Chanteuse, songwriter, actress, pop icon, fashion model, author, astrologer—Françoise Hardy is one of the most versatile and original figures of the French popular music scene. Ever since her phenomenal debut in the early 1960s she has remained a presence to be reckoned with, adapting to new styles and tastes through the decades, and yet retaining her original charm, finesse, and gentle, intimate lyricism. The quintessential Hardy is a shy, introverted, and discreet artist, a singer who beautifully manages her soft, dreamy, tastefully seductive voice, always finding a new, creative, fresh way to sing about love.
Born on January 17, 1944, in Paris, Hardy had a sad childhood. Her father abandoned the family and the future star grew up a deeply introverted child. She was sent to a convent school for girls where she was a model student, obedient and diligent. School life could not stifle her musical talent, however. In her spare time, when she was not listening to popular songs on the radio, she started to write music. After graduating from secondary school, Hardy received a surprise visit from her father, who gave her a guitar. Finally able to devote more time to music, she enrolled at the Petit Conservatoire de la chanson, a school for singers. Succumbing to family pressure, however, she also entered the university, but still devoted her energy to voice lessons.
In 1961, after some lackluster auditions, Hardy got her big break: the Vogue label offered her a recording contract. Her first single, released in 1962, included three of her own compositions. One of these songs, “Tous les garçons et les filles” became a tremendous hit and a favorite at Radio Europe’s popular youth show, Salut les copains. Almost instantly Hardy was one of the greatest stars of French pop music, entering, in her unassuming way, into the pantheon of such living legends of French pop as Sylvie Vartan and Johnny Hallyday.
During a photo shoot Hardy met and fell in love with Jean-Marie Perier, a photographer who decided to change her shy, modest, somewhat awkward image into something more worldly, elegant, and sophisticated. While Hardy’s new image brought her immense popularity—her photos appeared in every trendy magazine—Perier’s makeover was not a fundamental transformation: the fashionable clothes could not hide her charming simplicity. The world of show business found her irresistible. Captivated by Hardy’s looks, film director Roger Vadim gave her the lead role in his Château en Suède. Lavishly praised as an actress, Hardy nevertheless resisted the lure of a film career, accepting only a few roles.
In 1963 she created a sensation at the Paris music hall l’Olympia, when she appeared as a support act to rocker Richard Anthony. That same year she also
For the Record…
Born on January 17, 1944, in Paris, France; married Jacques Dutronc, 1981, one child. Education: Attended Petit Conservatoire de la chanson; attended University of Paris.
Signed with Vogue record label, 1961; released first single, 1962, including first great hit, “Tous le garçons et les filles”; sang at l’Olympia Music Hall, Paris, 1963; toured Europe, 1964; released hit albums throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; released Clair-obscur, 2000.
Awards: Victoire de la musique, 1991; Grand prix de la chanson française de la Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique (Sacem), 2001.
Addresses: c/o VMA, 20, avenue Rapp, Paris 75007, France.
released her first album, which established her as a European celebrity. She embarked on a European tour in 1964, which included a stop at the San Remo Song Competition; when she sang in Italian, her lyrical, heartfelt performance of “Parla mi di te” completely charmed the Italian public.
Hardy returned to l’Olympia in 1965, again as a support act, but this time for a group of singers representing the traditional French chanson. Those who dismissed this second performance as a purely retro gesture by a diva of pop music showed their ignorance, for the chanson is a crucial element of Hardy’s style. Faithful to its tradition, Hardy was also developing into a brilliant, multitalented star who found success and acclaim in every endeavor.
Following her lover’s advice, she modeled for France’s greatest designers; she also starred in another film, Jean-Daniel Pollet’s Une balle au coeur, and received rave reviews. Her ambitious lover next introduced her to Mick Jagger, the Beatles, and other British rock legends. This inspired her to release an album in English (In English), which combined with appearances at fancy London venues, elicited wild enthusiasm and granted her the seemingly impossible status of a French singer accepted as a celebrity in England. Hardy’s next acting venture was a role in American director John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix, the beginning of her American fame. She soon negotiated a deal to make Warner Bros. her American distributor; as a result, she became well known in the United States.
In 1967, after ending her relationship with Perier, Hardy met Jacques Dutronc, a wildly popular teen idol, who became her lover. The following year, exhausted by the frenzy of constant touring, she decided to work primarily as a recording artist, singing a farewell concert in London.
The new decade found Hardy shedding her chic 1960s image and returning to her natural simplicity, albeit with an element of authentic sophistication. In 1971 Hardy, working with Tuca, a Brazilian singer, recorded an untitled album featuring the tracks “Chanson d’O” and “La Question,” both of which attest to her undeniable talent as a songwriter.
