Françoise Hardy obituary


Françoise Hardy, who has died of most cancers aged 80, shot to fame as a part of France’s génération yé-yé, the jaunty transatlantic and cross-channel collision between French chanson and American rock’n’roll that additionally produced Johnny Hallyday and France Gall. However from the beginning, there was one thing that set her aside: a wistfulness, a sentimental self-reflection, a poise that belied a lifelong shyness and insecurity. A 60s icon, as large, for some time, in London as in Paris, Hardy was, in some ways, the antithesis of that restive, revolutionary decade.

Not like her contemporaries, when she sang of like it was about “struggling and frustration, phantasm and disillusion; wretched, profound, limitless questioning”. Her songs, she informed Le Monde, have been a crucial outlet: “I wrote about my expertise … A fantastic, melancholic melody is what greatest transcends the ache.”

Males fell, in droves, for her timid magnificence. Mick Jagger described Hardy as his “supreme lady”. David Bowie, “passionately in love” for years, courted her backstage, in dressing robe and embroidered slippers. In 1964, the sleeve notes of One other Aspect of Bob Dylan featured a complete poem “for françoise hardy/on the seine’s edge”. (Two years later, after a live performance on the Olympia music corridor in Paris, Dylan invited the singer to a celebration in his suite on the George V, one of many capital’s grandest accommodations. In his bed room, he performed her two tracks from Blonde on Blonde: Simply Like a Girl and I Need You. Hardy at all times insisted she was so starstruck she by no means obtained the message.)

However the love of Hardy’s life, the daddy of her son and the agonising inspiration for a lot of of her songs, was the French singer and actor Jacques Dutronc, whom she met in 1967 and married in 1981. The couple separated within the 90s, however by no means divorced, remaining on good phrases. “Love is a outstanding pressure, even when its value is perpetual torment,” she stated. “However with out that torment, I might not have written a single lyric.”

Hardy was born in Nazi-occupied Paris, in the identical maternity clinic on the high of the rue des Martyrs within the ninth arrondissement that had delivered Hallyday just a few months earlier. Her mom was Madeleine Hardy, an accountant, and her father, Pierre Dillard, was an organization director who was married to a different lady. Françoise grew up in a two-room condominium close by together with her sister, Michèle, born 18 months later, and a solitary mom with whom Françoise had a “fusional, symbiotic relationship … I cherished her most likely an excessive amount of – solely, unconditionally”. The women not often noticed their father, who usually uncared for to pay his share of their repairs and was frequently late with the modest charges for his or her Catholic training.

Weekends have been spent with grandparents – notably an “selfish, narrow-minded, frigid and emasculating” grandmother – outdoors Paris; many childhood holidays with associates of her mom’s in Austria, to study German. Shy, dreamy, deeply ashamed of her unconventional household, Hardy turned to the radio, the place within the late 50s, on the English service of Radio Luxembourg, she encountered a music – Presley, the Everly Brothers, Brenda Lee, Cliff Richard – that “affected me greater than the rest. That ended up altering my life.”

Aged 16, she requested for a guitar for passing the primary a part of her baccalauréat. A 12 months later, having handed the second half with honours, she taught herself a handful of chords “that produced most of my songs over the subsequent 10 years”, and started writing. On the Sorbonne, finding out German, she auditioned, unsuccessfully however not disastrously, for one report firm, and began singing classes.

Françoise Hardy on a visit to London in 1964.
Françoise Hardy on a go to to London in 1964. {Photograph}: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Photos

Hardy’s contract with Vogue Information – who wished “a feminine Johnny Hallyday” – was signed on 14 November 1961. She made her first TV look, in black and white on the state broadcaster’s solely channel, six months later, and launched her debut EP, that includes three songs of her personal and a canopy of a Bobby Lee Trammell track.

