Françoise Hardy: France’s girlish yé-yé star was a groundbreaking musical artist

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Yé-yé was France’s homegrown consequence to rock’n’roll: beautiful young singers – almost each female – performing a lightweight Francophone adjustment of American euphony pinch lyrics astir teenage concerns. And astatine first sight, nan 18-year-old Françoise Hardy was nan epitome of a yé-yé girl. She was strikingly beautiful (“I was passionately successful emotion pinch her,” recalled David Bowie decades later, “every antheral successful nan world, and a number of females, besides were”); she was ne'er disconnected nan airwaves of France’s premier yé-yé power show, Salut les Copains, and ne'er retired of nan pages of its accompanying magazine. Her first deed was nan suitably innocent-sounding Tous les Garçons et les Filles, a wispy return connected a stone ‘n’ rotation ballad.

But it transpired that Hardy was a different benignant of yé-yé girl. For 1 point she wrote her ain material, for illustration her idol, nan black-clad chansonnière Barbara. Eschewing nan gauche attempts of France’s master songwriters to mimic American rock’n’roll aliases construe its lyrics, 10 of nan 12 tracks connected her debut medium were her ain compositions, written pinch arranger Roger Samyn. This was an bonzer authorities of affairs for popular euphony successful 1962: nan pursuing year, nan Beatles – nan set mostly credited pinch cementing nan conception that artists could constitute their ain worldly alternatively than relying connected screen versions – would merchandise their debut album, pinch conscionable complete half its contents penned by Lennon and McCartney.

Hardy playing guitar.
‘What a personification sings is an look of what they are’ … Françoise Hardy. Photograph: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma via Getty Images

Hardy’s songs were invariably melancholy, which possibly had thing to do pinch her unhappy childhood. Her mostly absent begetter was closeted, and yet died, Hardy believed, aft being assaulted by a rent boy. Her sister suffered pinch intelligence unwellness and killed herself successful 2004. Hardy seemed diffident astatine champion astir commercialized occurrence and celebrity. In opposition to her bubbly peers, sadness seemed to seep retired of her: nary matter really lightweight nan arrangements sounded, her sound brought a definite chilly tristesse to her releases.

Hardy came to find nan arrangements a problem too, later professing to dislike nan euphony that made her famous: “I had specified bad musicians, specified a bad shaper … I thought those recordings were terrible.” She wrested power of her ain sessions, moving operations to Pye Records’ celebrated Marble Arch workplace and surrounding herself pinch London’s hottest convention musicians, early Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page among them. (His early bandmate, John Paul Jones, incurred Hardy’s wrath by attempting to make her arrangements sound much Gallic.)

Hardy astatine Cannes successful 1967.
Hardy astatine Cannes successful 1967. Photograph: Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

It goes without saying that this was not really yé-yé girls were expected to behave. They were expected to beryllium beautiful but pliable receptacles for older antheral songwriters: witnesser poor, guiltless teen France Gall, unwittingly tricked into singing astir blowjobs by soiled aged Serge Gainsbourg connected Les Sucettes (1966). But if Hardy’s early recordings were wistfully charming, nan euphony she made aft she took complaint was thing else. Her mid-60s albums (for immoderate reason, they’re almost each titled Françoise Hardy) are fabulous, blase popular confections that displacement betwixt beautifully orchestrated ballads and experiments pinch jangly 12-string people rock, harpsichord-bedecked baroque popular and, occasionally, fuzzed-out guitar.

An English-language single, All Over nan World, was a UK Top 20 deed successful 1965. That Hardy didn’t make much belief connected nan charts present tells you much astir nan measurement audiences struggled to link pinch thing not sung successful English than nan value of her work. Nevertheless, she moved among nan 60s stone aristocracy. It would beryllium bully to deliberation they recognised personification trim from nan aforesaid groundbreaking cloth, but it is difficult to debar nan belief that her looks sometimes overshadowed her talent. As if to beryllium Bowie’s point, Bob Dylan wrote lovelorn poems astir her, and Mick Jagger declared her his “ideal woman”.

Hardy transitioned pinch easiness into nan late-60s singer-songwriter era, covering Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne connected 1968’s Comment te Dire Adieu (with a definite inevitability, its original title was Françoise Hardy), an medium to which Gainsbourg besides contributed 2 peculiarly good songs: nan amazingly effervescent title track, and nan gorgeous L’Anamour. But it was her 1971 album, again called Françoise Hardy but known by fans arsenic La Question, that proved her masterpiece. A collaboration pinch Brazilian singer-songwriter Tuca, it was sparse and dreamlike, its sound sitting location betwixt folk, jazz and bossanova, its breathily intoned lyrics dealing pinch some termination and sensuality. It’s not precisely a highly contested field, but Mer whitethorn good beryllium nan astir drowsily erotic-sounding opus ever recorded astir suicide.

Hardy successful 2004.
Hardy successful 2004. Photograph: Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage

She followed it up by moving pinch nan pick of London’s folk-rock scene, including Richard Thompson, signaling a stunning type of revered nan acid-folk set Trees’ The Garden of Jane Delawney. In 1 of nan awesome what-ifs of stone history, Fairport Convention shaper Joe Boyd attempted to hook her up pinch different of his charges, Nick Drake. Hardy was a immense instrumentality of nan past mostly ignored singer-songwriter, but a scheme for nan 2 to make an medium together floundered erstwhile they met: nan painfully awkward Drake “came to nan workplace wherever I was signaling successful London, and he sat successful nan corner, almost hidden, and he ne'er said 1 word”, recalled Hardy. “I was truthful afloat of admiration for his work, truthful I didn’t situation to opportunity anything, and he didn’t situation to opportunity anything.”

Her consequent albums were rich | and impressively diverse. She was arsenic tin of essaying a Gallic return connected state stone connected nan 1972 medium Françoise Hardy, AKA Et si je m’en vais avant toi, arsenic she was dealing successful supremely cool jazzy funk connected Gin Tonic (1980) or, possibly astir unexpectedly of all, grungy alt-rock (1996’s Le Danger). These aren’t albums terribly good known successful nan UK – nan 90s anglophone re-evaluation of French artists, which saw Gainsbourg transformed from a novelty creator to a justly revered figure, seemed to extremity short of Hardy’s oeuvre – but they merit to be. And Hardy intelligibly had her admirers extracurricular nan French-speaking world. Blur collaborated pinch her connected a type of To nan End, renamed La Comedie; truthful did Iggy Pop, connected a 2000 screen of nan American Songbook modular I’ll Be Seeing You. Everyone from Cat Power to Weezer hailed her arsenic an influence.

She remained a defiantly uncategorisable fig until nan end. Her last medium earlier sick wellness forced her status from music, 2018’s Personne d’Autre, recovered her penning French lyrics to euphony by Finnish indie set Poets of nan Fall and confronting mortality head-on. You could conscionable astir ideate her singing nan melody of 1 of its tracks, Train Special, arsenic a yé-yé opus successful a different era, but its lyrics dealt pinch impending death. “What a personification sings is an look of what they are,” she told nan Observer astatine nan clip of its release. “Luckily for me, nan astir beautiful songs are not happy songs. The songs we retrieve are nan sad, romanticist songs.”

Source theguardian