Busy with many pursuits, including astrology (a passion dating from her teenage years), Hardy gave birth to a son, Thomas, in 1973. As she assumed a new responsibility, Hardy continued working as a recording artist. She signed a recording contract with Warner Bros, and released a new album, Message personnel. The album was an enormous hit and the title track came to be regarded as one of her best songs.
By the mid-1970s it was clear that Hardy, whether she stayed away from the limelight, or paid brief visits to the world of fame, remained an active, dedicated, creative artist. While commentators liked to talk about her many farewells and returns, Hardy simply led a life and maintained a career that could not conform to popular conceptions of fame and success. Experts who expected a whirlwind tour after every hit were not paying attention to her music. In 1977 Hardy released Sfar, a landmark album that endeared to her younger audiences, listeners who didn’t know her hits from the previous decade. The following album, Musique saoule, a collaborative effort with composer Gabriel Yared and lyricists Michel Jonasz and Alain Goldstein, totally enchanted Hardy’s fans, who particularly loved the refinement of “J’ecoute de la musique saoule,” which became one of her most popular singles.
Following Gin Tonic, a 1980 album that included the quirky “Jazzy retro Satanas,” in 1981 Hardy married Dutronc and released A suivre, which showcased the work of several important songwriters, including Jean-Claude Vannier and Louis Chédid. Two songs from this album, “Villégiature” and “Tamalou,” eventually became hit singles. After her 1982 album Quelqu’un s’en va, a collaboration with a number of exceptional songwriters, Hardy produced a successful single, “Moi vouloir toi,” in 1984. A collaborative project with Chédid, this was followed by another popular single, “V.I.P.” Her next project was Décalages, supposedly a farewell album featuring her lyrics and the music of France’s best-known songwriters. Fans were not surprised when Hardy returned, in 1994, with a duet, recorded with Alain Lubrano. The song, “Si ça fait mal,” appeared on Urgence, an album released to support the fight against AIDS.
In 1995 Hardy signed a recording contract with Virgin. Her new album, Le Danger, appeared the following year, creating a sensation in England where Hardy once again found herself accepted and admired by England’s cutting-edge bands and musical trendsetters. Five years later, Hardy released her album Clair-obscur. Critics, who admired the arrangements and the duets Hardy performed with some of her favorite artists, particularly appreciated Hardy’s version of “Puisque vous partez en voyage,” and old French chanson, which she sang in duet with her husband. This particularly soulful performance was later released as a single, a true Hardy gem.
In a conversation with Senegalese pop superstar Baaba Maal for Interview, Hardy summed up her philosophy of life, perhaps illuminating those who, unsure of the connection between music and astrology, wondered what compelled the singer to also write astrological books and host a radio show on astrology: “I have been very privileged in life because I find that the most wonderful thing is to be able to make a living doing what you love, as long as possible—and that is what happened to me.”
Tous les garcons et les filles, Vogue, 1962.
Le premier bonheur du jour, Vogue, 1963.
Italian Songs, Vogue, 1963
Mon amie la rose, Vogue, 1964.
L’amitie, Vogue, 1965.
Francoise Hardy in Germany, Bellaphon, 1965.
La maison ou j’ai grandi, Vogue, 1966.
In English, Vogue, 1966; rereleased as En anglais, 1969.
Ma jeunesse fout le camp, Vogue, 1967.
Comment te dire adieu, Vogue, 1968.
Germinal, Sonopresse, 1970.
Soleil, Sonopresse, 1970.
One-Nine-Seven-Zero, United Artists, 1970.
Träme, Philips, 1970.
La question, Sonopresse, 1971.
L’eclairage, Sonopresse, 1972.
Love Songs, CBS, 1972.
Message personnel, WEA, 1973.
Entr’acte, WEA, 1974.
Star, EMI, 1977.
Musique saoule, EMI, 1978.
Gin Tonic, EMI, 1980.
A suivre, Flarenasch, 1981.
Quelqu’un qui s’en va, Flarenasch, 1982.
Déacalages, Flarenasch, 1988.
Le Danger, Virgin, 1996.
Les Chansons d’amour, Camden, 1999.
Clair-obscur, Virgin, 2000.
J’ecoute de la musique, EMI, 2001.
Vogue Years, BMG International, 2001.
L’essentiel, EMI, 2002.
Ma Jeunnesse fout le camp, Virgin, 2003.
Erlewine, Michael, editor, All Media Guide to Rock, second edition, Miller Freeman Books, 1997.
Who’s Who in France, Jacques Lafitte, 2002.
Interview, October 2001.
“Biography,” RFIMusique, http://www.rfimusiques.com/siteEN/biographie/biographie_6310.asp (April 6, 2003).
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