Her breakthrough got here, somewhat incongruously, on the evening of Charles de Gaulle’s October 1962 referendum asking voters whether or not France’s future presidents needs to be instantly elected. In a musical interlude whereas the nation awaited the outcome, Hardy carried out a observe from her EP, Tous les Garçons et les Filles. The nation cherished it. The track (pattern line: “I stroll down the streets, my soul in sorrow”) grew to become a monumental hit in France, spending a complete of 15 weeks at No 1 between October 1962 and April 1963 and turning into a million-seller. Inside weeks Hardy was on the quilt of Paris Match, plunged, nonetheless in her teenagers, into the whirlwind of the swinging 60s (which she detested: she disapproved of informal intercourse, prevented medication, and will solely ever keep in mind being drunk twice).

Her first boyfriend, the photographer Jean-Marie Périer, ensured her image – miniskirt, white boots, lengthy hair, signature fringe – went world wide. Courrèges, Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne competed to decorate her, for seasons on the Olympia in Paris, the Savoy in London, and reveals in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Canada and South Africa. In New York, William Klein photographed her for Vogue. Roger Vadim, Jean-Luc Godard and John Frankenheimer forged her in movies.

The hits flowed, recorded – some in London, produced by Charles Blackwell – in French, English, German, Italian, some written by Hardy, others not.

However on the finish of the 60s, barely 5 years after she started, Hardy abruptly gave up performing dwell, and the cinema. “I hated what all of it concerned,” she defined. “Being separated from the person I cherished, the ready, the solitude, relying on the telephone. And I’ve by no means been capable of act. I can’t simulate, or lie. Songwriting, then again … dives deep.” Life within the quick lane, she declared, was “a gilded jail”.

Francoise Hardy in John Frankenheimer’s film Grand Prix, 1966.
Francoise Hardy in John Frankenheimer’s movie Grand Prix, 1966. {Photograph}: Francois Gragnon/Paris Match/Getty Photos

However she continued recording, releasing a dozen bestselling albums in France, of which she at all times cited La Query (1971), a complicated collaboration with the Brazilian musician Tuca, as her favorite. She duetted with the French artists Henri Salvador, Alain Souchon and Benjamin Biolay, and later with Damon Albarn and Iggy Pop.

Hardy was by no means very thinking about politics (she decamped to Corsica with Dutronc during les événements of Could 1968, whose pupil leaders she distrusted), though she had robust opinions about questions reminiscent of abortion. Hardy was, nevertheless, fascinated by astrology, writing two books on the topic.

She continued to work in later life, regardless of claiming that her 1988 album, Décalages, can be her final. A string of latest recordings within the Nineties and 2000s, a 2008 autobiography, Le Désespoir des Singes (the title apparently derived from a monkey puzzle tree within the Bagatelle gardens close to her Paris flat, as a result of its sharp, spiky leaves reminded her of “males who’ve precipitated me despair”), and her final album, Personne d’autre, launched in 2018, appeared regardless of household and private tragedies: Hardy was at her mom’s aspect when, affected by Charcot–Marie–Tooth illness, she died by euthanasia in 1994.

Hardy herself was identified in 2004 with lymphoma, ultimately recovering after an experimental type of chemotherapy – however solely after she had been hospitalised, in an induced coma, in 2015. Three years later, one other tumour was detected, this time in her ear. In 2021, she informed the journal Femme Actuelle (by e mail; she stated she might not speak) that she would really like to have the ability to select to finish her life, as her mom had accomplished, and in 2023, in an interview with Paris Match, referred to as on Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to legalise assisted dying.

Shortly earlier than that second analysis, in 2018, Hardy mirrored on a profession that had introduced just about each award French music can supply (plus a medal from the Académie Française), telling the Observer she had at all times been stunned that individuals – “even excellent musicians” – had been moved by her voice.

“I do know its limitations, I at all times have,” she stated. “However I’ve chosen fastidiously. What an individual sings is an expression of what they’re. Fortunately for me, probably the most stunning songs aren’t completely happy songs. The songs we keep in mind are the unhappy, romantic songs.”

She is survived by Dutronc, and by their son, Thomas.


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