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Pop

Françoise Hardy, Beloved French Singer and Fashion Icon Dies at 80

One of the leading lights of the French yé-yé pop movement, she was an inspiration to Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.

Françoise Hardy pictured in London on Jan. 9, 1964.

Françoise Hardy pictured in London on Jan. 9, 1964.

Blandford/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

French pop singer, actress and model Françoise Hardy died on Tuesday (June 11) at 80 after a long battle with cancer. Her son, musician Thomas Dutronc, announced her passing in a touching Instagram post featuring a picture of him as a baby in the arms of his mother with the message “Maman est partie (mom is gone).”

One of the most versatile and beloved French artists of her generation, Hardy went public with her lymphatic cancer diagnosis in 2004 and was briefly put in an induced coma in 2015 when her condition worsened.


Hardy was born in Paris on Jan. 17, 1944 in the midst of an air raid on the Nazi-occupied city and by most accounts had a melancholy childhood whose spell was broken when her absent father gifted her a guitar after her early high school graduation at 16. The singer got her break in 1961 when the Disques Vogue label signed the then-18-year-old and released the single “Tous les garçons et les filles,” which became an instant hit and sold more than 2.5 million copies.

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Best known for her melancholy ballads, Hardy became one of the leading lights of the Yé-yé style of music, whose name was a spin on the frequent “yeah, yeah” chants in English language pop songs of the era by the likes of the Beatles. More hits followed, including “Je Suis D’Accord” and “Le Temps de L’Amour” and in 1963 Hardy came in fifth place as the entry from Monaco in that year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

With her stylish, androgynous look and a deadpan, breathy style that landed with young audiences thanks to lyrics about the heartache and angst of adolescence, films came calling and the singer was cast by director Roger Vadim in his 1963 comedy Château en Suède (Nutty, Naughty Chateau), alongside established star Monica Vitti. As a testament to her growing popularity, Hardy began translating her songs into English (as well as German and Italian), scoring her first top 20 UK hit in 1964 with “All Over the World.”

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In addition to influencing (and being fawned over by) everyone from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, Hardy became a muse for fashion designers Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne as well, with famed photographers Richard Avedon and William Klein shooting her over the years. Dylan was so entranced by her, in fact, that in the liner notes of his 1964 Another Side of Bob Dylan album he included a poem in her honor that began, “For Françoise Hardy, at the Seine’s edge, a giant shadow of Notre Dame seeks t’ grab my foot.”

David Bowie was similarly smitten, once saying that he was “passionately in lover with her. Every male in the world, and a number of females, also were.”

After releasing a series of albums and EPs in France, Hardy’s debut full length release in the U.S. was 1965’s, The ‘Yeh-Yeh’ Girl From Paris!, a repackaging of her 1962 French debut album, Tous les garçons et les filles; her early albums were often released without titles and were frequently known by their most popular tracks. Her first English-language album, 1965’s In English, featured “All Over the World” and a number of other songs she co-wrote with collaborator Julian More, including “This Little Heart,” “The Rose” and “Another Place.” It was followed in 1968 by another English album known as The Second English Album and Will You Love Me Tomorrow. She scored her biggest English-language hit in 1968 with the Serge Gainsbourg-penned “It Hurts to Say Goodbye,” which hit No. 1 in France and the U.K.

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Working with a series of collaborators throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Hardy released a dozen albums exploring Brazilian funk, rock, disco, jazz and electronic pop before taking a six-year break before 1988’s Décalages LP, which was followed in 1996 by Le danger, which she said at the time would be her final album. She continued to release albums throughout the early 2000s, though, issuing her 28th and final studio collection, Personne d’autre, in 2018.

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Speaking to the Associated Press in 1996, she explained her unusual approach to songwriting, in which she emphasized the importance of melody. “I always put the words on the music. It’s always like that. I don’t write before, and then, I’m looking for music,” she said at the time of the method that gave her songs a unique quality mixing poetry-like lyrics with entrancing melodies. “First, I get the music and (then) I try to put words on it.”

In addition to collaborating with everyone from Iggy Pop to Blur, Hardy also appeared in films by such acclaimed directors Jean-Luc Godard (1966’s Masculine Feminine) and John Frankenheimer (Grand Prix). The singer also developed an interest in astrology, authoring a series of books on the subject as well as publishing fiction and her autobiography, The Despair of Monkeys and Other Trifles, in 2018. She was the only French singer to be named on Rolling Stone‘s 2023 list of the 200 Greatest Singers of All Time, coming in at No. 162 thanks to what the magazine said was “a breathy, deadpan also that wafted like Gauloises smoke.”

See Dutronc’s post and some of Hardy’s performances below.

This article was originally published by Billboard U.S.

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