Egyptian-born singer Liz Brady’s image was a complete fabrication. In a bid to lend her a cool Carnaby Street edge, her French record label gave her an English-sounding stage name and a fake British heritage. Despite this and the consistently high quality of her records, things didn’t really work out for her in France and she ended up moving to Quebec, where she enjoyed great success as half of duo Les Scarabées.
She was born Raymonde Fleurat in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo, in Egypt, on 5 January 1940. Her father was French and her mother half Greek, half Italian.
She grew up speaking Arabic, French, Greek and Italian. As a teenager, her family moved to Kenya – a British colony at the time – and she became fluent in English.
In the late 1950s, she met British serviceman Anthony Braid at a local dance. The couple married and moved to England. But the marriage didn’t work out and in 1960, a pregnant Liz left him and returned to Egypt, where her family helped her raise her daughter.
Her first public performance came in a local stage musical comedy, and when this led to work as a singer in restaurants and casinos, she quickly gave up her day job teaching English to local military officers.
The next few years saw her follow the work where it took her.
In 1964, she arrived in Paris, where she was offered a recording contract with the Pathé label. By this time, London had become the centre of all things cool – so, given that she held a British passport and spoke French with a distinctly English accent, it was decided that she should be perceived to be English. She was given the stage name Liz Brady and an English father was invented for publicity material. (Six years were also trimmed from Liz’s age.)
Her first EP was issued in early 1965. It led with a version of The Newbeats’ Hey O, Daddy O, and also included the wonderful Danyel Gérard composition Comme tu es jeune.
A second EP, Rien n’est perdu, followed later that year, and the pounding Je ne pensais pas
que c’était moi, also included on the disc, became a fan favourite.
Despite extensive promotional appearances in France, Belgium and Switzerland and on television, neither release became the hit it deserved to be.
Palladium – a version of an obscure release by US group The Sparkles, The hip – kicked off her third EP, issued in February 1966. The disc also included Mais trop tard and the Motown-esque L’amour se voit sur ton visage (a cover of Len Barry’s Like a baby), both of which were translated into Spanish for release south of the border.
She issued yet another consistently good EP in late 1966, Partie de dames. This original composition was complemented by the dance floor filler Bas les pattes – a cover of a 1955 US hit for Priscilla Bowman, Hands off, with lyrics by Liz herself – and a version of a German B-side by Italian star Rita Pavone, Bye bye blue jeans, which became Monsieur Quelqu’un.
1967 proved a busy year for the singer. She appeared as the opening act for star Eddy Mitchell at Paris’ prestigious Olympia and made an appearance in the film Pop game.
She also represented France at the Mallorca song festival with Toi, moi et une rose and at the Budapest festival with Je n’attendrais pas demain. Perhaps surprisingly, neither song was included on her sole French release of the year, Le piano s’est tu, issued that December. The EP had been recorded in London and also included Besoin de rien, Liz’s take on Sandie Shaw’s I don’t need anything. Signalling problems ahead, the disc was issued by Decca, rather than by Pathé, for financial reasons.
When Liz’s friend Martine Gautier was invited to cut some records in Canada in 1968, she asked Liz to accompany her on the short trip. However, record company bosses in Quebec took an interest in Liz too – and with her career in France at a bit of a low, she opted to extend her holiday indefinitely.
The friends presented themselves as sisters, and Liz became known as Liza. The duo took the name Les Scarabées and signed a contract with RCA.
Their first 45 – a version of the Flirtations’ northern soul gem Nothing but a heartache, Puisque tu m’as quitté – was issued in 1969. It wasn’t a hit, and several further releases the following year also flopped.
Things took a turn for the better in 1971, when Viva la buena vida (a version of a Brazilian song, with lyrics by Liza and Martine) became a hit. But it was the follow up that provided the real breakthrough for the duo. Le coeur de mon pays topped the charts, earning the girls a gold disc. The song has gone on to become something of an evergreen in Quebec.
But the pair split at the height of their fame, and Liz (as she was again known) returned to Egypt.
In 1985 she was offered what was initially intended to be a run of 12 shows in Florida under the name Liza Brady. She has remained in America’s ‘sunshine state’ since then.
She continues to perform today and some of her most recent performances can be found on YouTube.
With thanks to Liz Brady for her help with this biography.