Grégory Paul Lemarchal was born on 13 May, 1983, in La Tronche, France, and raised near Chambéry. When he was 20 months old, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease affecting the lungs, liver, pancreas and intestine. There is currently no cure and the average life expectancy for sufferers is around 31 years1.
When he was young, Lemarchal enjoyed basketball and football, at one point contemplating a career in sport journalism. However, his love of singing and dancing won out and, despite his condition, he became the French champion of acrobatic rock - a form of competitive rock 'n' roll dancing - in 1995. In 1998, Lemarchal participated in a talent show, Graines de Stars, in which he was unsuccessful. But it led to him becoming a local celebrity. His big break came in 2004 with the French TV show Star Academy2.
Lemarchal was contacted by the show when it needed another male contestant. He entered the Academy for singing and performance lessons, and then there where live shows where the viewing public voted one singer out each week. As part of the show, he performed duets with French stars such as Yannick Noah, Michel Sardou and Patrick Bruel. Lemarchal survived each week, and was eventually crowned the winner with a huge 80 per cent of the public vote. His first single, 'Ecris L'histoire', followed. It peaked at number-two in the French charts, eventually going platinum. His début album, Je Deviens Moi, went straight in at number-one.
In January 2006, he won the breakthrough artist of the year award at the NRJ Music Awards. In the same year, Lemarchal completed a nationwide solo tour. A DVD of his show was released, and he hit number two with 'Meme Si', a duet with Lucie Silvas. Lemarchal listed some of his favourite singers as Celine Dion, Claude François, Michel Polnareff and Daniel Balavoine. He had started to taste the same sort of fame as his idols, in France at least.
In 2007, Lemarchal's cystic fibrosis began to get the better of him and he announced that he had been ordered by doctors to take a few weeks off for rest and recuperation. He died on 30 April, 2007, at the age of 23, while waiting for an organ transplant. More than 5,000 fans laid flowers in Chambéry on the day of his funeral, and a special TV programme on TF1 commemorated his life. Many messages in tribute to his life can be found in blogs and message boards across the Internet. One such message from Silvas was as follows:
I want to say a few words about Gregory Lemarchal who sadly passed away this morning. I was shocked and upset to hear the news today. Greg was not only a beautiful artist who I had the great honour of collaborating with but a charming, sweet and wonderful person who I will miss hugely.
I want to express my deepest sympathies to his family. This must be an incredibly hard time for them and I send them all the love in the world. How proud they must have been of Greg. Also to all of Greg’s fans who loved him and his music and hope his memory and music will bring joy to them always.
Greg was so kind and wonderful to me and the little time we spent together working will be cherished forever.
Rest in peace Gregory, we will miss you. You have had an enormous affect on so many people’s lives, including mine. We will never forget you and your beautiful music.
A posthumous album was released by Universal Music Group France, which has caused some to accuse the record company of cashing in on his passing. Some have also questioned whether he would have wanted the songs on the album to be released. However, his father cannot understand why people would not want the songs to be released.
Other controversies since his death include a man, Frédéric Martin, being fined 2,000 euros for referring to Lemarchal by the name of his illness on national television, and his parents' displeasure at the release of an unauthorised biography.
One month after his death, Lemarchal's family founded the Association Grégory Lemarchal, which works towards improving the lives of cystic fibrosis sufferers and their families, through information, research, and improving the public perception of cystic fibrosis. To date, more than 7.5 million euros have been raised for cystic fibrosis causes, in memory of Lemarchal.