Françoise Hardy - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
Francoise Hardy is one of the few female vocalists who actually wrote and performed her own material in an early 60’s musical landscape dominated by a worldwide boys club of songwriters. Not to slander the genius of the Gamble & Huff’s of the world, but Hardy almost singlehandedly proved that girls could play in the boys sandbox, and though the native Parisian never made much of a splash on North American shores, Hardy proved to be a massive influence on multiple generations of future female songwriters from all over the world. Outside of music Hardy was known as jetsetting model, actress, and socialite within the Francophile world but her legacy begins and ends with the nine albums and countless singles she released throughout her 60’s heyday. As one of the quintessential European artists of her time, Hardy sang in French, English, Italian, Spanish and German but it was her French compositions covering genres like pop, jazz, blues, girl groups (sometimes all within the same song) that made her one of France’s most prized national treasures.
Francoise Madeleine Hardy was born on January 17, 1944 in Paris, France and began playing the guitar in the mid-50’s after discovering rock music. By her early teens, Hardy was composing her own songs and by age 17 she was singing her compositions in Parisian night clubs. After a successful audition Hardy signed to the French label, Vogue Records, in 1961 and released her debut full length, Oh Oh Cheri (1962 Vogue) after she finished school the following year. After becoming a French sensation over the next few years, Hardy took a stab at breaking America in 1965 with the all English album, The “Yeh-Yeh” Girl From Paris (BMG International). Sung in a monotone vocal style later adopted by fellow European female vocalist Nico, along with sparse instrumentation with most of the songs penned by Hardy herself, The “Yeh-Yeh” Girl From Paris wasn’t the American breakthrough she had been hoping for but the album did considerably widen her audience across the pond. Hardy would go on to release full lengths albums mixing French, English and other languages throughout the 60’s making her one of Europe’s most popular singer/songwriters.
By the 70’s however, Hardy’s brand of light weight pop had lost favor to other female singer/songwriters experimenting with psychedelic blues and folk pop. Still, she maintained popularity in Europe releasing the swan song full length, Message Personal (Warner Bros.) in 1975, which mixed grandiose sweeping string arrangements and cabaret pop with production handled by the one and only Serge Gainsbourg. Subsequent albums throughout the latter half of the decade didn’t fare as well and after marrying her long time partner, Jacques Dutronc in 1981, Hardy took a self imposed hiatus throughout the 80’s. Hardy began releasing more experimental albums like the alternative rock inspired, Le Danger (1996 Virgin) throughout the 90’s, which was unexpected from an artist nearing the twilight of her career. The dulcet sounds of Clair Obscur (2000 Virgin) featured a return to the French cinematic sounds of her late 60’s material and is considered Hardy’s “comeback” album, even featuring a duet with garage icon Iggy Pop on the track, “I’ll Be Seeing You”. Subsequent years saw a plethora of best of compilations spanning Hardy’s 40 year music career with the artist making another “comeback” album in 2006 with, Parentheses (EMI) a collection of duets featuring vocal contributions from Ben Christophers, Julio Iglesias, and her own husband Jacques Dutronc. Although her current releases are few and far between, Hardy’s overall body of work continues to be an inspiration to up and coming female French singer/songwriters like Keren Ann, with many adopting Hardy’s lyrical flare and genre experimentation into their laments of love and loss. In 2010 she released La Pluie sans parapluie, followed by L'amour fou in 2012.