she would be doing. After her death, there were reports that she'd attempted suicide a month earlier.

Your download features a dozen samples of her work, including her first hit, "Fata Draga," which most certainly is steeped in her country's musical heritage, and may strike you as some distant cousin to the strains of "Those Were the Days" (Mary Hopkin) or "Gypsies Tramps and Thieves" (Cher), and that with the right English lyrics, it might've had a quirky chance of being an International hit. The more you listen to it, the catchier it becomes. There's also "Nu Esti Chiar Un Inger," which is your typical power pop ballad with a galloping beat that tastefully manages to slide past disco and twang a little closer to ABBA sensibilities. "Vino Dragostea Mea" actually sounds like some Italian boat song peeled out of a Canned Film Festival. "Vreau Sa Te Uit" could've been a sing-along for Dalida. "Da Te Iubesc" despite its somewhat corny back-up singers, is in the same pop vein as Madonna's "La Isla Bonita," released three years earlier, which is hardly an endorsement but gives you an idea of how slickly commercial Madalina could be.

Several tracks come from "Dulce De Tot," her beautiful 2000 release that capped her most productive period. "Un baiat minuet" is a bit of reggae-tinged oddness. A great track from that album, "Cand Sunt Cu Tine," is included not only because it's an assured, polished performance from Madalina, but is bound to arouse dyslexics. She released 7 albums in the 90's. But after "Dulce De Tot" in 2000, she produced only two more albums…one in 2003 and her comeback/farewell at the start of 2010. Her final album, "09 Madalina Manole" is widely available (even eMusic has tracks) and there are three songs sung in English including the mildly soulful "Loving My Baby."She sings it without betraying that English is a second or third language for her, and after repeat listens, it sounds as decent as any Mariah or Whitney-type wannabe, but what is most memorable with Madalina is the passion she finds in her native language, even if the music's influenced by Western pop. And so it is, that the 13th track, your sample from her last album, is "Suflet Gol," a full-blown ballad, recalling the kind of showstopper one might expect from a Celine Dion or Lara Fabian.



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