[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2wmKcBm4Ik] "...in a man's life, there are two important dates : his birth and his death. Everything we do in between is not very important."
In the early 1950s Brel achieved minor success in Belgium singing his own songs. In January 1955 he supported in the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels the performances of the Belgian pop and variety pioneer Bobbejaan Schoepen. After some success his wife and daughters joined him from Belgium. By 1956 he was touring Europe and he recorded the song Quand on n'a que l'amour that brought him his first major recognition.
By the end of the 1950s Miche and Brel's three daughters had returned to Brussels. From then on, he and his family led separate lives. Under the influence of his friend Georges Pasquier ('Jojo') and pianists Gérard Jouannest and Francois Rauber, Brel's style changed. He was no longer a Catholic-humanist troubadour, but sang grimmer songs about love, death, and the struggle that is life. The music became more complex and his themes more diverse, exploring love (Je t'aime, Litanies pour un Retour), society (Les Singes, Les Bourgeois, Jaurès), and spiritual concerns (Le Bon Dieu, Dites, Si c'était Vrai, Fernand). His work was not limited to one style. He was as proficient in funny compositions (Le Lion, Comment Tuer l'Amant de sa Femme...) as in more emotional ones (Voir un Ami Pleurer, Fils de..., Jojo).
In 1973 he embarked in a yacht, planning to sail around the world. When he reached the Canary Islands, Brel was diagnosed with lung cancer. He returned to Paris for treatment and later continued his ocean voyage. He was also a keen pilot and owned several small planes, including the eponymous 'Jojo'.