Françoise Hardy was born in 1944 and grew up in the 9th arrondissment of Paris. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her father spent little time with Françoise and her younger sister, Michèle. Still, he did play a critical part in her career: Françoise was given a guitar as a gift both for her birthday and for passing the baccalaurèat, the French equivalent of graduating from high school. She’d been raised on a musical diet of both French (Charles Trenet, Cora Voiucaire) and Anglophone (Cliff Richard, Connie Francis) singers and wanted to try her hand at writing songs of her own.
Hardy’s chance came at the end of her first year at the Sorbonne, when she answered a newspaper ad looking for fresh young singers. It soon lead to her being signed with Vogue records, who decided that a song penned by the writers behind pop star Johnny Hallyday would be the best introduction to the masses. 1962’s “Oh Oh Cheri” did not do so well, but the B side, written by Hardy herself, would lead to the disc selling 700,000 copies in France alone. Here it is: “Tous Les Garçons et les Filles.”
The success of the song spawned an English language version called “Find Me a Boy,” which sounds pretty shallow. Bilingual Youtube commenters swear that it is an awful translation, and that the lyrics of the original can be compared to the lyrics of “As Tears Go By.”
The disc I found in the archive is from 1964, and at this point in her career, Hardy was really hitting her stride. Mickey Baker’s arrangements are bigger, fuller, almost like something Phil Spector would have put together. “Et même” is a great example of this, right down to the handclaps.
This, too, spawned an English version. Even if the translation is off, it’s clear that Hardy was taking a more mature look at love and its vagaries.
“Tout me Ramène à Toi” is another dreamy ode to heartbreak, complete with lush violins and reverbed chorus.
“C’Est la Passé” has a strong, syncopated beat that evokes the strength of telling the wrong person that the love you felt is in the past.
“Apprends le Moi” translates to “Teach Me.” Clearly, the couples compiled in this video were quite happy to instruct each other.
It’s worth pointing out here that three of these four songs were written by Hardy, and the other co-written by her. That remains unusual for pop stars to this day; indeed it might be even more unusual now than it was in 1965.
By 1971, Françoise had moved on to a more somber, folk-influenced sound. The title song to her album “La Question” is a gorgeous example of that evolution.
Hardy continued to record over the years, with her output becoming more sporadic by the early 1980’s. She remains one of France’s biggest and most respected stars, and if this 2006 duet with her husband Jacques Dutronc is any indication, her mix of deceptively simple melodies and breathy vocal delivery still has its power.