France Gall - Biography

By J Poet

France Gall is a legendary French pop star who transformed herself from a sexy cartoon to a sophisticated singer of adult themed pop songs. After a career as a teenybopper in the 60s crowned by two giant hits Serge Gainsbourg wrote for her – the Eurovision Song Contest winner "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" and the innuendo drenched "Les Sucettes" – Gall quit the music business. In 1974, after meeting and marrying songwriter and producer Michel Berger, she resumed her career and became a beloved figure in the world of chanson. When Berger died suddenly in 1992, Gall moved to Los Angeles and has been semi-retired ever since, appearing only at special events and finally moving to Senegal in 2000.


Gall was born in Paris and grew up in a musical family. Her mother sang and father, Robert Gall, penned hits for Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf. Her father worked for Polydor and with his help, France made her debut single when she was 15. “Ne sois pas si bête” was a huge hit and shot to #1 going gold in the process. She was soon the queen of the yéyé scene, a genre that blended lightweight American rock with French pop. He father’s song “Sacré Charlemagne” was another hit. She caught the attention of Serge Gainsbourg who started writing for her, but while the tunes were innocent on the surface they were full of sly sexual innuendo which the singer didn’t apparently understand. Gall sang Gainsbourg's "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" at the Eurovision Song Contest of 1965 for an audience of 150 million viewers and the song became an instant best seller. They followed it with "Les Sucettes" another smash. Her first albums Poupée de Cire (1965 Philips France), Les Sucettes (1965 Philips France) and Baby Pop (1966 Philips France) were pure pop masterpieces, helped along by her blonde, innocent girl-next-door good looks.


She was just named France's #1 female pop star when she released the deliriously psychedelic 1968 (1967 Philips France), but she was growing disillusioned with the music business. She stopped recording and started dating French pop star Julien Clerc, but the relationship didn’t work out. In 1974 she fell for singer/songwriter Michel Berger who was writing and producing hits for Véronique Sanson and Françoise Hardy. They married in 1976.


Berger began writing more adult songs for his soon to be bride. "La Déclaration” from France Gall (1975 WEA International) was a success and the album included two more hits “Samba Mambo” and “Comment lui dire?” Their collaboration continued to mine gold. Dancing Disco (1977 WEA International) included two more #1s, “Musique” and the ballad “Si maman si.” Gall starred in Berger’s rock opera Starmania in 1978 and the Starmania (1978 WEA International) cast album hit #1 on the charts. Her next effort Paris-France (1980 WEA International) scored with "Besoin d'amour” and “Il jouait du piano debout,” inspired by a performance of Elton John.


Tout pour la musique (1981 WEA International) included the #1 hits “Résiste” and “Diego libre dans sa tête.” Despite her recording success, Gall had never made a live appearance except at the Eurovision contest when she was 17. A five-week sold out engagement at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysée in Paris was a triumph, but the pressure sent her crashing into a depression. She returned after two years with Débranche (1984 WEA International) and returned to live performance at the famous Le Zénith later that year. France Gall au Zénith (1985 WEA International) showed her in top form, singing her hits with an effortless grace.


Gall and Berger spent a lot of time raising money for worldwide famine relief and a trip to visit needy children in Africa inspired the songs on Babacar (1987 WEA International.) Double jeu (1992 WEA International) an album of duets with Berger, became a media event and spawned the hits "Laissez passez les rêves" and "Sentimental et léger.” They planned to support the release with a series of duet concerts, but Berger suffered a heart attack in August and died. He was only 44. After a period of grieving, Gall began a series of memorial concerts culminating in an all-acoustic evening at the Salle Pleyel. Still distraught, Gall moved her family to Los Angeles


In LA, she made France (1995 WEA International), an album of her husband’s songs with subtle, jazzy backing. In 1996 she returned home for a concert tour that culminated with a TV appearance beside Charles Aznavour to sing "La mamma,” an early Aznavour hit that her father had written. In 1997, Gall’s daughter Pauline died suddenly at the age of 19. This time Gall retired for good. She made a few guest appearances with old friends, but moved to Senegal in 2000. In 2007, she became a spokesperson for Cœur de femmes a French organization that fights domestic violence and in 2008 she hosted a TV show commemorating the 15th anniversary of her husband’s death. Polydor France released everything she recorded for Philips in the 60s on three CDs as France Gall (2001 Polydor.) Evidemment (2004 WEA International) collected 56 songs from her years with Berger on three CDS with a book full of unpublished photos and liner notes by Gall herself.


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