Françoise Hardy’s 7 best songs: from La Question to Tous les garçons et les filles

Francoise Hardy in New York in April 1965 (Disques Vogue/AFP via Getty Imag)
Francoise Hardy in New York in April 1965 (Disques Vogue/AFP via Getty Imag)

The French singer Françoise Hardy, who first rose to fame in the early Sixties, has died, aged 80.

First emerging during the yé-yé movement – a counterculture genre that put a profoundly French spin on British and American rock ’n’ roll – Hardy later broke from her original record label Disques Vogue to set up her own production company.

It was then she departed from her early image of cutesy pop hitmaker to explore everything from folk to bossa-nova. Along the way she collaborated with everyone from Brazilian artist Tuca, to punk legend Iggy Pop, and counted Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan as fans.

As we remember a creative icon, here are just a few of her greatest musical moments.

Tous les garçons et les filles

This swooning hallmark of the yé-yé pop movement made Françoise Hardy a star, but her record label Disques Vogue – fearing that its sense of melancholy wouldn’t connect with young fans – initially insisted on relegating it to b-side status on the singer’s debut EP.

The singer wasn’t best pleased, and pushed for a music video anyway; her hunch was ultimately proven right when it ended up airing during televised coverage of France’s presidential election referendum, and rapidly became her first major hit.

Backed by waltzing guitar strums and a hurried bassline in search of something, Hardy sings of a young single woman walking alone down the street as couples skip past hand in hand making whispered plans for the future. It dominated the French charts in 1962, occupying the number one spot for a mighty 15 weeks, with four separate chart runs.

Comment te dire adieu

Originally imagined as a slightly dour, crooning, string-laden ballad, It Hurts To Say Goodbye was first released by US trad-pop star Margaret Whiting in 1966, before Vera Lynn famously covered it the following year.

But this jauntier, French language spin on the hit is by far the best version of the lot, its brass melodies, rich flutters of Disney strings, lending it a bittersweet new quality. The star of the show, though, is Hardy’s cool, spoken-word delivery, and updated lyrics that trade over-the-top emotive melodrama for something breezier.

Jazzy Retro Satanas

In the late Seventies, Hardy linked up with the Lebanese-French producer and composer Gabriel Yared. Their first collaboration,1977’s spare, ballad-heavy Star, reignited Hardy’s career, but the far less celebrated, brighter-sounding follow-up album Gin Tonic is also well worth embracing.

With an edgy, pop art styled sleeve, photographed by the French, Warhol-inspired magazine Façade, it took Hardy’s music in a more modern, commercial direction: the standout has to be the excellently-named Jazzy Retro Santanas, with its yelping delivery and fidgeting jazz piano licks.

La Question

By 1971, Hardy was disillusioned with fame, tired of the fading yé-yé boom, and keen to reinvent herself. Following a lengthy legal battle with her old label Disques Vogue, she set up her own production company, and began collaborating with influential songwriters such as Leonard Cohen and Serge Gainsbourg.

She also befriended the Brazillian guitarist and singer Tuca in Paris, and Hardy later described their bond as creative “love at first sight”. She became the lead collaborator on La Question, which sold poorly upon its release, but grew into a cult classic.

During recording sessions, Tuca was infatuated with the Italian actress Lea Massari – who was straight, and in a relationship – and unrequited desire sizzles at the core of the record. Start with the smouldering, bossa-nova influences of the title-track and go from there.

Le Temps De L'amour

Wes Anderson fans will immediately recognise the shuffling beat of Le Temps De L'amour from 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom. Another standout from Hardy’s debut album, released when she was just 18, Le Temps De L'amour is underpinned by the singer’s glacially cool delivery.

She sings of the optimism of coming of age, and feeling like the entire world is yours for the taking. “We say to ourselves when we are 20, we are the kings of the world,” she sings, in French.

Des Ronds Dans L’eau

Slow-paced, smooth, and timeless, Des Ronds Dans L’eau is a staple of the chanson revival – a form of lyrically-driven French song which first developed in the 16th century. Filled with pastoral imagery, Hardy sings of the cult of ambition, and struggling to stay afloat in stormy waters.

I’ll Be Seeing You

A huge influence on rock’n’roll, Hardy collaborated with the likes of Blur and Air, but her best duet of all is with the punk icon Iggy Pop. Their distinctive, unique vocals – Iggy’s gruff tones, and Hardy’s drippingly cool delivery – mesh together brilliantly on I’ll Be Seeing You; their distorted take on a classic standard from the late 1930s.